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What They Said: Bills HC Sean McDermott on quarterback change

Head Coach Sean McDermott

Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017

 Opening Statement: OK, good morning. We’ll go ahead and get started here this morning. We’ll start off with the injuries. The following players will not practice this morning: Cordy Glenn, Jerry Hughes, Mike Tolbert, Charles Clay, Kyle Williams. Kyle is rest, LeSean McCoy also rest, and then Lorenzo Alexander, also rest. Jordan Matthews today will be limited. And then, I’ll get started with this – as I continually evaluate our roster and our goal to become better, I’ve decided to start Nate Peterman as our quarterback this week. I remain confident in Tyrod Taylor and his ability to help our football team moving forward. So with that, I’ll open it up to questions.

 Q: Coach, can you kind of walk us through that decision? What you saw when you kind of made that determination and what the discussion was, framed around that, with you and your coaching staff?

A: Well, first and foremost, it was a decision made by myself. The coaches were not involved in this decision. This was a decision that I made. Certainly, I spoke with Brandon [Beane], like I do about every decision, like we do. Really, it’s about becoming a better team. Like every position, the quarterback position is no different. I understand the headline part of it, as you guys are typing away this morning. I understand that. Every position is evaluated and that’s the direction I decided to go.

Q: Is there any concern that doing this now while you’re still very much in the playoff hunt could in any way send the wrong kind of message, perhaps, to your locker room? Going with a rookie over a veteran under these circumstances.

A: I get that. I understand that. Really, it’s about, like I mentioned before, becoming a better team. That’s what we’re here for. We are 5-4. I understand that, and we are in the playoff hunt at this point. It is always, and will [be] for the time that I’m here, be about becoming the best team that we can possibly become. We are made for more than 5-4 and I’ve come here to be more than 5-4.

Q: What did you see in nine games that wasn’t evident in the last two years in Tyrod? There were people who felt you should’ve moved on from him as soon as you came here.

A: Again, this is about becoming a better team. Tyrod has made improvements. He’s made a significant contribution to our team and I remain confident in Tyrod moving forward. This is not an indictment on Tyrod. He is an important part of our football team and will continue to be an important member of our football team moving forward.

Q: Sean, in terms of Rick [Dennison]’s offense and the way you guys operate, do you feel that you made this decision that Nate just fits better as a pocket passer in the particular structure that Rick has developed here? Is that part of what led to the decision?

A: Listen, Nate – two separate conversations. Nate [is one] conversation and Tyrod [is another] conversation. I’ll just talk about Nate, if I could. Nate, I’ve been impressed with Nate and his maturity as a rookie at a very early point in his career. He’s certainly worked hard. When you look at Nate and what he was able to do through OTA’s, through training camp, through preseason and then the other day, I thought he did some good things. Albeit, that was a small sample size in a game, a regular season game. That said, he has a lot of work to do just like we all do.

Q: Do you see this as the decision going forward beyond this weekend? You don’t see this as a one-time thing?

A: We’ll see. We’ll see, we’ll see how we play. Again, this is about becoming better as a football team. It’s about looking at our team and the combination of players on the field and seeing if this is going to make us a better football team. As a decision-maker, you have to be able to, or willing to, take calculated risks to get to where we’re trying to go. I’m comfortable doing that. That’s my responsibility.

Q: What changed between now and Monday, when you said, “I’ve seen what Tyrod’s done and also seen what Nate’s done, and Tyrod’s our starter?”

A: Tyrod was our starter when you guys asked me that question both Sunday and again on Monday. Just like I do every week, I continue to evaluate our team. I continue to evaluate our situation. I thought about it, slept on it, and I felt like, that we needed to move in a different direction at this time and made a decision yesterday morning, Tuesday morning.

Q: What does Nate give you that Tyrod wasn’t giving you and what does he give this offense that Tyrod wasn’t able to do?

A: Well, again, to me, separate conversations. I’m never going to compare two players. I don’t like to do that. It’s not fair. Again, I’ll go back and talk about Nate without going into too much detail because [of] the strategic part of that conversation. Nate’s come in, he’s handled himself well, he handled himself well in the game the other day, he’s poised, he’s mature beyond his years, and he’s worked hard. As I mentioned earlier, the success that he’s had to this point, he’s ready. I wouldn’t make this move if I didn’t feel he was ready.

