When first-year head coach Sean McDermott was hired by Terry and Kim Pegula as the franchise’s 20th head coach on Jan. 11, 2017, McDermott hinted at a major restructuring of both the game-day captains and the leadership within the locker room at One Bills Drive.
McDermott has stated on several occasions that he’s a big proponent of “player-driven leadership,” and he is proving to be a man of his word. Beginning with the 2017 season, the Bills will institute a leadership council that will serve as the point-persons for specific issues or questions that eventually pop up during the season.
Emphasizing a commitment to leadership and good-character, McDermott’s approach serves in stark contrast to his predecessor. During the two years of the Rex Ryan era in Orchard Park, Bills fans watched their boisterous and brash head coach mix and match his game-day captains based on Buffalo’s opponent.
If a current Bill had a connection, any connection, to that week’s opponent, Ryan would put that player front and center as a game-day captain. Everyone from superstar running back LeSean McCoy (vs. the Eagles) to short-time linebacker IK Enemkpali (vs. the Jets) was employed as a game-day captain, a sign that Ryan felt the captain’s role should rotate among whoever would best motivate his teammates while agitating that week’s opponent.
Instead of relying on a potential flavor of the week to don the game-day “C” on his jersey, McDermott’s tribunal of well-respected veteran players who will serve as the team leaders within the locker room, on the playing field, and in the community is a welcome change of the team’s culture.
While it is not known who will make up the leadership council, three veterans —linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, defensive tackle Kyle Williams, and center Eric Wood — were mentioned by McDermott during a Tuesday press conference when he spoke about the eventual council players.
“That’s a big part of my philosophy, is leaning on those guys,” McDermott said of the group, whose members haven’t officially been determined. “We will have a leadership council during the season. At this point, it hasn’t been set, but I do lean on a lot of those guys already. The Kyle Williams’ of our football team, the Lorenzo Alexanders, the Eric Woods, and the list goes on. They’re a great sounding board for myself in terms of what’s going on, how the team’s reacting to things. Are we tired? Or are we in a good spot physically [and] mentally? They’ve been a tremendous help to me and I really appreciate their leadership, their guidance, and their feel for the pulse of the team overall.”
Alexander (34), Williams (34), and Wood (31) are all among the elder statesmen on the 2017 Bills, and are sure-fire good character guys that McDermott feels comfortable entrusting with this leadership role. To their credit, these three Bills have each publicly stated their support for such a leadership council.
“Just holding guys accountable when I see something go down versus kind of waiting and maybe get them after a meeting,” Alexander said. “Making sure that it is out front, everyone knows about it and if I correct one guy, or help one guy everybody else sees it and maybe will learn from that and that same correction.”
“I’m not afraid to say anything at any time or to make a point of bringing something up,” Williams added. “Because at the end of the day, this will be 12 years playing for me, who knows how long you can play? You never know. There’s no time to waste with the little things and not getting it right. And I am not going to let feelings, or anything like that get in the way what I see could be a hurdle for us to be a winning football team. Really never have.”
Through these respected leaders, McDermott wants players who can help deliver his message to the team. Besides Alexander, Williams, and Wood, who else on the roster should be considered for the leadership council?