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Sean McDermott Q&A: Bills not as far along as some people think

Here is the transcript of the question-and-answer session with Bills coach Sean McDermott from his podium interview with media Wednesday at the NFL Scouting Combine. Check The Buffalo News throughout the day for more news on what McDermott and Bills general manager Brandon Beane had to say in other interviews at the combine.

Q: How would you sum up competing against Matt Patricia defensively?

A: I think Matt's resume really speaks for itself. He's well thought of around the league in terms of his football acumen on the defensive side of the ball. One of the biggest adjustments from a defensive standpoint is going from a defensive coordinator to a head coach just like an offensive coordinator. Obviously the scope of the job is a lot wider.

Q: What does Vontae Davis bring to the table for you at cornerback?

A: Let's start off first by giving Brandon and his staff credit for being able to land a free agent like Vontae at this time of year. He has a lot of benefits, a lot of which have been talked about already. A veteran player that fits into our system. He has a number of starts obviously and ball production. So that said, every spot on our roster has to be earned and he'll embrace that mindset.

Q: At this point in his career, can he play in the slot or will he be strictly an outside corner for you?

A: We'll start off outside and then go from there. We do have some flex with Vontae and Tre'Davious as well. At this point in the year, really nothing is off the table, whether it's schematically, personnel-wise.

Q: How do you deal with game management, whether it's being aggressive, when to dial back, as you work it out over your first year as a head coach?

A: I think that's one of the adjustments to the job, right? As a head coach. It's probably the thing you always talk about and it's never really finished on the to-do list. You're always looking at new situations that come up that haven't been even thought of or haven't come up maybe to this point. That's something as head coaches we always talk about. I know for myself that I will continue to work on it and that job will never be finished. There are situations out there that are constantly evolving and come to fruition in different ways in different years.

Q: Coming out of Carolina, was there something that Ron Rivera did to especially help prepare you as a head coach?

A: It really starts with the way Ron shapes the culture in Carolina. He does a really good job with allowing people enough space to do their job and be themselves. Then Ron does a nice job of delegating within that. You saw Steve Wilks with the promotion this year in Arizona and I know he'll do a great job with that. And myself. And there's a lot of other good coaches there that Ron has developed over the years as well. He just does a nice job of giving his assistant coaches enough ownership in the process and preparing them along the way, whether it's to become a position coach or a QC position or coordinator or in this case to become a head coach.

Q: What can you say about Kyle Williams' future?

A: You know how I feel about Kyle and what he's meant to our community in Buffalo over the years and what he's meant to our football team. He meant a lot to me this past season in connecting my message to the locker room at different points throughout the year. So the leadership part of that was big for us. These things will work themselves out over time. I think the fit is important and the fit is there, obviously. It's gotta be right obviously for Kyle and his family and our situation as well. Brandon has been in touch. We're just going to see how that situation works itself out.

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Q: Have you been in touch with Preston Brown in trying to bring him back?

A: Preston is a good player. It was good for me to get with Preston this past season and have him control our defense. He really did some nice things. The production is well documented. Like many of our situations, these things will work themselves out. Preston was a big part of our defense for us controlling what we did up front.

Q: Do you plan to have Tyrod Taylor as your quarterback this year?

A: When you look at our quarterback position, Tyrod and Nate, those are two good quarterbacks. Tyrod now can add to his resume that he was instrumental in getting us to the playoffs and breaking what was a 17-year drought. You've heard me say it before, his work ethic and intangibles are unmatched, and his leadership that goes along with the position. We're still going through that process. We're in a good position with some options out there. So that will work itself out.

Q: How much have you dug into the QBs in the draft?

A: Just going chronologically through the offseason here, it's really going through free agency putting the due diligence and the work in on that end. Now getting into the draft. I had an opportunity to go to the Senior Bowl and evaluate and observe some of the players we see here today. Then you add the juniors that are coming out as well. I'm really just getting started on that end of it. We'll put the work in. we do have some picks out there that are good opportunities to improve our football team.

Q: You made progress in the AFC East. What work still needs to be done?

A: We made a lot of progress in a short amount of time, made some big-time gains in that first year. It was a team effort, really. The biggest thing for us is making sure we hit the reset button. We're not maybe as far along as some people think we are. We've got a lot of work to do. At the same time remaining true to who we are as an organization and our core values.