Q: Guys like LeSean McCoy, and those leaders like that, they believe heartily in Tyrod Taylor. Have you taken them aside since you made the decision yesterday and talked with them about why you made the decision and why it’s the best thing for this team moving forward?

A: Well we discussed it as a team this morning. Their response is, and they’ve been through this before, they march on. They’ve been through a lot of things already. As we continue to grow and continue to move in the direction that I want us to move, there’s going to be difficult decisions and adversity, as you’ve heard me say before. That’s all about becoming better. Like you heard me say a few minutes ago, we’re here for more than five wins. That’s why I’m here. That’s why I was brought here. That’s the vision. It’s nothing more than that. It’s about getting us to where we’re trying to go to win a championship. Everyone wants to get to the playoffs, I understand that, and that’s important. At the end of the day, it’s about trying to become that football team that the fans of western New York, and the Buffalo Bills fans of the world, have dreamed of for years.

Q: How tolerant will you be about rookie growing pains? All the things that a guy is going to likely go through, who has never been an NFL starter?

A: Well that’s part of it. That’s part of that process. You know it. You’ve been around this league a long time, like I have, and I’ve been around a similar situation before. Similar situations to this so it’s not my first time going through it. Albeit as a head coach, yes, it’s my first time. I expect Nate to go out and do his job. Be 1/11th of the offense. Be 1/11th of the team. Nothing more, nothing less.

Q: How much of the offensive struggles can be attributed to Rick Dennison?

A: Well, again, this is looking at everything. Certainly, we’ve been challenged at times, offensively. We need to move the ball and we need to score points. That’s the whole goal of playing offense. When you look at [it], we can do a lot better in a lot of areas, not just offensively, and that starts with me.

Q: Can the team struggles be attributed to how the defense has played the last two weeks?

A: Well, when you look at it, it hasn’t been good enough. We need to get takeaways, we need to obviously stop the run better than we have. As a collective team, we can get better in a lot of areas.

Q: How did Tyrod handle the news today?

A: Well, Tyrod and I met yesterday. Listen, Tyrod is a competitor. He is a professional and he was certainly disappointed, yet very professional in the way the conversation went and the way he’s handled it to this point and I would expect the same moving forward.

Q: You said this is not an indictment of Tyrod Taylor, but respectfully, how is it not?

A: Well that’s for you to answer.

Q: Was the lack of urgency in going deep, especially when you fell behind by so much, there just didn’t seem to be a lot of deep passing there in that game, or attempts, especially when you fell behind. Was that part of the problem, especially when you add Kelvin Benjamin? When you look at the tape, is that what helped precipitate this move?

A: This is about us becoming better as a team. That’s what it is. Going back to the earlier question, I have confidence in Tyrod. Tyrod is part of the reason why we are where we are, in terms of the five wins and in the playoff hunt. With all due respect to your question, that’s part of the reason why it’s not an indictment on Tyrod. It’s a reminder for all of us that we need to do our job better, and that we are here for more than where we are. That’s been the case over ‘x’ amount of years being here, or before I got here, and that’s not why I’m here. I’m here to win games and win a championship. Once in a while, you have to take calculated risks in order to get your program, this organization, this building, to where we’re trying to go, and where the fans deserve for us to be.

Q: This next draft will be a big part of where you want to go, so is part of this a needing to audition Nathan so you’ll be better positioned to know what you want to do, if it’ll be a quarterback in the next draft?

A: Well, we want to win now. Make no mistake about it. We want to win now, and in the future. This is about us becoming a better team.

Q: But is that part of it, with you and Brandon [Beane]?

A: Becoming a better team –

Q: I’m talking about the draft. The assumption that you’re going to take a quarterback in the first round, then you have a guy you think could be your franchise guy, and he’s sitting there, it makes sense that you wouldn’t want to see him for half the season. Is that part of the thinking?

A: It’s about winning now. It’s about winning now.

Q: Sean, how much did you consider the fact that you’re going on the road to play the Chargers, then going on the road to play the Chiefs, then playing the Patriots as you’re making this move? Not the easiest three-game stretch for a rookie.

