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What They Said: Sean McDermott on the QB decision, leadership challenges, moving forward

Bills coach Sean McDermott addressed the media Wednesday as the Bills began to prepare for the Chiefs.

Opening statement: Okay, we’ll go ahead and open it up to questions.

Q: Who is your starting quarterback Sunday?

A: Tyrod Taylor will be our starting quarterback this Sunday.

Q: Any reason for that Sean? What was the explanation for it?

A: Well, it’s the right thing for our team.

Q: How much did meeting with the council effect your decision? I assume there was some dialogue?

A: Yeah, there was some dialogue. I didn’t meet with the overall council. I always dialogue with our team. That’s always a part of it. At the end of the day, it’s my decision.

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Q: What was Nathan [Peterman]’s response?

A: He was a pro, just what you’d expect, a pro. He knows, he understands, and he moves forward just like we all do. We’re focused on the Chiefs at this time.

Q: Is this a one week deal, or is it each week you’re going to evaluate who’s the starting quarterback?

A: Like every position, every position is the same. We evaluate every week who we feel like has earned the right to be the starter.

Q: When you looked at what Nathan did, and we all saw those struggles, did any part of you say ‘you can’t necessarily put him through something like that or something similar again?’ Did that enter into your thinking, for a rookie in his psyche?

A: It’s all part of the process. At some points rookies have to play, and you’ve seen that from our team. You’ve seen that - we have a number of young players playing. One of the tops in the league, in fact at that. That’s how you get better, is you play young players - you develop, they get experience, they learn from things, and they get better. That’s how we all improve. That’s how you develop the future of an organization. That’s how you sustain success. That’s how you develop the foundation. You continue to develop players, and some of those players are young players, that goes with it.

Q: How about Tyrod’s frame of mind? Being benched, then coming back. Have you had the conversation of the concern that maybe this guy mentally is impacted by the fact that he got sat down in the first place, and now you’re asking him to start again?

A: No, he’s focused on the Chiefs, just like we all are. He’s a pro, and he’ll be under center this week. I expect him to prepare like he’s always prepared, and come out and lead this football team.

Tyrod Taylor: Benching makes the chip on my shoulder bigger

Q: Is there an update on Kelvin Benjamin?

A: Yeah, he will not practice today. He’s in a day-to-day situation right now.

Q: Are you encouraged when you say day-to-day versus week-to-week? Are you encouraged that possibly he could be ready for Sunday?

A: We’ll see, we’ll see.

Q: There were people saying you wavered on this. Do you think this shows that you didn’t make it about yourself and your own ego?

A: It’s always about the team. It’s always about the team, and it will always be about the team with me.

Q: Where do you see your playoff chances right now at 5-5?

A: I’m not really focused on playoffs. I’m focused on trying to beat the Chiefs. That’s where our focus is and where it honestly needs to be. This league is what it is, you’ve all seen that for years. This year is no different, in fact this year is probably a little bit more of week-to-week. You saw that last week. Anything other than that, anything other than our focus being on the Chiefs right now would be a huge mistake. This is a good football team, Andy Reid’s a heck of a coach. They’ve been challenged over the last couple of weeks like we’ve been challenged. You have to have your focus on the next opponent, and that’s the Chiefs for us right now.

Q: Since player development is such a big part of your job, what now do you need to do when it comes to Nathan Peterman moving forward through the rest of the season?

A: Well it’s important, number one, that mentally he’s in the right frame of mind. Check that first box. After that is, what did we learn from the experience, what good did we take out of it. There were some good plays in there too, and there were some plays that we all know didn’t go our way. He also has to understand that was not all him. That’s an important part of this, that when he takes the field the next time, he’s learned from those, and he continues to get better every day. There’s no fear in that, when you chase greatness. There’s no fear in greatness. I want him to embrace that, that mindset, as well as our whole team.

Q: What’s your level of disappointment by how this went over the last week? You make a change to Nathan believing that he can get the job done, he didn’t, now you have to go back to Tyrod. What’s your personal level of disappointment of how it all went down?

A: Again, when you focus on that, when you look in the rear-view mirror too long in this league, you lose sight of what’s in front. We have to focus on the Chiefs. That’s what Monday was for; was putting that game to bed, learning from it. We have to focus on the Chiefs, and that’s for myself as well as our team. That’s what I’m focused on right now.

Q: What have you learned from it? What have you learned from making that decision?

A: Today’s Wednesday, right? I’m focused on the Chiefs, and that’s what we’re focused on right now. Those questions are for Monday, those questions are for earlier in the week. We’re going forward and focusing on the Chiefs right now.

Q: Actively explain your decision, why do you feel it’s the right thing for the team to start Tyrod?

A: I do. When you go through the situation, where we are and where we’re going, I feel like it’s the right thing for this team. Like a week ago, I felt like the right thing for the team was to start Nate. I feel like the right thing for this team is to start Tyrod.

Q: How much of this was based on what Nathan did in that one half and what Tyrod’s done the whole body of work this season?

