It’s over. The 2018 season has come to a close for the Buffalo Bills and it’s time to take stock. On Monday afternoon, general manager Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott met separately with the media. (Following the 2017 season, they met the media together.) They were preceded by quarterback Josh Allen.
Below, we embedded the videos from Facebook and pasted the transcripts. Feel free to drop your comments below.
General Manager Brandon Beane End-of-Season Press Conference: 12/31
GM Brandon Beane is live at our 2018 End-of-Season Press Conference. #GoBillsPosted by Buffalo Bills on Monday, December 31, 2018
Quarterback Josh Allen
Q: Josh, compared to your personal expectations coming into this year, I know you haven’t had a whole lot of time to reflect just yet, but how much do you feel you’ve maybe met your personal expectations or possibly even exceeded?
A: I wanted to come into this year, obviously, at the start of the year [I] wasn’t starting. It was my goal to learn and grow as much as possible through the game of football. I thought I did a pretty good job with that, being on the field with this team, learning from the coaches that I’ve learned from and the guys that have been in the quarterback room with me. I think I’ve grown a tremendous amount. I’ve learned about kind of a different side of football, the preparation in which it takes. The game in the NFL is a lot different. It’s extremely tough. No win is given, it’s all earned. That’s something that I can look back on and say that this is kind of how my rookie year went. It wasn’t great, it wasn’t terrible, but I did enjoy it and I love the game of football.
Q: We were just talking to Micah [Hyde] in the locker room and he was saying even for a defense in year two of their development, he felt like they didn’t really get their identity until maybe the last six weeks of the season for them. Where do you feel that the identity of this offense is now?
A: I definitely think as the year went on, we improved. I think we kind of found ourselves and who we are in the last six, seven games. Coach brought up some analytical points with us and I’ll keep those in house. It’s pretty promising and exciting to think about what we could’ve done and what we can do and what’s in the future. I’m extremely excited to have the guys that we have. I’m looking forward to growing with these guys and going into next season with some momentum now and trying to continue to improve.
Q: Josh, your thoughts on re-signing Derek [Anderson] this morning?
A: I mean, obviously, it was great news for me having him here for another year at least. He’s been extremely helpful in this past year. He’s a great guy, a great quarterback to have in the room. He can [throw] the ball, still; he’s an old guy but he’s pretty awesome. He’s one of the good ones, for sure.
Q: Josh, do you feel like you learned more from playing on the field when you were out there or the time that you were hurt and you had to watch?
A: Definitely being on the field. There’s nothing like in-game experience, there’s nothing like in-game reps. You can’t fake game-like reps. It’s the only thing you can get being in the game. Every experience, every defense, every game has its own different elements to it. In turn, taking those elements and running with it, learning from them and allowing yourself to use them next time in that situation may arise. Sometimes, the situation may never arise again, but just having those situations and learning from those and kind of going through that is going to help any player in the long run.
Q: Did it hit you at all that even though this clean out day was coming for a few weeks, that when it got here it kind of hit, especially a guy who missed four games and wants to be playing as much as possible, but did anything cross your mind today about [it] being like, ‘this is it for me?’
A: It does. It sucks, you know, not being able to play in playoffs. Missing four games, I feel like the season went by extremely fast. I love playing football, I love everything about it, except the losing part, but it’s just something that I love doing. I love playing the game of football, so I’m already itching to get back in practicing and getting back in the swing of things. It can’t come soon enough.
Q: There are teams that are making coaching changes today, it’s something that happens every year at this time. It looks like your quarterback room is going to be the same, [Sean] McDermott is going to be back next year. How important is that consistency to you?
A: Consistency is key, especially in the league. Being able to have the same terminology, the same playbook, the same guys around you, that increases trust, increases the knowledge that you have in the system, allows you to go out there and not think about it too much and just kind of play the game. Coach [Brian] Daboll has been awesome for me; I love the guy and he’s got some good stuff planned for us. I’m ready to follow what him and Coach McDermott want us to do and the direction that Coach McDermott set for this team. I’m excited to see where it can go.
Q: Josh, at this point after the first year, where are you with your mechanics, from the whole work you did in the draft prep to now, where do you feel like your mechanics are and are you pleased with the progress you’ve made?
A: Yeah, I’m pleased with the progress for sure. There’s still a lot of improvement to go. I want to be better. I want to be as best as I can be and that’s putting in the work and taking as many, like I said, reps as possible, drill work in the offseason, throwing with our guys and just trying to get back in that mindset of being in the game-like situations. It’s very valuable.
