He had the chance.
A reporter asked Sean McDermott a direct question: Would Rick Dennison be returning as the Buffalo Bills' offensive coordinator next season? The answer from the Bills' coach was anything but direct.
"This is early in the process right now," McDermott said Tuesday during his end-of-season news conference with General Manager Brandon Beane. "I'm not going to get into speculation — and that's what that is, speculation — on coaches or players and their future as Buffalo Bills."
By not getting into speculation, McDermott has left plenty of speculating by others to do. And the popular perspective is that Dennison's days with the Bills are numbered after only one season.
The Bills' offense was a disaster during the 2017 season. It ranked 29th overall in the NFL and 31st in passing. Thanks mainly to the remarkable talent of LeSean McCoy, the team ranked sixth in rushing, although it slipped from its No. 1 perch the previous two seasons. The Bills also scored a mere 28 offensive touchdowns after generating 40 in 2016.
If Dennison's fate wasn't already sealed, it seemed to be after Sunday's 10-3 wild-card playoff loss against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Bills' offensive showing was embarrassing on multiple levels, including play-calling, which was the subject of second-guessing throughout the season. Dennison's decision to give Tyrod Taylor the option to call a run or pass on first-and-goal from the Jaguars' 1 — which resulted in a throw on which Kelvin Benjamin was penalized for offensive pass interference — drew heavy criticism.
McDermott, himself, voiced his displeasure with the call in his post-game news conference when he said, "There's some calls we want back. That's probably one of them. Just situationally right there more than anything."
If the Bills replace Dennison, they will be hiring their fourth offensive coordinator since 2014. The other two were Greg Roman, who was fired after two games of his second season on the job in 2016, and Anthony Lynn, who replaced Roman and became the Bills' interim coach for one game after Rex Ryan was fired. Lynn went on to become head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers.
Two potential candidates who are available are Rob Chudzinski and Mike McCoy.
Chudzinski became offensive coordinator of the Indianapolis Colts in 2015, but his situation is in flux with Chuck Pagano recently having been fired as the Colts' head coach. Chudzinski was offensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers in 2011 and 2012, which also were McDermott's first two seasons as their defensive coordinator, and the two have remained close friends. Chudzinski also has been offensive coordinator and head coach, in 2013, of the Cleveland Browns.
McCoy was fired as the Denver Broncos' offensive coordinator in the middle of the '17 season. He was the Chargers' head coach from 2013 to 2016. McCoy was considered McDermott's first choice for OC before he hired Dennison, but McCoy chose the Broncos instead.
How much does Taylor's uncertain future with the Bills and how the team will address the quarterback position impact what they will do in a possible change at offensive coordinator?
"Well, there's certainly a connection there," McDermott said. "That said, at the end of the day, good coaches are good teachers and so that's where you start."
He said he plans to evaluate his entire coaching staff, adding that its consistent with his "methodical" approach to everything.
However, if the Bills end up pursuing any assistant coach candidates, they'll have competition from other NFL teams. Consequently, if McDermott wants to have a shot at the best coaches available, he can't afford to take a whole lot of time in making decisions on Dennison or any other assistants.
"This is a challenging time of year," McDermott said. "There's not only individuals, there's families behind these individuals this time of year. So being responsible in making smart decisions for our football team is what we do, is what we're all about.
"So, yes, there is a time element to this and the evaluations around certain parts of it. That said, we've got to make sure they're well-thought-through decisions, whether it's personnel or anything we do: schematics, whatever it is."
McDermott said all decisions on the coaching staff would be his, but did say that he would communicate with Beane, particularly as it pertains to the roster-evaluation element of hiring a new offensive coordinator or any assistant coach.
"We're building this thing together," McDermott said. "We are aligned philosophically on how we believe it should look and how we believe the building process should basically take shape. And so I'm not going to hold that away from Brandon, so we communicate on a lot of things."