A: It’s part of it - you evaluate all parts of it. Like any decision, you evaluate all parts of it. You’re thorough with your process leading up the decision, and the rationale, in terms of what gets you to the decision. That’s all part of it.

Q: When you say it’s right for the team to do what it did last week, right for the team to do what it did this week, is it a pulse thing, a feel – What is driving your thoughts when you decide, especially at that critical [of a] position? That one week versus the next, it’s– 

A: That’s all part of it. You trust your gut, you get the feel, the pulse, you understand where you are as a team, you understand where you’re trying to go, now and in the future, how you’re trying to build this thing, how you’re trying to establish a standard of what’s expected. All that goes into decisions that we make, decisions that I make, in this case. The biggest thing right now that we can do, is focus on that opponent this weekend, and that opponent is the Kansas City Chiefs, a strong team.

Q: Is there any concern that you have a quarterback situation now, where the guy is looking over his shoulder any time he makes a bad play?

A: No.

Q: What does he [Tyrod Taylor] need to different? The assumption was that you thought Peterman gave you a better chance to win because he was going to do something different. What does Tyrod need to different, because there is word you and your coaches weren’t happy with some of the decisions he was making?

A: Well just do his job, do your job.

Q: Nothing [to do] on the field more, not run the offense [better]?

A: Do your job.

Q: Can you go over injuries for today, practice participation today, if you will?

A: Yeah, I’d be happy to do that. These following players will not practice John Miller, Kelvin Benjamin, Cordy Glenn, and Dion Dawkins; Dion has an illness right now. Limited will be Charles Clay, Jordan Matthews, Mike Tolbert, Deonte Thompson, and [Stephen] Hauschka.

Q: Is Cordy any closer to getting back on the field, in terms of game situations over these past two weeks? Has he just kind of leveled off?

A: His status hasn’t changed.

Q: Do you feel he can get back at any point in time? I don’t know if the athletic trainers have shed any light on that?

A: We’re hopeful for that. Right now, it’s still day-to-day.

Q: Is his situation any different than it’s been all along? Is there anything new to his [injury], with the foot and ankle?

A: No, not really. He’s going through the normal rehab process. We’re taking it day-to-day. It’s really a feel thing for him, and trying to make sure he’s in the right place on it as we move forward, as we continue to rehab with Cordy at this time.

Q: How do you feel this team could regain momentum after a three-week skid and this whole quarterback situation?

A: Well I think a large part of it is understanding big picture. When you look around the league, there’s a lot of teams in the hunt - we’re in the hunt. You sit here and you say ‘hey, Thanksgiving, close to the end of November, we’re in the hunt’. When you sit around that table tomorrow, we’re saying ‘we’re in the hunt’. There’s a lot of teams that wish they were in the hunt, we’re in the hunt. It’s what you do with it, it’s how we continue to grow and get better and develop. That’s really what I’m looking for us to do, is continue to get better every week, every practice, every rep and embrace that mindset.

Q: How does that change from last week when you said ‘I’m not here for 5-4,’ when you were actually in the hunt and as you put it, a calculated risk? How does that change a week after saying ‘I’m not here for 5-4?’

A: No, it’s still the same. The mindset has always been the same. It’s the mindset of developing, the mindset of building [and] the mindset of growing. Every week, you look to get better, just like I ended with a minute ago. You look to get better every rep [and] every play. We’re not focused on, as you said, ‘hey, playoffs’. We’re focused on what we’re trying to get to, a grander vision of what we’re trying to become. When we get there, you’ll know it. This town will feel it and we’re going to continue to build towards that as we move forward.

Q: What is your vision on defense and how far are you away from that?

A: We’ve got a lot of work to do. A lot of work to do. We spent a lot of time the last couple of days looking at that side of the ball, like we did the week before and seeing what we can do better and there’s a lot we can do better. That starts with me. We have to do some things better there and it starts with gap control, as you’ve heard me say before, understanding how we fit runs, understanding what it takes to fit a run the right way, and then it goes into the passing game after that and affecting the quarterback. There’s a lot on that side of the ball that we can improve on as well.

Q: It seems to me, just looking at things, first down on offense has been a problem. It seems like you’re getting yourself behind the sticks too often the last three weeks. You must agree, that’s been a problem?

A: It has, and that’s a great point. We’ve operated from a position of detriment quite a bit and we have to make sure we stay on schedule. To be 2nd-and-11, 3rd-and-11, whatever it is, 3rd-and-7, the probability is not in your corner at that point. You want to be, obviously, the third-and-mediums, third-and-shorts, or right into another first down after that. Staying on schedule is big and that’s, we’ve had that problem a little bit and we have to find ways to fix it.

Q: Throughout the season, I looked it up and you’re just about 50/50 run and pass on first down, so that isn’t like it’s one-sided. Is it just a matter of you’re just not executing in those situations?

A: It’s not really typically ever one thing. Just like it’s not every one player. It’s every man doing their job and then you look at it and say ‘why are they creating a negative play that’s putting us behind the sticks?’ Was it a penalty? Which, also is baked into there, that we’re behind the sticks at times. Staying on schedule is key.