Q: Josh, is there any coincidence that the offense and yourself seemed to find a bit more of an identity once you were committed to Zay [Jones] and Robert Foster at receivers? Was there something that clicked with you and the offense at that point?
A: I mean, maybe. All I know is, Zay and Rob, they work extremely hard in practice. They’ll run until my arm is tired. I love those guys because they’ll put forth their best effort. They’re blocking on every single play, they’re finishing plays. In the scuff that we had yesterday, Robert picked up the ball and ran into the end zone, thinking the ball was maybe still live. Types of plays like that, having guys like him and Zay, guys who are willing to do whatever the team asks them to do, that in turn will follow with other people seeing how they play the game and that’ll develop their leadership roles in this offense and in this team in turn.
Q: As a follow-up, there will be changes coming in this offseason. The Bills have $90 million in salary cap room and 10 draft picks. How eager are you to see what additions are made to this offense to improve this offense going forward in this offseason?
A: That’s not up to me. For one, I love the guys that we’ve got. Whatever happens, happens. We’ll roll with the punches and we’ll go in whatever direction our GM and our head coach want us to go and trust that they’re doing the right thing and follow them.
Q: What’s it like for you to hear the talk of people say, ‘They need to put more weapons around you,’ and things like that when you’re talking about Robert Foster and Zay Jones? It seems like you really care about those guys. It sounds like it’s got to be a mixed emotion.
A: I care about all of our guys. These are guys that put in the hard work and blood, sweat, and tears into this game and into this team day in and day out at practice. One thing about this team is that we never quit, we never stopped fighting, we never hung our heads. We were always wanting to improve, wanting to get better, and that’s the same sense that we still have in this locker room. We’re a team that wants to improve, and 6-10 is not going to be good with us. Next few years coming, we want to win games and we want to play in the postseason and put ourselves in a position to win a Super Bowl here.
Q: Josh, you spent last offseason with Jordan [Palmer]. First, are you planning to do that again? I believe Matt [Barkley] lives in Orange County also, so is that going to facilitate times to kind of get together and throw some?
A: Probably, yeah. I’m not 100 percent sure what I’m doing in the offseason yet, I’m still trying to figure out a plan, but I feel comfortable being down there and seeing Jordan. Obviously, with Matt right there, just getting together, whether it be throwing, hanging out, playing some golf, whatever it is, just kind of getting our minds off of football but at the same time being around each other and still talking about the game.
Q: I know you don’t have the exact details of your offseason, but how different from last year and how valuable will it be now that you don’t have to do all of the Combine stuff, the pre-draft, you’ll know where you’re living?
A: Correct. Little less stressful, for sure. Just being down and spending time with family, friends, getting the mind away from football a little bit, letting the body recover, and then as soon as February comes around, start getting back to it and working out and getting back into shape so we can come back April 15 and be ready to go.
Q: When you look back at being drafted this past spring, all the work you put in, what is your reflection of this year and how quickly it went?
A: It went extremely fast, especially with missing four games. But there was a lot of hard work that went into this. Obviously, coming into a new situation – rookie quarterback, new offensive coordinator, everybody’s learning the system – it wasn’t the greatest year and we didn’t envision it going like this. But I can say that I’m excited for what the future holds and excited to be a part of this team and a part of this franchise.
Q: The offensive line, like most every group, is a work in progress. What do you think about the way they performed in front of you this season and what do you suppose they need to do to continue to develop as a group?
A: We got better every week, especially with those five kind of mixed around a few times. Guys stepped up and made some plays for us. You look at yesterday’s game, they played their tails off. They blocked extremely well, they had my back when all that scuffle went down. As a quarterback, you love to see that. You love to see guys that have your back. I can’t thank them enough for sticking up for me and playing the way they did.
Q: Wyatt Teller made a comment after the game that he was going to make sure that nobody could think that they could do that to you, ‘his quarterback.’ When you hear that, a fellow rookie saying something like that, how does that make you feel?
A: It makes me feel really good. To know that I’ve got guys, like I said, that are for the team. It’s always nice to have someone that has your back. I’ve got five, eight, 11, whatever many guys we have on the field at a time, we have each other’s backs, and it’s good to know that they have mine.
Q: The offense finishing the way that it did, you having five total touchdowns yesterday, how eager does that… do you wish you could go out there again seeing the way the offense was clicking and the excitement knowing that you can build off that in the offseason?
A: For sure. I wish we would still be playing right now. I feel like we just started to kind of find our groove as an offense. That’s where the excitement for the next several months comes from. I’m just super excited. I’m eager to get back already. It’s been one day and it’s been too long.
