Share this article

Open for business
Find out the latest updates from local businesses as our region reopens.
print logo

Jerry Sullivan: No urgency to 'win now' for Bills

Four years ago, after his foolhardy reach for Sammy Watkins in the draft, Doug Whaley admitted it was an attempt to "win now." Tom Donahoe used to call the NFL a "win-now league" during his failed five-year run as Bills general manager.

But it doesn't always apply. "Win now" can be a cover for desperation, for a GM's need to impress ownership and appease the masses. Desperate men make rash, fateful decisions, as Bills fans well know. It goes all the way back to Donahoe trading for Drew Bledsoe to excite the fan base.

Two years ago at the draft, Whaley said Shaq Lawson, Reggie Ragland and Adolphus Washington would be "starters off the bus" for Rex Ryan's underachieving defense. The bus broke down. Ryan and Whaley were gone within a year.

Despite breaking the playoff drought, the Bills are in less of a win-now mindset than in many years. By reaching the playoffs in their first season, Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott have presumably bought themselves time and good will with a grateful, accepting fan base.

Beane, after completing his first draft as an NFL general manager, was asked if he and McDermott had inspired belief among Bills fans that they know what they're doing, and that people shouldn't expect Josh Allen to come out this season and lead them to the Super Bowl.

"That's a good question," Beane said. "We're trying to win every day. We truly are. But it takes time to build this. Some of these guys we drafted ā€“ you mentioned Josh ā€“ will get things quicker and some won't. There's going to be competition. It's going to be a very competitive (quarterback) room in there."

Jerry Sullivan: Josh Allen has to grow, on and off field

Josh Allen wants you to know he's not who you might think he is

Beane's first draft as GM reflected that lack of desperation. It screams patience to a fan base that exulted in last year's playoff but should be content to wait for a young, rebuilding team to mature into a genuine contender down the road.

In Allen, they got a quarterback with great physical gifts and the most perceived upside of any QB in the draft. With their other first-round pick, they took linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, another extraordinary athlete who turns 20 next week and will be the second-youngest player ever to appear in an NFL game.

The Bills filled needs in later rounds. They picked four defensive players in a row after taking Allen, which suggests that McDermott has a big say in the matter. Head coaches typically lean to their side of the ball. McDermott seems content to build a strong defense and wait for the offense to come around.

Considering their issues at wideout, it was curious that they waited until the sixth round to grab a receiver. But this is more than a one-year proposition and they'll find weapons for Allen in future drafts. They're also likely to address the wide receiver position in the summer.

The guys in charge will never use the term, especially after reaching the postseason, but this is a rebuild. Going back to McDermott's arrival, they have moved out 10 first- or second-round draft picks from previous regimes.

They've lopped salaries from a bloated payroll and excised players who wouldn't fall in line with McDermott's team-first coaching ethos. They unloaded Watkins before his salary became an issue. The unanticipated departures of Eric Wood and Richie Incognito, while regrettable, expanded the roster rebuild.

Beane and McDermott have systematically dismantled the roster and reshaped it with their own younger players. There are only five original Bills drafts picks left who were on the team when McDermott took over: Kyle Williams, Nick O'Leary, Shaq Lawson, John Miller and Adolphus Washington.

Sneaking into the playoffs was a psychic lift, but they're likely to take a step back, maybe a large one. Beane and McDermott are probably resigned to some regression. It's one reason they were reluctant to part with next year's No. 1 pick, which could be very high.

Bills fans have a boundless capacity for hope. But after seeing their team make the playoffs and quickly exit, they realize how meager an achievement it can be in the big picture. The goal is no longer to get there, but to be a consistent contender to win the Super Bowl.

Expectations should be suitably modest. No one expects Allen to be a star right away, or even a starter. Allen completed 56 percent of his passes in college and will need a lot of polishing to be even that accurate in the NFL. It'll be no surprise if he can't beat out AJ McCarron.

If Josh Allen is opening-day starter, Bills would make history

McDermott's defense figures to come along faster than the offense, which will be grooming a young QB with a thin receiving corps and weakened offensive line. Defensive players typical contribute earlier. If Edmunds is as mature as he seems, and if Beane hit on the other rookies, the D could be a surprise.

It's easy to be skeptical. But you never know in the NFL. McDermott did a fine job pulling a wobbly defense together in the stretch last season. The passing game can't get any worse, and McCarron could be an upgrade over Tyrod Taylor.

McDermott said there's always urgency to improve. "The process continues," he said. "Our store didn't close for the offseason."

Beane said he looked forward to taking a deep breath after his first draft, which was labeled the most important for the Bills since Jim Kelly was picked in 1983. He said it was a year-long team effort by the personnel staff, a lot of hours and travel, but a lot of fun, too.

"As a whole, I like where we're at," Beane said. "It's April. This is a new year. But hopefully, fans believe in what we're doing here as a group, from Terry, Kim, Sean and I and everybody else, and that we have it going in the right direction.

"But we have not arrived by any means."

There are no comments - be the first to comment