General Manager Brandon Beane and Head Coach Sean McDermott
Tuesday, January 9, 2018
Opening Statement, Sean McDermott: Okay. We’ll go ahead and get started. I want to start off by saying a few words and really just reaching out to our fan base and thanking them for their support all throughout the year. [It was an] incredible year and the energy around this city and the energy around our fan base was just phenomenal throughout this season. I thought it helped us get through some of the highs and lows of the season and it was great to see everyone show up in Jacksonville the way they did. This has been an entirely team effort from the start and the entire building has been on board. Also wanted to show our appreciation to Terry and Kim [Pegula] for their support throughout this season, and with that I’ll turn it over to Brandon.
Opening Statement, Brandon Beane: To echo what Sean said, I don’t really talk during the season but man, how impressed I was with this fan base [and] the passion. You kind of knew it from afar, you knew what you were walking into but until you experience what it was like this season – you know, we had some very good moments, we had our low moments when we lost three in a row, but just the passion and the outpouring of, you saw some of the videos from our locker room to the fans showing up at -3° or -4° or whatever it was when we landed back from Miami. Man, it’s emotional even to talk about. You see what it means and our guys saw that and felt it and I definitely thought everyone, as Sean said, it was a team effort and that includes the fans as well. I’d be remiss without saying I thought Sean and his staff did one heck of a job. We threw some curveballs with some of the trades in August and even the one during the season, or two in bringing Kelvin [Benjamin] here, but to go through all of that, to handle the three-game losing streak, and get this team in the playoffs says a lot about what he and his staff and these players did. It was fun to be a part of. As we – I know, we’re going to open it up to questions – but I’ll just hit it off early before you guys start: we are literally just evaluating. We spent all day yesterday talking with players, trying to get just a recon of plans for them [of their] offseason, feedback, and Sean and I are really going to sit down over the next few days and start evaluating a lot of the things that happened this year and how we’re going to take it going forward. With that, I’ll leave it open to questions.
Q: Brandon, obviously as the season is going along, you’re thinking long-term for 2018 and you’re setting it up, but by what happened here at the end of the year and you making the playoffs and the script kind of flipped a little bit, did that change anything in how you’re thinking about 2018, based on the fact that you did make the playoffs this year?
Brandon Beane: No, you know we have a long way to go. We really do. We have a lot of work to do. We’re trying to compete and win everyday. We really are. I know we said it and people drew their own conclusions of what our strategy was or what this team was or was not going to be. The great thing was this team defined itself in their prep every day on and off the field to get the results. Our plan has not changed. The only thing that gets adjusted is you don’t know where you’re going to draft each year. It’s a great thing to be drafting [at pick number] 21, and we got Kansas City’s pick, which is [pick number] 22. [If] you draft in the twenties, you made the playoffs. That’s the goal because if you get in, you have a chance.
Q: Brandon, along those lines though, well, it’s about quarterback and are you satisfied with how this offense produced with Tyrod Taylor running the show?
BB: We’re not satisfied with the whole offense, and it wasn’t just about Tyrod. There’s a lot of hands in the cookie jar, so to speak, and Sean and I – we’re going to talk about everything and we know we have to get better on offense, on defense, [and] on special teams. We are far from a finished product. I don’t know if you’re ever going to hear us say we’re a finished product but we have a lot of work to do and we know that and that’s going to get started pretty quickly after this press conference.
Q: In your opinion, does Tyrod Taylor have the ability to make the type of throws and the range of throws consistently that an NFL quarterback – that a championship caliber NFL quarterback – can make?
BB: Tyrod has a lot of ability. He really does, and we saw some of those things. He did a lot of good things this year. But he’ll tell you, he’s got weaknesses to work on just like a lot of other guys and the great thing about Tyrod [is that] you can never question his work ethic. The guy is in here early, often, he’s watching film, he’s stretching, he’s in with the trainer – he does so many good things. He gives himself the best chance to succeed on the field by what he does off [the field] and I know he knows the areas he’s got to work on. I have no doubt he’s going to continue to improve.
Q: Sean, when you went to Nathan Peterman in the Chargers game, did we as media and fans jump the gun thinking that you had concluded that Tyrod was not going to be here [next year]? The circumstances have changed, but did we jump the gun there, thinking that you had already made your mind up on Tyrod?
Sean McDermott: Well, I guess that’s your decision. That’s your call. I know why we did what we did. Brandon and I sat down that week and discussed what was in the best interests of this football team, like we do with every decision we make. That was, we felt, the right decision at that time for this football team.
