The connection between Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott goes well beyond the six years they spent working together with the Carolina Panthers, when Beane was part of the front office and McDermott was defensive coordinator.
They forged a strong bond that came from climbing up through the ranks of the NFL from the very bottom rung as interns -- Beane going from the communications department to assistant GM with the Panthers and McDermott going from scouting to defensive coordinator with the Philadelphia Eagles and Carolina.
They would spend many hours dropping into each other's office to review the Panthers' defensive depth chart, going over the strengths and weaknesses on the side of the ball for which McDermott was responsible. It would prove to be the perfect training ground for what the future would bring to these ambitious young football men.
Now, their bottom-to-top journeys have put them together at the very top with the Buffalo Bills. And together, Beane, as general manager, and McDermott, as head coach, intend to do something that the franchise hasn't done for a very long time.
"The long-term vision is to build a consistent winner here," Beane said Friday during his introductory news conference. "I didn’t just achieve a goal or Sean and I didn’t achieve a goal if we make the playoffs once and then we’re out of it two or three years in a row. Sustained success. Year after year, we’re contending to win the division. That’s the first thing we have to do.
"Obviously, we now have a big foe in Foxborough that’s had a stranglehold on it. We’re aware of the task, but that’s the vision that I have."
It's a vision that he shared with McDermott as they got to know each other with the Panthers.
"We’ve had six years together, so really it was a six-year interview," McDermott said. "But it’s six years of experience and it’s how he handles losses, how he handles wins and sustaining success. Just up close and personal, and really just a front-row seat in working with one another. We had conversations about the defense when I was the coordinator in Carolina. I appreciated it; I’m sure the rest of the staff in Carolina would echo the same sentiments of his ability to be approachable and deal with a wide spectrum of people and solve problems.
"All attractive qualities, and he’s just got a good way about him."
The McDermott-Beane way will be more methodical and meticulous than splashy.
Doug Whaley and others who have occupied the office that Beane officially took over Friday would preach about a similar approach, yet would always find a way to make a splash.
Beane stressed that the Bills were going to do things the way successful teams, such as the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers, do them.
"I'm going to build through the draft, first and foremost," he said. "You have to draft well and sign those guys. If you draft well, you (re-sign) them. You're not going to see big splashes of free agency. Free agency sets you up for your draft. So you don't want to go into the draft needing a cornerback, needing an offensive tackle. If me and my staff do our job, we'll look at where we have some holes after the season, we'll plug a few holes, and then we'll be able to draft for need when April comes."
As with McDermott, Beane was the first of four candidates to be interviewed by Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula at their home in Boca Raton, Fla. And, as with McDermott, they knew they had the right man from the first meeting.
Pegula, who sat next to Beane during the news conference, explained that his new GM had far more going for him than his close friendship and great working relationship with McDermott.
"Brandon embodies everything we at the Bills want in our front office," Pegula said. "Here’s the things we learned about Brandon; he was highly regarded around the NFL. The Panthers loved him. He’s versatile, he’s done it all in the front office. He’s dedicated, as evidenced by his 19 years with the franchise. He’s smart, humble, a hard worker and a team-player.
"He was a GM in everything but title."
Slow and steady.
That's what Beane sees as the best way for the Bills to end a 17-year playoff drought and begin a streak of postseason appearances.
"Anything you build, you want to build it from the ground up with a solid foundation," he said. "... Rome wasn’t built in a day. We’re not trying to do this tomorrow. We’re going to try to do it the right way and when it’s meant to be, we’ll get there, and I think everybody will see success."
Beane and Pegula touched on a number of topics, such as:
*Control of the 53-man roster. "Brandon’s going to have the 53," Pegula said. "Sean and him will obviously collaborate on any decisions, but he’s got it."
*The challenge of assembling a player-personnel staff so soon after the draft. "There’s no easy time just to put together a staff when you do it after the season," Beane said. "Guys are really hard to get at that point, a team has employed them the whole year to scout for them so they’re not going to let them go. The unique thing is this is a lot of turnover in the personnel (department) after the draft. So, you have to follow the process, have a lot of ideas of guys around the league. I know a lot of guys, a lot of guys have reached out, and we’re going to take our time and we’re going to get the right guys. I’m not going to put a timeframe on it but we’re going to get the right guys and it’s going to be a good group."
*McDermott's influence on Beane's hiring. "When we started this process, we – Kim and myself, Russ (Brandon) was involved, and others – we put together four or five lists of potential candidates, cross referenced them and Sean was one of the individuals," Pegula said. "Brandon’s name showed up on most if the lists if not all of them, so from that, we picked and from discussions with people outside of the organization, we picked the candidates we wanted to interview. But Sean’s involvement was no more than writing a name on a piece paper – which he wrote seven or eight names."
*The future of Jim Overdorf, who as the Bills' senior vice president of administration, has overseen the team's salary cap and contract negotiations. "That's up to Brandon," Pegula said. "Jim works for Brandon." Said Beane, "I’m coming in eyes wide open with everybody. It shouldn’t be about Jim. I’ve known Jim for a long time, have a lot of respect for him, great man. I’ve never had a chance to work with Jim, so I’m going to jump in. ... (I) look forward to getting to know his process, how he does things. I’m going to kind of influence him with how I do things and we’ll see how this works and go from there."
*The Bills' quarterback situation. "Obviously Tyrod’s (Taylor) going to be the starter," Beane said. "There’s some other guys on the roster. I’ve only watched Tyrod from afar. We had a quarterback in Carolina (Cam Newton), so we weren’t in the market a lot to be overly researching these guys. I actually got to meet Tyrod on my tour. Great young man. He’s done a lot of good things on tape and look forward to getting to know him and see how he leads this team and it’s just going to be an open competition at every position, not just quarterback."