Q: Playing for Buffalo, just having the city embrace you like they have, what has that been like for you?
A: It’s been awesome. This is my home now, Buffalo is. I’m super excited and grateful to be a part of this community, a part of this franchise, a part of this city. It’s not like many places, and I take pride in that in seeing the kind of example that Kyle [Williams] has set forth and how he embraced this city and how I intend to embrace this city. I’m super fortunate to be here.
General Manager Brandon Beane
Opening Statement: Before you guys ask questions, I just wanted to quickly thank our coaches and players, support staff. 6-10 is not what I want, the Pegula’s want, Sean wants, anyone in this community. I can promise you that. This has been a calculated plan from when I interviewed here to how I saw this and how Sean saw this and the Pegula’s – we were all on the same page of building this thing. We knew the salary cap needed to be fixed going forward. It’s not ideal to hand a set of coaches and players $50-plus million in dead money. You can whine about it or you can go do something about it. I’m really proud of the games that we won, and there were some winning moments in games that we lost. Unfortunately, those don’t get focused on when you lose as part of the deal, but there’s a lot to build on off the record. It was a great way to finish yesterday, especially with some of the young players making the plays and impacting the game the way they did. We’re very aware of some of the areas, and that’s what this week is about…not only looking at this last game, but the various phases – offense, defense, special teams – of what went well and what we need to fix going forward. So with no further ado, I’ll open it up to questions.
Q: You mention the salary cap right off the bat here. How aggressive are you guys going to be knowing you’ve got all that money? Bills fans are going to want to see some guys land here. How aggressive are you going to be in your attack?
A: Judicious is probably the word that I would use instead of aggressive. If you’re not wise with it, you can be back to where it was when I walked in the door here. We definitely want to fill holes in free agency. I think I’ve said it before – you use free agency to help you so you’re not going to the Draft in April with all these holes, and now you’re drafting for need. I promise you drafting for need is a mistake that can set franchises back, and I’m not going to do that as long as I’m in charge here.
Q: Brandon, you said midway through the year that you needed to get Josh [Allen] more weapons. I think the development of Zay Jones and Robert Foster factors into that maybe, but do you still feel that way? Do you need to do more to support Josh?
A: Yeah. I’ve got to do a solid job this offseason to improve our offense. It started with Matt [Barkley]’s game at the Jets and then Josh was able to play Jacksonville and beyond, our offense definitely had improved from prior to Josh’s injury. That’s what you like, but it doesn’t mean, ‘Oh, we’ve got it all fixed.’ We know where we need to get stronger. There’s a lot of areas that we do need to get stronger, and we’ll look to address all those whether it’s bringing certain players back, whether it’s paying attention to guys that get cut for salary cap reasons prior to free agency, obviously free agency, and then fill some holes in the Draft.
Q: Brandon, in hindsight, I know it might not have been the plan at the start of the year, but are you glad that Josh [Allen] got in as quickly as he did? Because now he’s got 12 games under his belt. Again, it may not have been the plan, but in hindsight, are you glad it happened this way?
A: Yeah, I am. I’m glad he got to play. You never want to force somebody out there, but there’s no replication for playing live bullets. We saw the difference in evaluating preseason play versus evaluating live bullets where guys are blitzing and disguising and all of those things. I think, as I mentioned earlier, you even saw the difference in a lot of how things slowed down from Josh’s first step prior to the injury to when he came back. He was definitely more comfortable for the most part. He’s still got ways to go, he’s a rookie. But he’s not arrived by any means. There’s going to be things when he steps out next year that somebody else is going to get him on. But I know who he is and he is not complacent or anything like that. This guy is competitive, this guy wants to get better, wants to be the best at his craft, and I know he’s got a really good plan. We just talked to a lot of the young guys before I came in here, and Josh has a really good plan for the offseason to come back here bigger, stronger, faster, and mentally even stronger.
Q: How important is consistency to Josh’s success and continued development from the coaching staff to the quarterback room with Derek [Anderson] resigning today?
A: You know, Derek was invaluable to what he brought. Another set of eyes and ears that’s lived that position. There’s many coaches in this league that never played at this level between the white lines. There’s no replacement for a guy who has done it, seen it, and not only has Derek been great for Josh [Allen] and for Matt [Barkley], but he’s also been great for Brian Daboll. Sometimes, ‘You know what, that sounds great, that’s drawn up well, but the problem is when you do this.’ Or, ‘In Carolina, we were able to use this play with Cam [Newton] and it really was effective because of X.’ Derek’s not only helped Josh, but he’s helped our coaches in the game-planning, as well.