Q: Was there really any coming back from that in your mind? Yes, you did go back to him, but when you make a change like that with an established starter, you’d understand why there would be the assumption that you really sort of moved on from him but circumstances forced you to put him back in and go against what you really wanted to do.
SM: I get that. I understand where you’re coming from on that. Again, that’s – you’re going to draw your conclusions like you did earlier in the year. You’re going to draw your conclusions now. The best I can tell you is we’re always going to do what we feel is best for this football team and this organization. We’ll continue to do that moving forward and actively pursue the vision for this football team.
Q: Sean, will Rick Dennison return as your Offensive Coordinator next season?
SM: You know, I think Brandon mentioned this a few minutes ago - this is early in the process right now. I’m not going to get into speculation, and that’s what that is, [is] speculation, on coaches or players and their future as Buffalo Bills.
Q: Brandon, how concerned are the Bills and the Pegulas about the accusations against Richie Incognito and what investigation, if any, are the Bills doing?
BB: Anytime you have an accusation like that, you take it very seriously. We have spoken to Richie and we understand his side of the story and I know Richie is trying to reach out to the other young man that was involved. From what I understand, it was a little bit of on-the-field stuff back and forth. I know there’s one accusation. We’re looking into it. I’ve spoken with the league. We’re going to follow protocol and that’s really where it’s at.
Q: How does the fact that it’s Incognito make it even more serious? This is probably the one player in the league that can’t get into this kind of trouble, if it’s true.
BB: Yeah, again, we’re still gathering the facts so until we really know what happened from all sides of the story, that’s kind of where we’re at.
Q: What has been Richie’s side of the story?
BB: I really would rather keep that [behind closed doors]. The league is doing their investigation. We understand his side and some of the other guys that heard, but until we get it finalized I don’t want really want to comment.
Q: Is it fair to say, though, that something occurred as opposed to him not saying anything and having complete innocence here?
BB: There was definitely an exchange. I think there’s a misunderstanding of what was said but that’s where it’s at.
Q: You said you weren’t pleased with the offense as a whole. How much of that falls on players? How much of that falls on Rick Dennison’s coordinating?
BB: It falls on us all. It falls on me to provide players. Sean’s going to take his share of it. Coaching, players – you know, this was a new scheme, a new year, a lot of new parts. There were some returning parts but there [were] a lot of new things here. I thought they really did some good things. We just could never, you know, we could never get on track consistently and that’s what we’ve got to be. We’ve got to be more consistent in a lot of areas and that’s part of the evaluation process, [is] how do we do that?
Q: It seems like a no-brainer to me, but if Kyle Williams wants to come back – and he said he wants his people to talk to your people kind of thing, is that a no-brainer where there is a desire, given what his stature is and how he played, of bringing him back?
BB: Yeah. I mean, who doesn’t love Kyle Williams? I’ve got nothing but positive [things] to say about Kyle. To see that moment in the locker room I referred to earlier [with] him and his sons and just what that meant and what Kyle has meant to this city. He is a big-time leader and I had a good conversation with him yesterday. I know Sean had a conversation [with Williams]. He was a big part of the leadership not only on our defense but of our team. So you definitely would want that back, but it’s a two-way thing. He’s going to reflect – I know he’s heading home to Louisiana, he’s either on his way or he’s already there – but we’ll give him time to just sit back after a long season and long career. He needs to sit back and at the right time we’ll get together, but we would definitely love to have Kyle back.
Q: Brandon, since you arrived, you’ve talked about wanting to win now and in the future. You were able to get a lot of playing time from the rookie draft class. Does that [accelerate] the future and the process, if you will?
BB: You know, it’s exciting that a lot of young guys played. We were following through the year how many young guys we had playing, rookies, versus what other teams were doing and our guys were trending very high compared to the league. There’s no substitute for playing time in real games. Not only did we get real games, we got a postseason game. You can’t simulate postseason experience. So for these young guys – and they played significant minutes, not only in the year, but in that game – that’s huge as we build this thing going forward.
Q: On the flip side, you also had one of the oldest rosters in the NFL. How much does that concern you in trying to build what you’re trying to do long-term?
BB: That is something that we noticed going into the year [with] where we’re at and that’s part of the process. No matter what our record was, whether we won the Super Bowl or whether we didn’t win a game, was we know we have to get younger in a lot of positions. Again, it takes time, but we’re going to look at every avenue from the draft to free agency [to] guys on the street. We’re going to do what we can to get better at each position.
