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McDermott's solo act sets tone for different Bills draft

There is one certainty about the uncertainty surrounding what the Buffalo Bills will do in next week's NFL Draft.

It's going to be different -- much different than any point in recent or even not-so-recent franchise history.

The Bills gave a first glimpse of that Thursday when Sean McDermott, the head coach, and not Doug Whaley, the general manager, answered questions from the media about the draft. Whaley and previous GMs have traditionally handled that duty without the head coach present.

On Thursday, it was McDermott and McDermott only. There weren't even any scouts, who usually are available to address players they've evaluated in their respective regions, around.

However, McDermott reiterated what team owner Terry Pegula said at last month's NFL meeting in Phoenix: the coach and the GM will make each pick "together." Pegula will also have input, the coach said, but "at the end of the day, it's a decision Doug and I make."

To hear McDermott's description of how the Bills are approaching the draft, however, it sounds as if he's in the leadership role. The coach pointed out that, although he has been heavily involved in the entire pre-draft process, Whaley and his staff are continuing to do what they've been doing for the better part of the past year, which his the brunt of the detail work in evaluating college prospects.

"We have to weigh all the opinions that are in the room and, certainly, Doug has great familiarity with the players because he's been looking at these players for a long time," McDermott said. "So I'm trusting Doug on that and his staff in terms of their experience around these players and what's happening on campus with these players over the course of the last one, two years, three years sometimes.

"That's a big part of it for us, is making sure we know these players inside and out and putting information out there so we can make good, sound decisions."

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McDermott also stuck to the company line that Whaley's absence at the team's lone pre-draft media briefing did not mean his job is in jeopardy.

"Not at all," McDermott said. "This is absolutely a team effort. One hundred percent a team effort. Doug and I have had great meetings. He's keeping me abreast as to the situation, as far as evaluating the players. He and his staff line things up for us in a nice way so we can have productive, healthy meetings, so we can come up with the right players for this organization moving forward."

During his introductory news conference, McDermott said Whaley would maintain control of the Bills' 53-man roster. The coach said Thursday that "is still accurate."

Asked who would make the final call if there were a split in the draft room, McDermott said. "We're going to make that call together. When we go through the process, let's understand the process is about ... we don't always go into those meeting rooms and agree. It's like your family. You don't always go home and agree on everything. And that's important that you can have that dynamic. Healthy conversations have some disagreement at times. That's not to say there's been disagreement, but when we do things it's got to be open-air communication, not afraid to disagree, so that at the end of the process, we get the right players for this organization."

So if Whaley is in charge of the 53-man roster and his going to have at least half the say in each player the Bills select, why wouldn't he be part of the team's pre-draft session with the media?

McDermott, as he has since February's NFL Scouting Combine, pulled out the "one-voice" card.

"We believe in the one-voice philosophy and I believe in that wholeheartedly," he said. "And alignment is key in terms of how we do things on the field, how we do things off the field and this situation's no different. So we're all in this together. This is a total team effort, both on the field and off the field. Doug and I spend a lot of time together. Doug and his staff, my staff and we're going to continue to do that as we head into next weekend and make sure we get the right players for this organization.

"I'm a firm believer, in order to make good, sound decisions, it's not a one-person meeting. Everyone's on board, everyone's in the room. It's open communication. Shame on you if you don't say what's on your mind, right? At the end of the day, it's not who came up with the idea. It's that we came up with the right idea at the right time and no different with this draft and no different with things on the field. We do certain things on the field. As a head coach, I want ideas. We've got to be out in front and be dynamic and forward-thinking on things. And when you do the right thing, you put the time in, you can do that.

"At the end of the day, we agree. Iron sharpens iron at the end of the day. And we go out there and we say, 'Hey, this is how I feel, this how you feel' and we hammer it out. If it takes all day, that's what we're going to do. That's what great teams do, one hundred percent. Great teams do that. They have healthy conversations and they continue to hammer things out, because at the end of the day, if you do that, you come to the right decision for the football team."

Watch: Our Team's Takeaway from McDermott & Kouandjio

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