INDIANAPOLIS – It's been a long time since we've heard from new Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott.
In fact, McDermott hasn't had anything to say since he was formally introduced Jan. 13. Because of that, and with some franchise-altering decisions facing the Bills in just days, McDermott's press conference here at the NFL Scouting Combine haps been eagerly awaited.
The following is the transcript of McDermott's 12-minute interview, along with some thoughts on what each answer means.
Q: How much say will you have over whether Tyrod Taylor is a Bill next year?
SM: "Yeah, you know what Doug and I are going to work on that together. As well as our teams, my coaching staff, his scouting staff and ultimately that'll be a decision made by Doug and myself."
What it means: The fact McDermott is the "one voice" speaking for the Bills is significant, though. If Whaley retains control of the 90-man roster, he should be the one answering these questions. The fact McDermott is doing it is significant.
Q: Do you want him back?
SM: "We're going through that process right now. The thing about all of our players, and Tyrod's no different, is we're going to go through the process. We're going to exhaust every ounce of time, look at it from every angle. I think you'll find about me is I'm pretty methodical in my appraoch. And so it takes time, and that's what's in front of us right now."
What it means: It's hard to imagine the Bills haven't made a decision yet either way, but they have until March 11 to do so. Whether they announce it now or then won't change much. However, if the decision really hasn't been made yet, and it's truly that hard of a call, wouldn't that suggest they're finding reasons not to keep Taylor?
Q: How much are you looking forward to coaching LeSean McCoy?
SM: "Well, LeSean and I were together in Philaelphia, so I know what he brings to the table. It's been fun to watch him mature over the years and really develop on and off the field. I'm excited about working with LeSean, because he's a dynmaic player."
What it means: If the team is keeping LeSean McCoy, which is what this would indicate, that's a big sign the team isn't entering into a rebuild. This might be the most significant news of the session.
Q: What's your evaluation of Jonathan Williams?"
SM: "Good young player, and when you look at our roster, there are pieces to build on, Jonathan being one of them. So we're going to look to add competition and depth at every position. We look forward to working with Jonathan.
What it means: Did you seriously just ask about Jonathan Williams? SMH. He's rather inconsequential when looking ahead to 2017.
Q: What's the defining characteristic of this offense?
SM: "When you look at this offense, it's a heck of an offense. It's an offense, system wise, I've had my eyes on for years. I know how hard it is to defense. So Rick Dennison is a guy I've had my eyes on for years as well, and I know what he brings to the table."
What it means: McDermott likes the offense of the offensive coordinator he hired.
Q: Have you had any conversations with Aaron Williams about where his future stands?
SM: "Aaron's a guy that I've tracked for years. When you go back to the University of Texas, his background, and the success he's had for the Bills' organization, that's been fun to watch. Aaron's no different than the rest of our players. We're going through that process, so we're going to evaluate and make the best decision for our organization."
What it means: McDermott's answer is interesting here in that he makes it sound like it's the team's decision as to whether Williams will remain on the roster, and not up to the player based on his health concerns. That's a change from the end of the season when Williams openly mulled retirement.
Q: What's going on with Kyle Williams?
SM: "Kyle Williams, man, I have a tremendous amount of respect for Kyle. Again, what he's done for the Bills' organization, one of our leaders, and I can announce at this time, that Kyle is coming back, and we look forward to working with Kyle."
What it means: Another sign that a rebuild is not in the cards for 2017.
Q: What's the value of inside linebacker in today's NFL?
SM: "Yeah, I mean, certainly working with Luke and Thomas and Shaq, I don't if devalued is the right word. I think all positions are important to our succes. We're putting a team together, and linebacker, no different. We've got some good ones in Buffalo and we look forward to working with those guys as well. We're going to put the best players on the field, and if that means a linebacker has to play another positoin, if he's the 11 best, that's what we're going to do."
What it means: McDermott had a group of solid linebackers in Carolina with Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis and Shaq Thompson. With Zach Brown an impending free agent and Reggie Ragland coming back from a season-long injury, the Bills' collection of linebackers has plenty of question marks.
Q: Has linebacker changed with more nickel defenses?
SM: "Well I think you're right. When you look at the amount of time people spend in nickel, probably 60-plus percent, so we're no different. I think you are finding, becuase the college game has changed, the offense has changed, as well, at our level. When you look at that nickel position, it's important. So the linebackers have changed in what we're seeing in terms of the speed at the linebacker position, yes."
What it means: The Bills need to prioritize re-signing Zach Brown.
Q: Do you find yourself bending more towards what people are doing in college?
SM: "Well you have to adapt to your surroundings. That's what good coaches do, that's what great evaluators do. You adjust based off what you're seeing. What we're seeing here in this first step in the evaluation process for us as coaches. Our scouts do a heck of a job. Doug and his staff are laying that foundation for us and really setting us up for success as we get to the combine like we are now."
What it means: If teams throw more, then yes, defenses have to adjust.
Q: Will the decision on Tyrod Taylor go right up until March 11 deadline?
SM: "If that's what it takes, then yes. We're going to be methodical in all of the decisions. This position is critical. The quarerback position in the league is critical to the success of a football team, so we're going to take all the time necessary to make the right decision for this organization both in the short and long term."
What it means: The Bills recognize the decision on Taylor will shape the upcoming season.
Q: Is part of that comparing Taylor to other free-agent quarterbacks?
SM: "The process you look at is you look at it from all different angles. And so you compare Tyrod based on the quarterback position, the intangibles you look for, the critical factors at the position, and then, yes, you look at it from other options, from other areas as well, and that being the candidates that are out there on the free agent market."
What it means: The Bill only have one quarterback under contract outside of Taylor for next season, so it's natural that they would consider free agency. They'll have to add to the position.