Q: Sean, you were asked specifically about Rick Dennison and his future. Does that apply to your whole staff? Are you giving evaluation to all assistant coaches’ positions?
SM: That’s correct. Yeah, we’re going to look at everything. That’s what we’ve got to do. You know me by now. I’m a methodical guy in my approach, in our approach. We’re going to take a hard look at everything and make sure we’re doing the right thing moving forward.
Q: Now that there are no games to look forward to and not giving away secrets, how limited was Kelvin Benjamin this year? He got hurt and you guys made a trade for him thinking he was going to be a piece that – can you tell us now just how limited he really was? He didn’t seem like he was himself.
SM: Yeah, I’d be lying if I said he was himself [and] he was 100%. He wasn’t. This will be a big offseason for Kelvin. Brandon and I both know, and I think people around the league know, when healthy what Kelvin’s capable of doing. Unfortunately, he wasn’t healthy; in particular, after that Chargers game – I think after that first drive, first quarter, somewhere in there. But I’ll tell you what, the young man toughed it out, and I think there was some leadership shown by him doing that. This will be a big offseason for Kelvin. I know he’s anxious to get started and we’re anxious to see him get healthy and come back ready to go.
Q: Sean, speaking of injuries, can you clear the air on what the deal was with Cordy [Glenn] and whether this thing can ever be repaired given how many times he’s seen the injury?
SM: Yeah, I don’t really think there’s any air to clear other than the fact that he’s had a successful operation procedure and he’s currently rehabbing and getting himself ready for a great offseason. I think there’s a lot of positive energy around Cordy. I know more than anything [that] he wanted to be out there down the stretch here with his teammates.
Q: Sean, when it comes to going through the paces of evaluating your coaching staff, it’s also a time in the NFL where teams are turning over their coaching staffs as well and there are a lot of quick decisions being made. How much time can you afford to take if you were to make a change and potentially miss out on somebody?
SM: Yeah, this is a challenging time of year because of what you just talked about. There’s not only individuals, there’s families behind these individuals this time of year. Being responsible and making smart decisions for our football team is what we do and what we’re all about. Yes, there is a time element to this, and the evaluations around certain parts of it. That said, we have to make sure they’re well thought through decisions whether it’s personnel or anything we do, schematics, whatever it is.
Q: Sean, a lot of the players this year talked about how this was maybe the closest team that they had ever been on. How do you balance that or not let it cloud your judgment when it comes to making tough personnel decisions in a sense that you know those guys fit well in the room, and that there is a good mix, but maybe you need to upgrade or feel like you need upgrades at certain spots? How do you not let that cloud your judgment?
SM: Yeah, I mean it’s a challenge, no doubt about it. That said, I’ve had a chance to be around, fortunately, Brandon and I, some successful teams before. This was, to your point, one heck of a football team - one heck of a team, when you just take the football part out of it. I think when you look at the way these guys sacrificed for one another, they were very unselfish in their approach. They fought through adversity. Making smart decisions is about making unemotional decisions at the same time, and that’s what we’ve got to do.
Q: Brandon, does the organization support Richie [Incognito] at this point?
BB: Yeah, we’re always going to support our players. Again, we’re still in the fact-finding part of the investigation.
Q: Should there be any reason for anyone to doubt that this could lead to him not coming back with the Bills?
BB: It’s really early, so for me to – it would totally be speculation, to be honest with you.
Q: From day one when you walked in to now, you make the playoffs your first year – has the track gone faster than you anticipated when you got here day one?
BB: No, because I didn’t put an expectation [on it]. You guys asked, and Sean was probably asked at a separate time, ‘what record do you expect? Do you make the playoffs or not?’ What we were looking for was to set a foundation of what type of team we want [and] what type of players we want. In such a short time, that’s the thing I thought we did even faster than I thought of. Sean got these guys and his staff gelling and playing at a maximum level, and they did that. That’s what we have to try and build going forward. We have to try and improve our roster in a lot of different areas, and we know that. That plan has not changed, but we have to make sure we’re getting our type of guys that fit the culture as we build this into something bigger.
Q: Sean, you were hired a year ago, do you feel like – and Brandon, same question – did you feel the track was faster than maybe you anticipated back in January?
SM: The track in terms of?
Q: – of how this season progressed? You make the playoffs your first year. Did it go a little bit faster than you thought it would have gone?
