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Bills speaking with one voice: Sean McDermott's

INDIANAPOLIS -- It is no accident that coach Sean McDermott is the only member of the Buffalo Bills hierarchy addressing the media during this week's NFL Scouting Combine.

It is no accident that General Manager Doug Whaley, whose job description goes to the very heart of what this event is all about, is nowhere near reporters and photographers.

In a stark change from how things have operated since Whaley became GM in 2013, especially during the offseason, the Bills are making a concerted effort to speak with one voice: the head coach's.

And it isn't only for the Combine. This is apparently how the Bills plan to operate for the foreseeable future.

"That one voice is an important approach and that's the approach that we are taking as an organization moving forward, and that voice being mine," McDermott told The Buffalo News Wednesday after addressing national reporters during a news conference.

Whaley hasn't spoken with the media since Jan. 24 in Mobile, Ala., after a practice for the Senior Bowl college all-star game.

Before that was Whaley's disastrous season-ending news conference, during which he said he wasn't "privy" to the reason Rex Ryan was fired as coach and made other eyebrow-raising comments and was involved in exchanges with reporters that served as a national embarrassment to the organization.

Whether that factored in the decision to not have Whaley speak at the Combine, something he has regularly done, is unknown. Most other NFL GMs speak with the media at the Combine, if not in a formal press-conference setting then at least with reporters that regularly cover their teams.

McDermott stressed that he and Whaley have had "great conversations" about the one-voice approach and "work together on that."

The coach will have a significant say in all player-personnel decisions, including whether to retain quarterback Tyrod Taylor (and pay him $30.75 in guaranteed money) or allow him to become a free agent. He is already heavily immersed in talent evaluation, of both players currently on the roster as well as free agents and college prospects. McDermott is comfortable in the world of scouting. He began his NFL career in 1999 as a scouting administration coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles and is known as a classic "grinder" when it comes to watching videotape.

However, McDermott stressed that Whaley's duties aren't being diminished.

"I'm definitely banking on Doug and his staff," the coach said. "I mean, they do a great job and that's part of the equation. And having said that, as a coach and a head coach, I think you'd be missing out on something if you just basically excused yourself from those conversations, and that's nothing close to what I plan to do. And Doug and I making those decisions together, and that communication's got to be there so that he knows and his staff knows what we're looking for.

"And then really my background, the history of my background, suggests that I'm comfortable in that situation, which I am in terms of the personnel end of things, understanding the cap and how you can't have all a certain type of player. That's not how this thing works, so that blend, if you will, that marriage has got to be on point.

"I try not to use that term grinder, because I think it's overused, but let's just say I put in the time."

Speaking with one voice is hardly a new concept in the NFL.

Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, and other coaches who have achieved long-term success -- and even some who haven't -- have gone the route of speaking publicly on all major club issues. The rationale is that it is the best method to deliver a consistent message. In the past two seasons under Ryan, and the two years before that with Doug Marrone as coach, the Bills often seemed to have conflicting messages from the top publicly and privately.

McDermott was particularly influenced when he witnessed how well going with one voice worked for Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid, when he was on Reid's Eagles coaching staff.

"Number one, I think it symbolizes team, it really does," McDermott said. "And any team has to have a great collaboration and an inclusivity. And that's what that message is all about that comes through that one voice."

The Bills have been widely criticized for being dysfunctional. Most of the criticism has stemmed from a clear sense that those in charge aren't on the same page.

McDermott is determined to put a structure in place that changes that narrative.

"Alignment is important," he said. When "you're talk about building a good team and building a great team, and leadership, really alignment is important in all areas. When you talk about that vision and accomplishing that vision with a day-to-day process and the standard that we're going to be about, that alignment is key."

For McDermott, it starts with one voice.

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