After the Buffalo Bills hired Brandon Beane to replace Doug Whaley as the team’s general manager, one of the big questions involved final control of the 53-man roster.
Team owner Terry Pegula addressed that question directly at the press conference announcing the hire, saying “Brandon’s gonna have the 53. Him and Sean will obviously collaborate on any key decisions...”.
In this morning’s MMQB, during a dual interview with SI’s Peter King, Beane and McDermott were asked about the idea of being “tied at the hip”. Given that both were hired at about the same time and have worked together before, it’s a fair question. Here’s their response (emphasis is mine).
MMQB: You know the NFL—this might be your only shot at being a head coach, Sean, and the same for you as GM, Brandon. It’s sort of serendipitous, the coach-GM pairings in this league sometimes. How do you feel about being tied at the hip?
Beane: That was part of the attraction of the job. There were a lot of attractions, but I don’t have to get to know the guy I am going to be working side by side with personally, away from the office. I already know that. I have that box checked. I know that this guy is going to have my back, and he knows I am going to have his back. And that’s a huge thing in this business. We know how important it is to trust each other. It’s so funny when people ask, Who’s got control? Who has the 53-man roster? Honestly, we don’t care about it. We are going to make decisions together and we are going to talk about everything that affects the roster, the staff, and that is what’s exciting. You don’t get that everywhere. You read about dysfunction in various organizations, and that is part of the reason I am here. I did not want to leave Carolina for something I was unsure of. This seemed like as sure a thing as there can be in the NFL, to partner up with Sean.
McDermott: Sometimes you get a chance and you have to take it. I wanted him to know that there is a soft landing on this side because of his familiarity with me. If we are tied at the hip, there is no one I would rather be tied at the hip with than Brandon.
Personally, I think it’s a relief to actually see that Beane feels that way, because that’s the way things should work. The GM/HC control paradigm is something that’s simultaneously important and overblown; the front office and the coaching staff need to work together with a shared vision, so if things are working right there shouldn’t be much need for someone (in this case, Beane) to “pull rank” and assert his authority on a final move.
The reason it’s such a big deal, seemingly, is that it’s so rare for the Bills to actually follow this route. Beane and McDermott are the first GM/HC pairing to begin their tenures in the same season in Buffalo since Tom Donahoe and Gregg Williams way back in 2001, although Buddy Nix only saw one game as the Bills’ GM before hiring Chan Gailey in 2010. Furthermore, it’s rare to see two figures who have spent as much time together professionally as Beane and McDermott have make the transition from assistant general manager and coordinator to general manager and head coach, much less on a different team than they started with.
It’s a novel approach for the Bills, but after 17 seasons outside of the playoffs it’s as good of an angle as any.