SM: Well I would say, in a lot of areas, we’re on schedule, if that’s what you’re looking for, really. In other areas, we’ve got a lot of work to do. I saw flashes, at times, of this thing getting turned in the right direction but we have to actively, like I mentioned earlier, pursue the vision. We’re not there yet, there’s a whole other level. One of the biggest challenges around professional sports – and I’ll speak to football and what I’ve observed – is to sustain success, because each year is different one from the next. Each team is different. The decisions we make roster-wise [and] personnel-wise as we move forward will be key in trying to build off of what we did this year. That, in and of itself, is a challenge.
Q: Sean, you were hired a year ago this week. The difference is you didn’t have a staff yet, you had to assemble that and then get to know players. What is the value going to be for you to be here now already understanding all that and going into this offseason with really, essentially an extra few months on your hands?
SM: I mean, you get a better feel just being around. You get a better feel, number one, for our whereabouts, our city [and] our fans. I think I was asked that question last week of if I really understood and I think that understanding is at a whole other level at this point with our passionate fan base. Also, being around now for a second go around as you mentioned, I got hired I believe it was about this week or maybe this Friday a year ago - I’m anxious to build on what we did. The second year through it, for me as a head coach, there’s a lot I want to improve on as well and not only in what I do, but also our procedure [and] our approach. You guys know me, I’ve taken a lot of notes and we’re going to vet through those notes and make sure we’re doing everything at a certain type of level, a standard, and that’s a standard of winning. I think our team, the players that left yesterday, really personified that and helped us to establish a standard around here of what winning looks like.
Q: I know of speculation or evaluation, you’re still doing it. But you do have the NFL’s leading tackler in Preston Brown, whose contract is coming up. You have Lorenzo Alexander at an advanced age. How much of those thoughts in this – and Sean maybe you can weigh in on this as well – because those are two big chunks of a position for you?
BB: Yeah, those guys played in every game and they did a very good job. Again, we have a lot of parts to evaluate with obviously, those being one of them. Again, until we sit back and talk through it – it’s a layered approach to our evaluation. We’re going to talk to assistant coaches, we’re going to talk to our medical staff, our training [staff], our strength and conditioning [staff], there will be a lot of parts. What did our personnel guys see that are not involved in the meeting rooms? We’re going to take our time. It’ll happen fast, but we’re going to be very thorough. Again, those guys are definitely [going to] be big questions we have to answer.
Q: Sean, are you looking for that profile that you had in Carolina? Do you feel like you have those kinds of linebackers that fit a specific prototype for you and your defense?
SM: Well, I thought our linebackers did a nice job. I thought Coach [Bob] Babich, who’s a veteran linebacker coach, really established a way of doing things with the position group. As you saw over time, their production increased. Like anything, we’re going to look to improve in each way we can, every way we can. If we didn’t we wouldn’t be doing our job. There’s a lot of good that came out of this year. That position, in particular, I thought did some good things, and my hat goes off to those guys.
Q: Sean, kind of a follow up to what you touched on before, you said you evaluate everything. I assume that means yourself, too. What do you take out of this year as a head coach, maybe what you’ve learned about the process or whatever [and] the experience moving forward?
SM: Well, I think that the game is always changing, right? As a head coach, there’s a lot that goes into it. My whole goal, my whole approach as a person and as a coach is to be better today than I was yesterday and that’s a process. That’s the first thing I do after every game, is look at myself and hold myself accountable and I hold myself to a level that the players can see and everyone around this building can see and that we’re all the same, that we’re all on the same level and [when] we all hold each other accountable, good things happen.
Q: Are there any specific areas, though? Specifics where you might’ve handled an issue maybe differently than you expected it to, a lesson maybe you learned, or whatever?
SM: Yeah, there’s tons of lessons. I can go into detail [but] I don’t know if we have that kind of time right now, but I would just say the latest one or the latest things was a great reminder of what playoff football is all about and the fundamentals around playoff football. I think we learned some lessons in a pretty energetic environment in Jacksonville, just to name a few there. Playoff football and winning, playing winning playoff football is – there’s lessons in there and around there. The fundamentals around that that show up and you see that through the different games this time of year, it’s about, and a large part about fundamentals.
Q: As you go through evaluations and should you determine that maybe you need an upgrade on quarterback, do you feel you have enough arsenal in your arsenal [with] draft picks to make whatever moves you need to come April?
BB: Yeah, I mean, the good thing is we have a lot of draft capital and we can stay there and pick, we can move up, we can move back, we can do a lot of different things. It’s so early in the process. I mean, we’ve seen these college guys on the field, but we’ve yet to meet any of them and to know who they are. You rank these guys [from] what you see on the film, but until you know them and know how they know the game and all of that, talking about the quarterback position, there’s so many layers of what it takes to play quarterback in this league – and we’ve talked about them – that we’re still a long way to go. It’s too early for me to answer what we would do, whether we’d do it or not, but yes, we will go where we need to go to get the right players.