Q: How much does the timeline affect your decision on Tyrod Taylor, with the roster bonus due in March?

A: It's something obviously that comes into consideration because it is real. It's part of the equation. It's one of the variables as we continue to move forward and go through that process.

Q: What's your long-term outlook on Nathan Peterman after evaluating the season?

A: Like most players and like our team really I thought Nathan had some good moments and some moments he'd like back, much like myself. I'm confident that he is wired the right way and he'll learn from the moments both high and low that did or didn't go his way. He's an extremely confident young man and a guy that works hard. Sometimes as a rookie, in this case as a rookie quarterback, you're thrust in a situation where everyone sees your body of work. I know his second year will be better than his first year. I thought he did some really good things his first year. When you look at the DNA, he's a fit for us in that regard.

Q: Do you have an update on Cordy Glenn, Zay Jones and Kelvin Benjamin and how they're recovering from their surgeries? Do you think they'll be ready for offseason work?

A: I do, yeah. All three of those look like they're on schedule at this point and I'm anxious to get those guys going.

Q: Where do you stand with LeSean McCoy, given he's going to be 30 years old and the salary he's making?

A: Salary aside, I don't look at that. Right now I look at production. He has not slowed down. He played all 16 games plus a playoff game for us and really gritted it out through that playoff game. The toughness element was there and the leadership. It's been fun to be around LeSean, having been around him early in his career, early in my career, now once again for both of us in Buffalo. He's a big part of the culture that we've begun to build in Buffalo.

Q: Do you envision your offense being similar to the Patriots with Brian Daboll?

A: There's a lot of benefits to adding Brian Daboll. Obviously he's been around winning, much like I have, been around a great coach like Bill Belichick and then myself with Andy. When you look at his experience in the college game, adding to what he already had in terms of his acumen and knowledge of the pro game. For us it was a good fit. Him being from Buffalo was an added benefit as well.

Q: Your thoughts on the NFL Competition Committee changing the definition of a catch?

A: That's a hot topic out here, right? I'm just looking for consistency. Whatever they decide, and I'm sure we have a long way between now and then, and respecting that process, is the consistency, whether it's that rule or any rule.

Q: Your view on pass interference going to 15 yards maybe?

A: For all those questions my answer is the same. Let's define the rule and let's be consistent.

Q: Where does the team stand with Eric Wood's status?

A: That process continues to unfold as we stand here today. We're still going through it and the league year hasn't begun yet. Eric's a player that spent his entire career in Buffalo. I think the world of Eric. That thing will take care of itself.

Q: What did you learn about yourself in your first year as a head coach?

A: I think the biggest thing, and I don't know if I learned it, but it probably was reaffirmed, but this is so much about people. I was fortunate in my first season to be around some great people in our building in our community. Our fans, what more can you say? I know I'm biased but I think we've got the best fans in the NFL. My process will continue to unfold. I'll continue to learn and grow. I think we have to embrace that growth mindset as a building, as a team, and as an organization. I'm confident we'll do that.

Q: Your thoughts on the new data tracking information? You like that?

A: I believe building awareness is important, whether you use it or not. It's one of the variables in the overall equation, whether it's analytics or in this case the tracking. If it helps people prevent injuries and player safety, I think that's important. So there's a lot of different angles within that. I think that's important to our league.

Q: Do you use the data on a scouting thing too or worry about information overload?

A: You always enter into that conversation with overload. It's a component or variable in the equation. I don't think analytics in my case doesn't make the decision for me but it's part of the equation.

Q: What can you say about changing the director of analytics?

A: It's football-based, football analytics. It will not be involved on the business side at this point. It's about us growing, us evolving and becoming better. It's a part of what we'll do. It'll be involved, whether it's personnel, game-management, it's just about information gathering and building overall awareness on whatever it might be. I'm confident it'll help us get to the next level in some areas.

Q: Question on Eric Washington, Panthers defensive coordinator?

A: I was fortunate to be around a really good staff in Carolina. Steve Wilks being one of them, Al Holcomb, who he took as his defensive coordinator to Arizona. And Eric being another as well as some others still in Carolina. I'm confident Eric will do a great job. He's one of the better defensive line coaches I've ever been around. He's a student of the game, passionate, and he's got the leadership skills that will set him apart. He's got command of the room. You start there. He'll make the job his own. I think he'll do a fine job.

