Bills head coach Sean McDermott
Q: So, if you could kind of give us the big picture on what’s happened so far in free agency with the signings and kind of the thinking behind what you do?
A: Yeah, let me start off: I want to give credit to this entire organization. This was really an entire team effort. When you look at the number of players we’ve been able to sign early in this process, that doesn’t happen by itself and so you start with ownership: Terry and Kim [Pegula] and the allocation of [their] resources. Then, Doug [Whaley] and his staff, my staff; you look at Jim Overdorf, Kevin Meganck, and really the whole building. This has been entirely a team effort from day one and the credit goes as such.
Q: With regards to Stephon Gilmore and Robert Woods, they were drafted and developed here. Was it a mixture of the price tag rising past what you guys were willing to do? Or what were the decisions on those two guys?
A: Well, this is a tough time of year, as far as that goes. This is a time of year where you’re going to lose some players, and those are good players. We wish them the best, in terms of their careers. We’re going to do everything in our power to continue to add pieces to this roster in guys that fit the DNA that we’re looking for, and add competition and depth at every position. That’s really what our mission is at this time.
Q: In regards to Aaron Williams, how much of that decision was based on his health?
A: Well, it’s a football decision. Strictly a football decision, and that’s what I talk about [when I say] the tough part of the business. That’s the toughest part of my job, is when guys leave this building. I said last week, when you look at Aaron’s career when he left Texas – it’s a great career and he’s done a lot for this organization so we wish Aaron well and we’re moving forward as an organization and as a football team.
Q: Sean, can you tell us a little bit about Micah Hyde?
A: Yeah, Micah – and when you look at the list of players that we’ve been able to add to this point, you’ll see a lot of overlap there with intangibles, toughness, versatility and as is the case with Micah. When you look at his career, he’s played multiple positions. He played at Iowa, had a great career where you find good football players. He’s played the nickel position, the corner position and the safety position. We just felt like this was a great value for us and [he’s] a good football player – and he’s played in big games, so we’re very fortunate to have Micah.
Q: Sean, we’re getting to know you at this point, so when you say that Aaron Williams was a football decision, I’m trying to figure out what that exactly means – if you could expand on it. Whether it’s his play, or what you saw on film, or what might it be?
A: Well, no. Aaron’s a good football player and we just feel like at this time, as an organization and our philosophy moving forward, that we’re going in a different direction at this time and so when I said it’s a football decision, that’s what I meant.
Q: With these defensive backs, you’ve got three new ones in, and three guys are out. What do those guys bring to the table that you like that you didn’t have on the roster in terms of how they fit your scheme and what you’re trying to do on defense?
A: Right. Again, the question with Micah, and Jordan Poyer – no different – versatility, smarts, intangibles, toughness is where you start. And then you look at the skill set on the field – ball skills, the ability to take the football away and score on defense or set up our offense in scoring position will be big for us moving forward, and just the ability to run the defense and be that quarterback in the secondary was big for us.
Q: Sean, I know that free agency just started and it really never ends, but how do you envision how you want to use your linebackers because right now it seems like there’s some depth that needs to be added – some players. Do you envision the same versatility that you do in the secondary at those three spots or – are you looking for specific skill sets to fit your defense?
A: That’s where you have to be creative. We are going to look to add at every position, like I mentioned yesterday. Competition, depth at every position will be key – linebacker no different. We’ve played with two linebackers in my career before, 70 percent of the time: three linebackers, another percent of the time – so you take what you have and you put the players in a position to be successful. That’s where the creativity comes in within the system.
Q: What does signing two fullbacks – or a guy who is very fullback-like because he’s a running back too, in Mike Tolbert – what does that say about your offensive plan? It’s not typical to have two fullbacks, so it makes a statement – or it seems to.
A: Well, fullback is a big part of this offense, and let’s say this: it’s not limited to playing the fullback position. There’s versatility within that position, and what Mike brings to the table – as you mentioned, Mike Tolbert. I had the chance to be around Mike for a number of years in Carolina and I know what he brings to the table in terms of leadership, intangibles again, and what happens in that locker room on Monday through Saturday. So that’s a big part of it, and then Mike’s versatility on the field with the ability to play fullback, line up at fullback and then also transition to the halfback position and carry the football, and he’s done that extremely well. I had a front-row seat to observe what Mike’s skill set is, both on and off the field, and that was key for us. You’re talking about a guy that’s been to a Pro Bowl, and that’s really no different to [Patrick] DiMarco, in this case.
Q: Just to clean up what was said on Aaron Williams, from your conversations with him, is he going to continue to play football?
