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. That’s because it rests on the back of the Bills’ franchise like a 1,000-pound piano.
It’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 “presence” 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 Ryan’s vision. Now they’re going to have to reshape it again, especially since McDermott runs a 4-3 defense. And check out next year’s tough schedule. It screams 4-12.
But McDermott can’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 who’s a Reid protégé gets the benefit of the doubt from me.
There’s no question this was an “inside job.” 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. That’s the way the NFL works. But the GM and coach must be joined at the hip. That wasn’t the case between Whaley and Doug Marrone or Whaley and Ryan.
I’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 that’s beside the point now. The Pegulas have made their choice. It’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 he’s not on a short leash. The GM can’t be making moves motivated by self-preservation (or justification for past moves). Don’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 won’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 you’re getting in a head coach until you start working with him. Does McDermott have a good answer on “the other side of the ball” (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 couldn’t play in his defense, among other things.
It’s going to take numerous years to see if McDermott is the answer. It’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 “bridge” QB.
The Pegulas need to give the Doug and Sean Show plenty of time, The Drought be damned.