Brandon Beane wasn’t sure what to expect.
The Buffalo Bills’ general manager took over in 2017, with his new team owning the longest playoff drought in North American professional sports.
Beane wouldn’t have expected that, though, based on the home opener that year.
“To withstand 17 years of what this organization had to go through of no postseason success … literally first game we’re out there in 2017, it was sold out and packed,” Beane recalled Friday during an appearance on the Pat McAfee Show. “I’m thinking, ‘man, we’re going to have to earn some trust.’ I’m wondering what the fan support is going to be.”
It didn’t take Beane long to realize “Bills Mafia” would have his back. Now three years later and with a pair of trips to the postseason under his belt, Beane is adjusting to heightened expectations. He outlined how the franchise got to this point during an extended interview with McAfee, a former punter with the Indianapolis Colts.
Beane’s plan started in the 2017 season, which ended with the Bills making the playoffs on the final week of the regular season to end the infamous drought.
“We’re going to try and win, because you want to build a winning culture,” Beane told McAfee of the approach that year. “I just don’t believe in the word tanking or whatever you want to throw out there. Obviously we were trying to win. Did I think we were going to get into the playoffs that year? No, I probably wouldn’t have bet on that, but Tyrod (Taylor) and that group, Kyle Williams, we snuck in the back door. … What a fun thing to end the 17-year drought for our fan base.”
The team took a step back the following year, struggling to a 6-10 record.
“That’s what made ’18 really hard, was making all these necessary moves,” Beane said. “But we were able to acquire enough draft picks for Josh Allen. The ’18 season, we had over $50 million in dead money. So obviously that hurt Sean McDermott and our staff’s chances, knowing that there was $50 million worth of players that we’re not competing with out there. But if you’re patient and you can build it – that’s the thing I’ve said -- we’re going to lay it out and we’re going to do it the way we want to do it. We’re not adjusting, whether we won the Super Bowl the first year or we didn’t win a game, the plan was we’re going to get rid of this cap, acquire draft capital, find a franchise quarterback and then build it from there.”
Beane went through the process of settling on Allen as that franchise quarterback, while also breaking down the offseason goal of surrounding him with more weapons, including wide receiver Stefon Diggs. Beane told McAfee that the Bills had previously inquired about Diggs before the trade deadline last year, then revisited discussions with the Vikings prior to the start of free agency.
“We wouldn’t be able to get a guy at 22 who can do what Stefon Diggs can do,” Beane said.
Other topics addressed during the interview included:
- Former cornerback Vontae Davis abandoning the team at halftime of a game in 2018 and retiring from the NFL: “That’s when I said I’ve seen it all. … I’ve seen a kid in Little League walk off the field … but I’ve never seen it from an NFL perspective.”
Beane said Davis paid back his full signing bonus within two weeks.
“I’ve got to give him a lot of credit for that,” Beane said.
- On Tom Brady leaving the New England Patriots and the AFC East for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers: “If he’s going to leave, I’m glad he went to the NFC. I promise, we’d love a chance to play him here at some point,” and on Amherst native Rob Gronkowski coming out of retirement to join Brady with the Buccaneers, “obviously a lot of excitement for the league. You’ve got to love his personality.”
- On why he thinks Cam Newton remains unsigned: “He’s one of those guys that maybe medically people want to make sure, ‘what am I getting?’ … I’m really surprised. If he’s back healthy, I’m assuming he is, I mean, this guy was an MVP. I don’t totally get why he’s not been signed.”
That’s not to say the Bills are currently in the market.
“Josh Allen is our guy,” Beane said.