A: Yeah, that’s a question for Aaron at this time.
Q: What would an example or two be about what Tolbert does from Monday to Saturday that makes it different?
A: [laughs] The Tol-dozer. I think you’ll get a feel pretty early what he’s all about. First of all, he’s a family man, a good person, and in order to be a great leader, you’ve got to lead by example and you see that on a daily basis with a man of Mike’s caliber off the field. What he does in the community is phenomenal as well. He’s just got that “it” that people gravitate towards. He’s known as a solid dancer around the locker room and I think you’ll enjoy – if and when he gets in the end zone – he likes to showcase some of those talents. No, but he’s a good addition for us.
Q: It sounds like that’s the type of guy when you come in and want to make a culture change; it’s critical to bring in – not just a guy, but guys like that. Can you give a little insight on your philosophy to changing the culture to make sure this team is what you want it to be?
A: I mean – culture is big. In order to have the resulting chemistry, you’ve got to first have the culture. You blend high character individuals with talent, and you have a chance to have that culture. That is a big part of this in moving this organization forward in the right direction.
Q: There was a report that you had the pool table and some video games removed from the locker room. Can you confirm that? And if so, what’s the thinking behind that?
A: This is a business. We talk about, and you’ve heard me say this before, earning the right to win. We’ve got to stay focused on the task at hand and I’m all for, as we mentioned, the chemistry and building that chemistry in that locker room. That’s a big part of it, yet we have to make sure we stay focused on the task at hand and that means earn the right to win on a daily basis. I don’t believe that playing video games in the locker room is part of earning the right to win. We’re going to be a focused, disciplined and accountable football team and I believe you do it one day at a time.
Q: I know it’s only hour three of free agency, but what are your thoughts about the receiver position and the holes that you have going into this – and how you might think about addressing them, knowing that there are some openings?
A: Right. We’re going to look to add at every position, wide receiver no different. We do have some [holes], obviously with the loss of the two you mentioned earlier. We’ve got some areas that we need to address, and we’re going to look at every position no different than wide receiver. We’re going to look to add in a methodical way and put this team in a position to win football games.
Q: What qualities are you looking for in a backup quarterback, assuming Tyrod [Taylor] is your starter?
A: Well, again, guys that want to compete. They’ve got intangibles and, no different at the quarterback position, I’m looking for a certain type of individual that’s wired the right way, loves to compete, loves the process, is going to put this football team in a position to win games. Whether it’s the starter or the backup or the third-stringer, we’re going to add good football players to this team.
Q: Is experience important there?
A: We’re going to look at every option.
Q: You’ve mentioned versatility a lot. It seems to be kind of a theme when you look at the players you signed today. How important is versatility and hybrid-type roles on both sides of the ball in your systems?
A: There’s a term that we use called position flexibility. Versatility, position flexibility, same as – that’s important. You look at Micah Hyde: Micah’s been a returner, he’s played safety, and I mentioned corner and nickel. That’s important for us. Mike Tolbert’s played both fullback and halfback extremely well so you’re looking for that value in guys. When you add the component in the locker room with these individuals, that’s big for us.
Q: Sean, you guys took that Tyrod decision pretty close to the deadline. How much disagreement was there between the front office and the coaching staff, if any, on that?
A: Well, you go back to the process and really, since day one when I entered the building in January; it’s been a total team effort. And again, the credit that’s got to go to the staff, Doug and his staff, the coaches, and just the whole process has been phenomenal. We’ve had very productive and healthy meetings, and look: when you have healthy meetings, that means sometimes you have disagreements and those are good. Those are healthy, and so that’s been part of the process and at the end of the day, this is a process that we all agreed upon; that this would put this organization in the right direction at this time.
Q: Did you consider risk with that, in the sense that taking him down the road of reconstructing, he had the opportunity with the legal tampering to see what else might be out there? You could be risking him leaving, and then you’re maybe stuck at quarterback. How did you process that?
A: You hit the nail on the head. You go through it. You look at every option and say, “hey, we’ve got Tyrod,” and you look at the quarterbacks on our roster and then you look at the free agent list of quarterbacks and then you look at the draft list of quarterbacks. Like I mentioned earlier, we looked at every option, and we’re going to continue to look at every option to add pieces to this roster that are going to allow us to compete, have great competition and add depth. [It’s] no different in this case. You have to look at it, certainly, from all different angles and you mentioned it.
Q: With Stephon Gilmore moving on, do you now focus your attention on Kevon Seymour to see if he can step up? He did start a couple of games last year.