Q: How hungry is your team to keep climbing the ladder to catch the Patriots in the AFC East?

A: We've got a lot of work to do. You mentioned the Patriots and the season they just had. Congrats to them and to the Philadelphia Eagles as well. I think we all work to get to where they are. That said, we had a good season, yet we've got a lot of work to do. So hungry is a great word. We've got to stay humble and hungry and embrace that mindset.

Q: How much did the injury hold Zay Jones back, and what was your evaluation of his rookie year?

A: As a rookie, to come in and really be thrust in the spotlight in terms of being at a receiver position and working at different positions, I thought Zay did a good job. Obviously he went through some highs and lows, much like some of our other rookies, Nate, as was mentioned earlier. The way Zay is wired I'm confident that he'll learn from those situations. When you look at the shoulder injury he had that was flying under the radar for the most part, I think it really speaks to his toughness and his resiliency. I'm anxious to get him back here and have a second year that was better than his first. When you look around the league, a lot of times what you see is these guys have success and they at times relax. You can't do that. You have to take that hungry approach and build on what you did and didn't do your first year. I'm confident Zay will do that.

Q: If Preston Brown isn't retained, can Matt Milano play?

A: Matt has position flexibility. He's focused mostly outside. But we've got some other guys there, Tanner Vallejo being one of them, that we're confident in as well. Preston is a good player. But we also have some other players there as well.

Q: What kind of input will Brian Daboll have in terms of identifying skill sets that fit his offense?

A: He'll have a tremendous amount of input. The great part about Brandon and his staff is they do a great job of listening. Obviously Brandon will have the final say on the personnel end of things, and he does a fantastic job. That said, philosophically we believe in two heads are better than one in this case. Brian will be deeply involved in the personnel end.

Q: Question (inaudible) on Bears coach Matt Nagy.

A: Matt's done a phenomenal job. It's been fun to watch his career take off. When I left Philadelphia Matt was in an assistant role occupied at one point by Doug Peterson. The success Doug has had has been fun to watch and learn from. To see Matt ascend over the years from an extra arm working on the field in Philadelphia to the position he currently holds, I think he'll do a great job in Chicago. Chicago's got a great leader in Matt Nagy and a good family man as well.

Q: Question about Matt Nagy's personality.

A: When you're around people you get a chance to get to know what they're all about. It doesn't take long when you're around Matt to get a feel for who he is as a person and on top of that who he is as a coach. I'm confident Chicago did their research and saw it pretty early in the process.

Q: How have the 15-minute combine interviews changed?

A: They've evolved over time, like all of this process. We were having the same discussion last night walking back from the interviews and how they've changed. It used to be you just kind of went in with a couple questions and you'd get to know the player more on a broad-based surface level. Now it seems like it's evolved to more watching film. A lot of teams seem to have gone that direction with watching film and drilling down as opposed to drilling out.

Q: You're high on character aspects. How much do you go back to that?

A: Our scouts do a really good job of gathering a lot of that information during the year. We've done a lot of that research and information gathering before today. Those conversations have occurred not in totality to this point. But that is certainly basically where we start. Even that's changed over the years. I was in the meeting last night and thinking how much not only have the meetings changed but in some ways what teams are asking and how important the character is.

Q: Does the Bills' personnel in the combine player interview change or is it a set group?

A: Do you want to come to our meeting tonight? . . . It's what you would think. There's some staples in the room. Head coaches, general managers, then a personnel guy or two. Then the position coaches and scouts change based on the player and where they're from.

Q: If a team called interested in Tyrod Taylor for a trade, would you be comfortable moving him?

A: As I've said before, Tyrod's a good player. At this point in the process I've learned being around this league around 20 years that it's way too early to take anything off the table. Other than cutting him at this point, which is not in our plans. He's a good football player who has been instrumental in getting us to the playoffs. At this point in the process, whether it's Tyrod or any of our players, you look at what's out there, you look at your options and you make decisions based on the best interests of your football team.

Q: How glad were you to see A.J. Klein get the chance to be a full-time starter for New Orleans?

A: It's part of the joy of being a coach, developing and being around to watch players develop on and off the field. To see A.J. and the work he put in in Carolina, get his shot in New Orleans, it gave me a lot of joy to watch him do his thing. That was fun to watch.

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