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What to monitor with new Buffalo Bills GM Brandon Beane, and what his hire means for Sean McDermott

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A deeper look at the background of the new Bills GM.

New Buffalo Bills GM Brandon Beane has been groomed to become a GM for a long time now.

He isn’t a life-long scout who spent decades on the road during the fall watching college football games or countless Januarys in the stands at Ladd-Peebles Stadium taking notes on Senior Bowl practices.

He’s been cross-trained in every aspect of football operations at the NFL level.

Heck, he was the Panthers’ Director of Football Operations for seven years before being promoted to Assistant GM in June 2015.

Here’s a snippet from the article on Beane’s promotion on Carolina’s team website:

“Beane has played a role in putting together the team's draft board over the past four seasons and participated in the evaluation of collegiate prospects in preparation for the draft.”

Dave Gettleman, the Panthers GM since 2013, and Marty Hurney, the GM before Gettleman, were almost assured to be making the final call on the selections, but let’s take a look at those four Panthers drafts.

Players with an asterisk next to their name have made All-Pro teams. Players in italics have been named to Pro Bowls.


Panthers 2015 Draft

  • Shaq Thompson
  • Devin Funchess
  • Daryl Williams
  • David Mayo
  • Cameron Artis-Payne

Panthers 2014 Draft

  • Kelvin Benjamin
  • Kony Ealy
  • Trai Turner
  • Tre Boston
  • Bene Benwikere
  • Tyler Gaffney

Panthers 2013 Draft

  • Star Lotulelei
  • Kawann Short*
  • Edmund Kugbila
  • A.J. Klein
  • Kenjon Barner

Panthers 2012 Draft

  • Luke Kuechly*
  • Amini Silatolu
  • Frank Alexander
  • Joe Adams
  • Josh Norman*
  • Brad Nortman
  • D.J. Campell

Beane’s former Director of Football Operations title carries varying duties across the league. For some clubs, the job responsibilities include coordinating all the day-to-day activity of the team, travel schedules etc., and there’s not a great deal of involvement in the personnel side of an organization.

However, some franchises’ Director of Football Operations pay a large role in the scouting of players and negotiation of contracts along with administrative duties.

It seems as though Beane was significantly involved in the vital aspects of the personnel department, as evidenced from the aforementioned article:

“Beane, 38, has spent the past seven seasons as the Panthers' director of football operations, a role in which he assisted Gettleman in the evaluation of players at the professional and collegiate levels while holding administrative and scouting responsibilities in both areas. He has worked closely with the football operations staff on the negotiation of player contracts, developing budgets and CBA compliance.”

We can be — just about — absolutely sure he was No. 2 in command on personnel matters from June 2015 to sometime this past Monday, his last full day with the Panthers.

Panthers 2017 Draft

  • Christian McCaffrey
  • Curtis Samuel
  • Taylor Moton
  • Daeshon Hall
  • Corn Elder
  • Alex Armah
  • Harrison Butker

Panthers 2016 Draft

  • Vernon Butler
  • James Bradberry
  • Daryl Worley
  • Zack Sanchez
  • Beau Sandland

But it’s not all about the drafts. During the past few seasons, the Panthers:

  • Extended Cam Newton’s contract
  • Released DeAngelo Williams
  • Signed Kurt Coleman (later extended) and Ted Ginn Jr. in the 2015 offseason
  • Extended Greg Olsen’s contract
  • Extended Luke Kuechly’s contract
  • Franchise tagged Josh Norman, only to later rescind it.
  • Franchise tagged Kawann Short, only to sign to him a multi-year extension
  • Used fifth-year option on Kelvin Benjamin and Star Lotulelei
  • Signed Matt Kalil to multi-year deal
  • Extended the contracts of Charles Johnson, Jonathan Stewart, and Mario Addison
  • Traded Kony Ealy and 2017 Round 3 pick for the Patriots 2017 Round 2 pick (used to take Taylor Moton)

Some hits, some misses, some “we’ll sees.” But Beane was high in the Panthers power structure during all those decisions.

Carolina has won three of the past four NFC South titles while going 40-20 in the regular season over that span.

The Panthers — with Gettleman as GM — prioritized the defensive front and looked for big, long-armed cornerbacks to help them get their hands on passes in Sean McDermott’s Cover 3-based defense (see: ‘16 draft). On offense, they placed an emphasis on size at the wideout position (see: early selections of Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess), something Buffalo has lacked for many years. They were fine with doubling up (or “tripling up”) on one position in the draft (see: ‘13 draft, ‘16 draft).

Also, they haven’t be timid about trading up, having done so four times since the start of the 2014 draft. Those trades resulted in Bene Benwikere, Devin Funchess, Daryl Williams, Daryl Worley, and Zack Sanchez.

As is always the case with a new GM — and they’re rarely recycled — it’s worth watching whether or not the mentee (Beane) will follow the exact philosophies of his mentors (Hurney and Gettleman).

On a more general level, the Panthers have quietly been a staple of continuity over the past 5-plus years. Most of their front office and coaching moves have been internal promotions.

Ron Rivera’s been the head coach since 2011. New assistant head coach and defensive coordinator Steve Wilks has been with the team since 2011 as well.

Offensive coordinator Mike Shula was the quarterbacks coach in 2011 and 2012. He’s been the OC since 2013. Ken Dorsey was a scout for Carolina in 2011 and 2012. He’s been the quarterbacks coach since the 2013 season. Running backs coach Jim Skipper has held that position since 2013 too. The same thing goes for linebackers coach Al Holcomb. Defensive line coach Eric Washington has had the same job since 2011. Ray Brown has coached the offensive line (first an assistant) since 2011.

That’s front office and coaching staff stability totally foreign to the Bills during the last twenty years.

The hiring of Beane is tremendous for Bills head coach Sean McDermott. The two worked together for six years, and during that time, the Panthers provided McDermott with a myriad of players who’d thrive in his defensive system.

Also a positive for McDermott; Beane doesn’t have decades of scouting clout to immediately command full, unquestioned control of personnel acquisitions. It’s typically the scouting lifers who demand dictatorial control over personnel decisions once they finally reach the pinnacle of their profession.

Like he did with Hurney and Gettleman in Carolina, Beane will work hand-in-hand with a familiar colleague while making many important roster decisions.

After swirling rumors of disconnections between Doug Whaley and the three head coaches the Bills employed during his GM tenure in Buffalo, the Bills likely want a symbiotic relationship between their head coach and GM.

And they’ll get that unified link with McDermott and Beane.