Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
The dawn of a new season is approaching, the Bills have a new head coach, and there is excitement gushing through every nook and cranny at One Bills Drive because — a drum roll please — this time, they really think they got it right.
I hear you screaming “Stop! Stop! Stop!” but I’m sorry, I must trudge forward.
Yep, they’re excited about their new coach in Buffalo again. Just as they were when Gregg Williams and Mike Mularkey were hired; not so much for Dick Jauron and Chan Gailey who moved the optimism meter only because they weren’t the previous guy; and then the juice was flowing again when Doug Marrone and Rex Ryan took their turns in the NFL’s version of Land of the Lost.
Wash, rinse, repeat.
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We’ve heard this saying around these parts a million times: No one sells hope like the Buffalo Bills, and they’re doing it again in 2017. The past is the past, and if you ask anyone on the OneBuffalo payroll, they’ll tell you Sean McDermott is exactly the kind of coach this franchise has needed for so long.
Bills introduce new GM Brandon Beane. “I wanted to be a Buffalo Bill.”
Never mind that he’s 0-0 as an NFL head coach, and in fact has never been a head coach at any level of football. You can’t stop this train of unbridled glee because remember, this time they got it right.
McDermott has received high praise from people inside and outside the fortified borders at the New Era Field campus for his no-nonsense approach, his attention to detail, his expectation for accountability, and a track record of success as a defensive coordinator at both Philadelphia and Carolina.
He looks like a man in charge, a man with a plan, a man with a purpose, and when the players were running around in shorts in OTAs and mini-camp, like every NFL team in May and June, he had them believing they have what it takes to win the Super Bowl.
But McDermott is a newbie at this, and we really have no idea what he can accomplish in Buffalo. He looks like a good fit, but if you don’t mind, I’ll reserve judgement on whether or not I think McDermott is finally the man who will guide the Bills out of the cold, dark wasteland they have been wandering aimlessly through ever since Wade Phillips, that Son of a Bum, was foolishly let go by Ralph Wilson after the 2000 season.
Bills offensive coordinator Rick Dennison talks about Tyrod Taylor and the Bills running game. (May 18, 2017)
Let’s see what happens when they start keeping score in September. More pointedly, let’s see what happens when they start keeping score in September of 2018 after he’s had a legitimate chance to stamp his mark on the franchise.
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The one thing we can definitely say is that it truly is a new day for the Bills. Owners Terry and Kim Pegula executed a full tear-down in this latest iteration of a Buffalo reboot and because of that, almost everyone in the football department will basically start together from square one as this journey begins. There shouldn’t be many disagreements or personal agendas like the ones that fractured the organization in recent years.
Beleaguered former general manager Doug Whaley was escorted off the property, replaced by McDermott’s pal from their days together in Carolina, Brandon Beane, to work side by side with him as the general manager. And the Pegulas swept out almost the entire scouting and personnel departments and allowed Beane the freedom to build those staffs his way. A thread of uniformity will finally exist throughout the football operation.
Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula have hit the reset button with the hiring of Brandon Beane in addition to coach Sean McDermott. (Photo: Jeffrey T. Barnes, AP)
So yes, it is a new day for the Bills, but how much different will it be from any other new day over the past 17 years remains to be seen. Bills fans have grown accustomed to these Control+Alt+Del deals, and in the end, all they’ve ever produced is frustration, dissatisfaction and so many meaningless games in December.
“Well, there’s nothing we can do about it,” Beane said when asked about the 17-year playoff drought. “But you have to understand it, and I appreciate it from the sense of, I hated when we went three years without making the playoffs (in Carolina). So I can’t imagine 17 years, the agony, the pain, whatever word you want to describe it. That’s brutal.”
Beane could not have picked a better word. It has been brutal.
“I’ve talked to employees who have been here through the whole tenure and you try and understand all of what’s going on from a culture, not only in this building but this town, just everything that has come to 17 years without a playoff appearance,” Beane continued. “Sean and I are focused going forward because there’s nothing we can do about the past, but we want nothing more than to look out there and see the excitement in the city, in this building, for everything we’re doing.”
McDermott and Beane inherit a team that returns a fairly solid core of players, though not nearly enough to even pretend it can contend against New England in the AFC East, and maybe not enough to prevent the playoff drought from reaching voting age. And even after some interesting additions via the draft and free agency, when you line up this roster against all the others in the AFC, it’s tough to project the Bills as much more than a seven-win team, especially against one of the toughest schedules in the league.
Deep down I suspect McDermott knows this, but he’ll never let on, and that’s fine. I know he has a plan, and if he stays the course, hopefully things will finally start to turn in Buffalo.
Asked whether he was rebuilding, McDermott said, “We’re building. Every year we are working to win. The other word you used (rebuild), that’s not where we’re going with this. That’s not it at all. It’s about winning football games. It’s hard. It’s a challenge when you say, ‘Hey, we focus on the process and the scoreboard takes care of itself’ because we’re evaluated by wins and losses. But I just know, being a part of two winning organizations before coming here, that in order for us to win we have to focus on that. That’ll translate into wins soon enough.”
I know you’ve heard that before, so now I’ll stop.