Back on Jan. 2, the Buffalo Bills were "close," according to Doug Whaley.
Close to what, exactly, the team's general manager didn't say.
Fast forward 12 days, and Whaley's message changed considerably. Instead of "close," the Bills "want to build this from the foundation up" and recognize "it's not going to be a quick fix."
Whaley made those comments in an interview with the team's official website that was posted Saturday, one day after Sean McDermott was introduced as the franchise's new head coach.
"The main focus we wanted is a guy, a coach, that had core values, but also looked at a long-term vision," Whaley said. "We’re not looking to just make the playoffs. We were looking for a coach that agreed with us that we want to build this from the foundation up, a team that can consistently compete for championships."
Later in the interview, Whaley addresses the team's fans, who understandably might not want to hear a message about being patient as the franchise's playoff drought closes in on 20 years.
"We recognize the 17 years. Absolutely. But we’re asking you to recognize we’re trying to build something for the long-term sustainability of success," Whaley said. "And I can’t give you a time frame, of year one, year two. But I will say, every game, like coach says, you’ll see a competitive team out there in position, that won’t beat themselves, and be in position to try to win."
That's not exactly former Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier telling fans to expect "suffering," but it's not far off, either.
A new coaching staff means players will have to learn a new scheme. Whaley was asked how the construction of the team will unfold, knowing that takes time.
"I would say it’s going to start with the core values," he said. "Instilling the core values in our players and in this building. And starting from the inside and working out. It’s not going to be a quick fix. He knows that. We know that. Anything that’s going to be sustainable for a long time, it’s hard to do.
"So the work ethic, not only from ownership down, is going to be permeated through this building, but it’s also going to be permeated in that locker room. These guys got to know, and they will know, that there’s a standard that we are setting. And everybody, from again, owners all the way down to the players, to everybody, administrative staff, we have to try to strive to live up to that standard every single day you walk through that door."
Whaley's comments certainly hint at the possibility of the Bills entering into a rebuild. They could take a big step in that direction by declining to exercise quarterback Tyrod Taylor's option.
"Obviously quarterback-driven league. And it’s the hardest position, I’d say, to play in sports, so it’s a very important position, and there’s not many guys out there," Whaley said. "With that being said, we do have a guy on the roster that has played well, has won games. The head coach, myself, Jim Monos, the quarterback coach and the offensive coordinator, we have to sit down and explain the vision we see of the quarterback we want on our team now and in the future.
"So this evaluation process is not only going to go with the quarterback, but the whole team. But that’s how we’re going to go about it. And then we’ll come to a consensus of, ‘does this meet our criteria of a long-term answer at that position?’ "
Whaley also expanded on why he thinks McDermott is the right coach to see the Bills through this process.
"First off you look at the production he had at Carolina," he said. "But then when you look a little further, look at his coaching tree. And it’s been well documented he started under Andy Reid, but also the late, great Jim Johnson, one of the premier defensive coordinators in the history of football. And then you add to being under Ron Rivera, so you have three highly qualified coaches.
"Andy Reid is a diligent head coach that has crafted many teams to perform at a highly successful level. Ron Rivera, they just went to the Super Bowl last year, so as (McDermott) says, in his words, he’s seen it, he’s smelled it, he’s tasted it. No one can ever get experience doing a job until they actually do it, but with his methodical approach, and his core values of what he expects not only from himself, but from his coaches, from his players, and from the entire organization, it just struck a chord with us that this is the type of guy that could be the CEO and lead the Buffalo Bills into the future."