A: Right. When you transition quarterbacks, I don’t know if there’s ever a right time, honestly, in fairness to your question. You know me well enough to know that I make very few decisions from a knee-jerk standpoint so this was methodical. That’s why I took my time on this. I make every decision in the best interest of this football team, bar none.

Q: How long have you had this in your mind when it was the first time it entered your thought process?

A:  You just look at the body of work every week as our football team has grown and progressed and it’s never about one game, just like I make evaluations on other positions. You know, you asked me the question on Sunday and Monday after the game and that’s where I was on it. I continue to evaluate every position and so, like I said Tuesday morning, yesterday morning, I felt it was a – that we would go in another direction.

Q: You said it would be week to week [as] you would evaluate, but how much do you guys at 5-4 think you need some stability and Nathan as a rookie might need a little bit of relief there?

A: I expect him to do his job and I’m not going to send him out there with a leash. He understands my expectations and my support will always be there for him. I just expect him to go out and do his job.

Q: Sean how much of this also applies to what you want from a quarterback? They are extremely different styles in terms of how they play. Nathan, very much a pocket guy and Tyrod’s the guy whose best work generally has come out of the pocket. Opponents know that, everybody knows that. How much does that play into your offensive preference, and maybe Rick [Dennison]’s as well, that you want that kind of, that’s your stamp. You want that kind of quarterback.

A: Well I understand where you are going. They are somewhat different styles, and they’re their own athletes. They are both good football players, both good quarterbacks. I remain confident in both of them, I really do. You know, that said, it is about us becoming a better team. Becoming a better offense makes us a better team. Having the right combination of players on the field, that’s really the genesis.

Q: What was Nate’s reaction? I am sure he was pretty excited being told that he was going to get to start.

A: Right, he was. Those of you that know Nate already know that he is very professional as well as respectful of the situation. He was very respectful of Tyrod’s situation and making sure he was good and then also excited for himself and for his opportunity. That was the nature of the conversation.

Q: When it comes down to Rick Dennison and this move, [it] comes down to Rick on Monday. He kind of said that, indicated that, we need to find what’s best and it can’t be there will be no debate. It’s what we do best from watching film. It’s not a preference thing, it’s what we do best. Has there been any division or some disagreement in that offensive room, given the fact that he used “there will be no debate, it’s not a preference thing”? Those words kind of struck me as curious.

A: No. We’re unified. This is a team. You guys know that about this group. From what they’ve been through in terms of the adversity they’ve faced all the way since day one and I expect the same moving forward. These guys are professionals. They want to win. This is part of us moving in that direction, of ‘hey, we are here for more, like I said, than five wins.’ It’s great to be in playoff contention. I understand that. We’re all excited about that and so should our fan base be. That said, we have to move forward. We have to grow. We have to become better. You have to look at different combinations of players on the field in order to do that. We need to take steps towards that direction.

Q: Was there any discussion internally between you and Rick and maybe other people about maybe modifying the offensive scheme a little bit to better suit Tyrod and if so, were they receptive to that?

A: We talk about that all the time. Every week. Yes we do. That’s really, quarterback position, safety position, offensive line position, kicking game, you always have those types of conversations in order to put your players in position to be successful.

Q: Specific to Tyrod though, it seems like you could have done more to utilize his skill set and that happen, I guess. Was [Dennison] not receptive to maybe modifying some of his scheme?

A: He was very receptive. Very receptive.

Q: You said that Jordan Matthews was going to be limited today, what was his injury and what is the update with Zay [Jones] as well?

A: Jordan, with his knee.

Q: Is Zay going to practice today?

A: He will. Yes.

Q: With how your defense performed, is there a consideration there to start Matt Milano this week?

A: We’re looking at every option. [We’re] confident in Ramon [Humber], certainly, [and we’re] confident in Matt from what he did in a short window of time there. Those two will continue to compete.

Q: What about Strong LB, though? You said those two positions are interchangeable.

A: They are. Right. So we’re going to look to get our best three [linebackers] on the field if we’re in base and our best two on the field if we’re in nickel so there’s some good competition there for those positions, yeah.

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