Q: How much do you have to keep in mind what New England has done in building this team?
SM: "Well we've got a lot of respect for what they've done. I know this: We've got to focus on ourselves right now. We've got to get ourselves right. No. 1 is understanding our situation, understanding our roster, and then evaluating free agents, evaluating draft prospects moving forward so that we do what's right by us. At the right time, we'll look at those opponents."
What it means: McDermott isn't going to pull a Rex Ryan and poke the bear. Smart.
Q: Thoughts on Cardale Jones?
SM: "Well, Cardale's an option for us, as well. And so when you look at Cardale, you do look at what he did in college as part of the evaluation. I've gone back and my staff has gone back and we've looked at all the practice tape, his tape the last game of the year there, so we're excited about working with Cardale, just like we are the rest of the players on the roster."
What it means: "An option" does not sound like something McDermott is excited about exploring.
Q: In a perfect world, would you like to bring back Robert Woods?
SM: "When you look at Robert, you look at what he's done, he certainly has a good skill set. Just like the rest of the free agents on our roster, we've got to evaluate those and make sure it's the right fit for us, and that evaluation, that process, continues."
What it means: At this point, it's clear McDermott isn't tipping his hand when it comes to plans for the impending free agents on the roster.
Q: Is part of the process with Taylor knowing his mindset as far as wanting to be a Bill?
SM: "Well, again, it's part of the process. As was mentioned earlier, with the other free agents, that's part of the evaluation process. We're going to put people in positions that want to be with us and want to play the caliber of football that we're looking to play."
What it means: Taylor will surely want to be a Bill just as long as the team is ready to pay him nearly $31 million.
Q: How much does your experience with losing Josh Norman in Carolina impact what you may do with Stephon Gilmore?
SM: "You learn from different sitations, but at the same time, every situation's diffferent. Stephon is a good player, and so when you look at Stephon and what he brings to the table, the corner position is a critical positoin to being successful on defense and so we're going to put the right people in place to help us be successful."
What it means: By not franchising Gilmore, the team has to be prepared for his departure. He figures to get a massive deal on the open market.
Q: What did you learn from (former Eagles defensive coordinator) Jim Johnson to bring to this job
SM: "What didn't I learn from Jim? When you look at defensive football. Really, and I've said this before, I believe I kind of cut my teeth in the Harvard of defensive football. Being around Jim Johnson that way. So attacking quarterbacks, developing game plans, you know just being aggressive and attack minded, and then adjusting during games, I think that's a critical part of being a great coach is adjusting and putting your players in a position to be successful."
What it means: It's interesting to hear about adjustments, since that's something that didn't seem to come fast enough under the former coaching staff.
Q: Can you evaluate the cornerbacks?
SM: "Well again you know, Stephon was mentioned earlier. You know, you look at Ronald Darby and Seymour and the other guys we have on the roster. You know, those are guys we look forward to working with and so that's all part of the evaluation process and that process continues, as you've heard me say. We're going to do what's best for this organization short-term wise, but also long term as well."
What it means: Kevon Seymour getting a mention is a hint at what McDermott thinks of the second-year player who could be a replacement for Gilmore.
Q: Have you leaned on Ron Rivera?
SM: "Absolutely. I mean, Ron is a big mentor of mine, and continues to be to this day. Ron did a great job of preparing me, or helping me to prepare for this job. One of Ron's greatest strengths are people skills. He knows and he taught me it's a people-driven business and so I think there's relationships that he has done a great job in building in Carolina. I hope to do the same in our building in Buffalo."
Q: What did you take specifically from Rivera?
SM: "Well just all along the way, he's given me bits and pieces of his process, as he got into Carolina through the years, six years, and what a great run Ron has had, and so I learned from everyone -- Ron and the other staff members I was with in Carolina. That's just how I'm wired. I love to learn. That's the approach I take."
Q: Did you set out to hire an experienced staff?
SM: "Well, experience was definitely a big factor for us in our decision-making process. At the same time, I wanted guys with great integrity, and energy. Experience is one thing, but if you don't have the energy and that juice to do the job, that was important for us. And where we didn't have the experience, we wanted upside. Great upside with some of our youth on the coaching staff. At the end of the day, it's like a great recipe. You hire one, and it affects the overall ingredients in everything. So I think we put together a dynamic staff. I look forward to working with them."
Q: Adam Gase and Todd Bowles did well the past couple years as first-time coaches in the division. Is the bar raised?
SM: "Well, I obviously respet what they did. Having said that, I'm going to be my own person. Nobody has higher expectations of what we're trying to do than myself. There's a daily standard and that process in earning the right to win, and so in order to do that, in order to win, you've got to win off the field first and then you've got to win on the field. So I'm big believer in respecting that process -- and that being the key word here. ... I just believe in doing things the right way, and putting a great staff around me and working together with Doug and his staff."
Q: Are you in a accord with Doug Whaley regarding Taylor?
SM: "We are absolutely in accord. Doug and I have gotten off to a great start. Doug and I have had great meetings. Very productive, healthy meetings. Sometimes you disagree, but those disagreements are healthy. And that goes for every meeting. At the end of the day, we're going to have the right decision for the Bills' organization. I think Doug and I are off to a great start."
What it means: The Bills recognize they had a reputation as being a circus at the end of 2016. McDermott has to put that to rest as soon as possible.
Q: Who has final call on Tyrod?
SM: "Well, Doug and I are going to work on this together. That's what we're here to do. This is the team within the team. I'm counting on Doug as well as he's counting on me. I've got a lot of trust in Doug and his staff. And we're off to a great start. They've laid the foundation for us to come to the combine as coaches and have a chance to succeed."