Q: You weren’t here for the height of free agency last year. Just, what is your general overall philosophy about free agency in terms of upgrading your roster, whether you’re talking big spending or responsible spending, filling the back half of your roster, that type of stuff?
BB: I like your word responsible spending. That is trying to plug holes where you can. It’s kind of a moving puzzle because what happens is, you have your UFA’s right now, but those change. Teams re-sign guys. Then you add in teams make cap moves, the cap casualties- ‘okay, I didn’t realize this guy’. We have some guys flagged that could be potential cap casualties, but until those moves happen, you don’t know. It’s kind of a moving piece, but until you get to free agency, sometimes you really don’t know the dollars. You price where you think these guys are going to be. Sometimes they price themselves out. Sometimes you go, ‘wow, this guy’s a little cheaper than we thought, let’s try and hone in on him.’ We’ll have targets when the time is right. We’ve already started that process and we’ll try and fill as many holes as we can, which helps us in the draft.
Q: In regards to the whole Richie thing, at least one Jaguars player tweeted that it was coached, the chirping that’s done in the course of the game, making it pretty clear that from your end, from your coaching staff end, that this was coached of your players. How do you respond to that?
SM: Yeah, you know what, they won the game and the whole situation to me is very unfortunate, and I’ll just leave it at that.
Q: A lot of time will be spent talking about time and money. Is there a cap that you have in regards to money you would spend on the quarterback position?
BB: No, I mean, at the end of the day, we’ll spend what we need to spend. The key is to make wise [decisions and to] spend wisely. Certain guys, you’ve got to pay up here. Certain guys, you’ve got to pay down here. Whether it’s the quarterback, running back, defensive end, whatever position you name, you just have that limit. What you’ve got to be able to do is set where you think this guy belongs and not get caught in chase mode, which can happen. I’ve been a part of that.
Q: When it comes to the evaluation and decision on Rick Dennison, I’m curious how much you involve Brandon in the sense that you guys kind of want to have a vision for that offense and want to kind of be in lockstep?
SM: Well at the end of the day, that’s going to be, like all decisions as it relates to the coaching staff, my decision. Brandon and I communicate on a lot of things and so evaluations are a part of that. The reason we do that is [that] we’re building this thing together. We are aligned philosophically on how we believe it should look and how we believe the building process should basically take shape. I’m not going to hold that away from Brandon, and so we communicate on a lot of things.
Q: With that, how much does the quarterback decision tie into that in terms of if you don’t know who the quarterback is, it’s hard to know who you want your offensive coordinator to be type of thing? How much do those go hand-in-hand?
SM: Well, there’s certainly a connection there. That said, at the end of the day, good coaches are good teachers and so that’s where you start and you really take it from there.
Q: In a perfect world, which it’s not, but in a perfect world, this offseason at the quarterback position, if you get a guy in the first round that you do love, is it your – I want to get your thoughts first Sean – would it be your preference to have whether it’s Tyrod [Taylor] or a bridged veteran like Andy Reid did in Kansas City, be that guy this year for this coming year and let that rookie simmer for a year? In a perfect world, if you get your guy, and you get a veteran guy, whether it’s Tyrod or somebody else, what would you prefer to do?
SM: Yeah, I mean, in a perfect world – like you said I don’t know if that exists – every situation is a little bit different, so every situation being what it is, you certainly ideal at every position. We’ve experienced this where we’ve been. We’d like to have a veteran in the room for a lot of reasons, one of which is experience on the field, another of which is leadership, the intangibles that go with some of these veteran players. I think you saw us do that at points this year in the way that we’ve built it up to this point in time. There’s value in that, but every situation is just a little bit different.
Q: Can you answer that, Brandon?
BB: Yeah, you know, a couple of names that come to mind while Sean was answering, you got Peyton Manning, who played immediately and you got Aaron Rodgers, who didn’t play immediately. I think every situation is unique, and so you have to consider your situation. But as Sean said, you’re looking to always surround with leaders and guys who have been there before, whether that guy is playing on the field, or whether he’s just helping in the classroom and on the field. Every situation’s different. We’ll make the best decisions for us as we go forward.
Q: Just, the report of Brian Gaine being interviewed for the Texas GM job. Can you confirm you did grant permission to them?
BB: Yes, we did grant that and we’ll see what happens.