Q: When you were hired in 1999 by Andy Reid, did you ever envision the day that you would be on the other sideline as the head man against him?

A: That was my vision, honestly. Just like I’m trying to lead this organization towards a goal and a vision. When I first met Andy years ago, he was the first one that kind of established, ‘hey, you can do this if you do things the right way. Anybody can do it if you do things the right way and you’re willing to pay the price’. I learned a great deal from the man. He’s a great football coach. He’s even better off the field in terms of a person and how organized he is. One of the greatest things I learned from Andy is, and I’m sure he’s using it now like we are, is, ‘hey, you stay true to the vision and the plan that you’ve set forth for the organization’. I’m sure he’s doing that now, as well.

Q: How much input, if any, did ownership or Brandon Beane have in this latest quarterback decision?

A: We talk about everything, Brandon and I in particular. We discuss every move, even when we don’t make a move. We discuss things. We have meetings every day. We look at everything. We talk about everything as far as Brandon and I are concerned and then, like I said before, we communicate with ownership and they’re very supportive of things.

Q: You’re starting Tyrod. He’s number five, right? Just want to make sure we’re not mixing up names here.

A: Alright, Tim [Graham].

Q: You mention Andy Reid quite often. How often do you communicate with him and when does that stop during the season?

A: With respect to Andy?

Q: Yes.

A: We talk continuously. A lot of the times during the year like it is for most coaches and probably for you guys, it’s via text. He’ll send me a text, I’ll send him a text, or watch one of his games or part of one of his games and I’ll send him a text. That’s just part of the relationship and the healthy respect that I have for Andy.

Q: In terms of Travaris [Cadet], did he earn more playing time?

A: He did a good job in the game the other day. I thought, like I said, up to that point, he had impressed us both in the run and the pass game. I thought he handled it well so we’ll continue to evaluate that moving forward.

Q: In a season of which you’ve faced numerous adversity [questions], whether it’s a question about Jordan Matthews, I mean Sammy Watkins and Marcell Dareus, what have you gotten out of this past week and a half?

A: Well, again, you grow. You learn from every experience, whether you’re winning or losing. If you’re wired the right way, you’re learning. I just believe that that’s what you do. You learn from Andy Reid. You learn from different coaches. I learned from our coaches and you use it to better yourselves. In this case, you use situations to better myself. That’s what you do every day because we’ve got to be better, I’ll have to be better tomorrow than I was today and that’s the growth mindset. That’s what I want our team to do is really just to embrace that and focus on that. Sometimes you can’t handle, you can’t control everything. You have to control the things that you can control and that’s attitude, preparation, effort, that’s those types of things. Every week, every day. No different.

Q: So you still have no regrets over your decision?

A: No.

Q: Similar to what John’s asking, they always say you don’t know how to be a head coach until you’re a head coach. I’m sure you’ve gotten that advice all along. You can prepare all you want, but until you’re actually the man making that call – this is your first quarterback decision, really, especially in season. Regardless of how it turned out, I guess I’m asking what it was like, being a little exasperated when you got your twelfth or fifteenth straight quarterback question today. What was it like to make your first quarterback decision?

A: The same process that I went through to make other decisions, I go through the same process to make that type of decision. I know it’s probably not exactly the meat that you’re looking for but I’m a pretty much process-oriented guy. It starts with doing what’s right for our football team now, but also in the future. Anything other than that would be irresponsible of a head coach. That’s not how I do things. I am focused on one thing and that is this organization moving forward.

Q: Did it play into your mind at all that if you went with Nathan, the focus would be on the rookie quarterback and if Tyrod plays, the focus is maybe more on the entire time? Does that play into your mindset at all?

A: Like I said, I think about everything. I do. I think about the guys, I think about my old guys, my younger guys. You come up with it, I’ve thought about it. It’s crossed my mind or we’ve talked about it. Like I said before, anything other than that would be irresponsible as a leader [and] as a head coach of this football team because I don’t believe in making irrational, snap decisions. I don’t think that’s right. But, you make decisions. You make decisions and you go with it. Sometimes you learn. Again, I felt like it was the right decision and right now, the best decision for us is to focus on the Kansas City Chiefs.

Q: Prior to this decision, this process, did you and Brandon take a rational look at the limitations of your roster and deciding that you’re really not as close as your record suggested?

A: In terms of..?

Q: Being a championship team.

A: With what decision?

Q: The quarterback decision. That you really aren’t a Super Bowl contender so –

A: Well, we’re always building. No, we’re always building. We’re always building [and] that’s a part of it. Like I said earlier, you’re always trying to develop and build. That’s how, you have a vision and you keep working towards that vision. If not, you’re shortsighted on what’s going on. When you look at it big picture-wise, you say, ‘hey, there are a lot of coaches that go in and sit on our hands and make comfortable decisions’. That’s not why I’m here. I’m here to win and we’re here to sustain winning and that’s the grander vision. In order to do that, you have to be willing to make those types of uncomfortable decisions and that’s what, to me, leadership is all about.

Q: Did you and Brandon discuss the big picture as part of this decision?

A: Absolutely.

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