A: Yeah, we’ve got a lot of confidence in both Ronald Darby and Kevon, as well, and some of the other players on the roster at that position. Having said that, we’re going to pursue every opportunity to improve that position as well and there’s nothing off the table at this point in time.
Q: When it comes to defense and the fact that Stephon and Nickell [Robey-Coleman] aren’t going to be here, you bring some new guys in – how important is it for you to bring some new guys in to learn yours and Leslie Frazier’s defense from the ground up so that they don’t have some preconceptions from what it was like here last year?
A: Well, you’ve got to start somewhere, certainly. It’s important that we do bring guys in – basically, get them in the boat to learn from day one, and learn together. That’s a big part of the continuity – it builds that communication. When guys are around one another, they build communication to get a feel for one another. You build that chemistry and the communication on defense, in particular in this case, is vital to our success. That’s important. As we continue to build this thing, that camaraderie – just being around one another – whether it’s off the field, in the locker room – and I did leave the ping-pong table, by the way – that’s important.
Q: Why did you leave the ping-pong table?
A: Ball skills.
Q: Given the nature of Tyrod’s restructure and that it wasn’t picking up the option with all that money, does that leave you with the idea of a quarterback with the tenth pick?
A: Yeah. Again, just like every position, nothing’s off the table. We’re going to look to add to this roster in every way, shape and form. We’re up there – I came down earlier and saw you guys, and I’m going right back up. Doug and his staff are up there working, as well as my staff. We’re going to add pieces to this roster and nothing’s off the table.
Q: Sean, in terms of where the roster is at right now, what’s the current plan at right tackle? [Jordan] Mills is a free agent and I think Seantrel [Henderson] and Cyrus [Kouandjio] are the only guys there.
A: Yeah, we’ve got some pieces there – and you mentioned a couple of them. Obviously, Jordan’s done some good things for this organization and we’re looking at it hard, just like the other positions.
Quarterback Tyrod Taylor
Q: What convinced you restructuring was the right thing?
A: Just going back and meeting with Coach McDermott, the relationship I had with Coach Rico, (Offensive Coordinator) Rick Dennison, working with them before – actually getting a chance to work with (Quarterbacks) Coach (David) Culley at the Pro Bowl, that was a quick week, but just being around those guys. Actually been up here for the two months I was here for my rehab and being in the facility every day for close to six hours and getting a chance to know the coaches and their vision for this team. Just thought moving forward, if we could work out something for both sides, it would be beneficial. This is the place to be. Like I’ve said from day one, my commitment is to this team, to this community, to do whatever it takes to get a winning tradition back and I’m still committed to doing that each and every day.
Q: Did you explore other options and was it a case where you didn’t see anything financially better?
A: There were a few teams out there but I mean I’m still under contract. It wasn’t like I was released or anything, so I mean I couldn’t do too much and I wasn’t looking to do that. My focus this past offseason was to get healthy first and foremost with having the surgery early in January. My sole focus was to get healthy and let my agent find a way to make things work here and we were able to get something done yesterday. I’m excited to be back.
Q: You expressed some concerns and worries about your future in Buffalo after being benched in Week 17. How did you reconcile what happened with that and where you are now?
A: At the time, did I know that I would be back? No. I didn’t know what the next step for me was but I’ve learned from that situation and I’ve put it behind me. It’s a new coaching staff in here. Like I said, there’s some coaches that I’ve worked with before. Got a chance to talk to Coach McDermott since his first day here and like I said, the vision that he has for this team and our conversations have been very good since day one. Like I said, I put what happened with the last week of last year’s season behind me. Was I happy about it? At the time, no. Will it still fuel me during workouts and moving forward? Yes, but ultimately I’m happy that I’m back here competing with the guys in this locker room.
Q: Sitting out of practice that week and seeing how that played out, did you ever envision being where you are today?
A: I didn’t sit out of practice. That was for injury reasons. But like I said, I didn’t know at the time. I don’t think anyone knew at the time. There was uncertainty as far as with what the head coaching situation would be this year coming up, there was a lot of uncertainty. I think a lot of questions were unanswered at the time and we had to see what the next step was going to be as far as coaching-wise. Like I said, once I met the coaches and seen what they were putting in, definitely a place that I wanted to be and like I said, I’m happy that I’m here.
Q: After signing that contract last August, did you play this year with the thought in your mind that you might not see this thing through? How did that factor into your thinking throughout the year?
A: I didn’t really focus on that. Once I signed the deal, my focus was on to do whatever it takes to help win games. Our season didn’t go as well as we would have liked it to last year. On the personal side as well, too, I could have been better. They chose to restructure – we chose to restructure – and I think moving forward as far as the team, to help bring in more pieces, it was the best thing for both sides to do.
