I have three words of advice for new Buffalo Bills head coach-elect Sean McDermott: Ignore The Drought.
Notice, Sean, that The Drought is upper-cased. Thatâ€™s because it rests on the back of the Billsâ€™ franchise like a 1,000-pound piano.
Itâ€™s understandable that nobody in Western New York can stop talking about The Drought. Yet consciously or subconsciously, The Drought has prompted the Bills to make decisions out of desperation. The swing-for-the-fences trade for Sammy Watkins. The hiring of Rex Ryan, whose bravado and â€śpresenceâ€ť tricked the Pegulas and Russ Brandon into thinking he could end the playoff absence.
The Bills are not close to being a contender. They reshaped the roster according to Ryanâ€™s vision. Now theyâ€™re going to have to reshape it again, especially since McDermott runs a 4-3 defense. And check out next yearâ€™s tough schedule. It screams 4-12.
But McDermott canâ€™t worry about that. And Bills fans should be encouraged by his quality resume. His defensive track record in Carolina is excellent. Before that, he tutored in Philadelphia under one of the greatest defensive coordinators ever in Jim Johnson. Moreover, he worked under a great NFL coach, Andy Reid. Anybody whoâ€™s a Reid protĂ©gĂ© gets the benefit of the doubt from me.
Thereâ€™s no question this was an â€śinside job.â€ť McDermott got his break into the NFL from Tom Modrak. Doug Whaley got his break into the NFL from Modrak. It makes perfect sense that Whaley would want McDermott. Thatâ€™s the way the NFL works. But the GM and coach must be joined at the hip. That wasnâ€™t the case between Whaley and Doug Marrone or Whaley and Ryan.
Iâ€™m not crazy about Whaley because I have doubts about whether he has the self-confidence, the forceful persona and the great communication and human relations skills required to be a visionary GM. But thatâ€™s beside the point now. The Pegulas have made their choice. Itâ€™s the Doug and Sean Show.
The Pegulas need to make it clear to Whaley that he is not on a short leash. They should do Whaley a favor by publicly getting out in front and making it clear to the fan base heâ€™s not on a short leash. The GM canâ€™t be making moves motivated by self-preservation (or justification for past moves). Donâ€™t make any more trades that result in a net loss of draft choices.
If Whaley and McDermott want to dump Tyrod Taylor, so be it. I like the idea of keeping Taylor for two years, but that view is based on the premise the Bills wonâ€™t have a good QB option with the 10th pick or in free agency.
As Ralph Wilson used to say (wisely), you can never be certain what youâ€™re getting in a head coach until you start working with him. Does McDermott have a good answer on â€śthe other side of the ballâ€ť (in his case, offense)? That was the fatal flaw for Chan Gailey. Is McDermott a good leader in conflict situations? That was a fatal flaw for Dick Jauron. Is McDermott a good enough pure judge of talent? That was another flaw for Jauron, who decided Trent Edwards could be a winner and Haloti Ngata couldnâ€™t play in his defense, among other things.
Itâ€™s going to take numerous years to see if McDermott is the answer. Itâ€™s too simplistic to say it all depends on whether you have a franchise quarterback. Of course, the Bills need one. But great organizations (Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Baltimore, to name three) have a solid enough structure to win even when they have to play a â€śbridgeâ€ť QB.
The Pegulas need to give the Doug and Sean Show plenty of time, The Drought be damned.