Q: You never missed any practice time until the last week of the season but then had surgery real quick after the season. How much did the injury impact you?
A: I felt it, but it happened early in the year so I mean at that point, I wasn’t going to sit out. I’m going to do whatever it takes to help my team win. In this league, it’s kind of hard to play at 100 percent. Most guys aren’t 100 (percent) once training camp starts. I was fortunate to make it until week six or seven until I started feeling something. The trainers did a great job of helping me manage the situation throughout the season, they got me ready to play on Sundays and once I had the surgery, they’ve done a great job as well of getting me back.
Q: Just to clarify, you said a couple teams reached out or expressed interest in you. Was that a situation where the Bills granted you permission to talk to other teams? What was communicated to you?
A: I didn’t physically talk to any other teams. Casual conversation with my agent through – I mean everyone’s at the Combine and stuff like that. No official conversations. I see what you’re trying to do right there. Good try, good try. That was a good one.
Q: Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin are gone. What are your thoughts on the receiving core that there’s maybe three people on the depth chart?
A: First off, Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin, definitely very good players and definitely deserve the contracts that they got. As far as what else is out there for us to pick up and to bring in for free agency, I’m not sure right now but I definitely have faith in our management and Coach McDermott to bring in talent that’s definitely going to help this team. The last couple of days have been fast for me so I haven’t really been able to focus on the free agent picture but I’ll definitely sit down and try to get an idea of what we’re going to do moving forward.
Q: What do you know about the new offensive system and how it contrasts from what you’ve seen?
A: It has some similarities, but also being in the system one year in Baltimore. Definitely some changes in it as far as the play-action pass and getting on the edge. Just a very player-friendly system. Definitely a system that LeSean (McCoy) is going to like. Get a chance to move Sammy (Watkins) around into different places. Definitely excited about us having our talent in this scheme and definitely think that we can have a lot of big plays in this scheme.
Q: You’ve had three offensive coordinators in three years as a starter. How challenging is that?
A: It’s a challenge but it’s also the NFL. Circumstances happen sometimes. Is it the ideal situation, no, but I believe Coach Rick Dennison is a great coordinator. Being with him, like I said, for a year in Baltimore, he’s definitely a great coach and I’m excited to see what he brings to this team.
Q: How is your relationship with Doug Whaley compared to where it was at the end of the season?
A: We were able to come together on terms as far as a contract. I think what happened, happened. We learned from it, put it behind us. If it was a bad relationship I wouldn’t be standing in front of you all today. We got a deal done, so I mean it’s good.
Q: What struck you about Coach McDermott and what bonded you two together to make you think this could work?
A: Very detailed, very serious in his approach. Just being around him, not knowing much about him, asking some guys that have played for him in the past couple of years about him – all good things. And just being around him and like I said, seeing him day-to-day while I’m over here working out, rehabbing, just casual conversation. Definitely think that he has the right message for the team and I’m excited to play for him and the rest of the guys will be when they meet him.
Q: You felt that the Buffalo media was too negative. Is there anything in particular that was reported unfairly?
A: Um, no. I wouldn’t say it was unfair. I mean we were 7-9 last year, so I mean it wasn’t a great year for us. Some of the stuff we brought on ourselves. To avoid that, we have to win, and that’s what we aim to do here moving forward. That’s the focus, is to win. That cures it all.
Q: What’s your sense of the change here with Sean as head coach and what’s noticeable about it already?
A: It’s still definitely early but just definitely trying to change the culture, change the mindset, wanting guys to compete. Not that that wasn’t the mindset beforehand, but I think once the guys get in here on April 3rd and get a chance to meet Coach McDermott and the rest of the coaches that he’s brought here, they’ll definitely see the vision of the team. Definitely business-like approach and he wants us to come in with the business mindset, to come in and work hard and like I said, compete. That’s the main thing. Every position is definitely going to compete and I believe that brings out the best in players, so I think guys are definitely going to gravitate toward that.
Q: At what point in the offseason did you and your agent decide that restructuring would be the best way to go?
A: A couple of days ago.
Q: So two days ago?
Q: What was your sense on the quarterback market?
A: I know there were a couple guys coming out. (Tony) Romo is still under contract, Brock (Osweiler) still under contract. I believe he just got traded. There were a couple of situations that had to go down, but I believe talent-wise, we have enough talent to get the job done in this building. And like I’ve said from day one, I’m committed to bringing this community, this organization what they deserve. That’s what I’m here to do.
Provided by the Buffalo Bills.