Q: The prevailing theme or concern this season came in your running game. Josh [Allen] kind of covered it up with some of his runs, but what are your concerns about LeSean McCoy and do you want Josh Allen running as much as he did and how much do you need the traditional running game to get going and how do you go about doing that?
A: Ideally, you’d love to have both elements. You want Josh to have the threat to run. Now, I think that’s one of the areas that he improved. He was taking way too many hits early on, and I thought he did a better job down the stretch of avoiding them for the most part. There may have been one or two yesterday. You don’t want to rely on your quarterback running – that can be problematic from an injury standpoint. We want to be able to run the ball. Good teams can run the ball when the defense and everybody in the building knows you’ve got to run it in your four-minute offense to close out games, close out halves. We definitely understand the importance of that. We’re not happy with it. It’s a lot of areas from sometimes our O-line was out of sync for various reasons. It wasn’t always one guy or one side of the ball. I just never felt our run game for the most part got into a consistent groove, and that’s something that we have to be honest about as we make changes going forward this offseason.
Q: Brandon, as a follow-up to that, LeSean McCoy didn’t have the season that we’re used to seeing from him and didn’t put up the numbers that we’re used to seeing from him. How does he fit into your plans for 2019 and is he part of your plans for 2019?
A: He is part of our plan. Again, as I said earlier, our offense, we’re not happy with a lot of things that happened. We improved in some areas, but that’s not one that we improved. I think it was our entire running game. I don’t think it was just one person to single out LeSean. You saw some plays he still made yesterday. I think if we can improve in other areas, that will help LeSean. Early in the year, our pass game was not very good. You could see it. Teams were focused on, ‘Alright, if we stop 25, this team isn’t going to go far.’ While we did improve our pass game, our run game stayed stagnant for a lot of the year. Again, LeSean will come back in 2019 and we’ll go from there.
Q: Brandon, with that in mind, did you feel that the run game struggled to create an identity, do you feel you guys on the personnel side have a firm grasp of the kind of offensive linemen you might need to get the run game to work?
A: It’s a lot of things. Having a good O-line is a sum of the parts. You can have three or four really good ones, but if they’re not gelled, it doesn’t matter who you’ve got. Our line individually, there’s some guys that have played a lot of snaps and have been on some good O-lines, even here, that have rushed for a lot of yardage. But this year, we weren’t able to gel. We recognize that, and we’ll continue to work on improving that. We’re going to try to bring in competition like we’ll do across the board and we’ll try to prove that. We have to be honest. We’ll look at the things that we did well schematically. I know Brian and his staff and Sean will look at that, as will we. We’ll continue to try to find good football players.
Q: Brandon, given the lack of production from LeSean and Clay, they represent about $10-11 million in salary cap savings if you moved on from them. Is it kind of tempting to move on from two players who are worth that much money?
A: Well, if we were up against the cap, I’d say maybe you’re more considering that, but I’m not a believer that LeSean is done. I know you’re talking about his number is around $6 million. If he gets back to the form and we get our offense going, I think he can still be a weapon.
Q: Brandon, it seems like the case, but is the elbow injury that Josh [Allen] suffered completely behind him? Not any sort of worry for you guys moving forward, nothing that needs to be done this offseason with that?
A: Yeah. He’ll just continue to strengthen it and do things. We just met with our sports performance guys and laid out his plan and what’s expected, as with a lot of guys. No worries there. He’ll just continue to try to get stronger.
Q: What’s your level of optimism that you can get a deal done with Lorenzo Alexander?
A: You know, I don’t like to discuss deals. But at the end of the day, we like Lorenzo and appreciate all that he’s done for this organization. I’m about keeping those types of guys around. Lorenzo – I think we all in here can agree – can still play. We’ll get with his representatives and it’s all about coming up with a deal that, similar to Kyle a year ago, that is fair for him and is fair for us. Sometimes, that takes time, but we’ll work on that with his representatives and I’d love nothing more than to have him come back for 2019.
Q: Is Dion Dawkins definitely your left tackle next season or can we see him moving to right tackle?
A: I’m not going to slot anybody in. Sean [McDermott] and Brian [Daboll] would do that. We’re going to put guys in the best spot to succeed. We’ll bring in competition from free agency, Draft, at a lot of spots, including O-line. If we feel Dion is our best left tackle, then that’s where he’ll play.
Q: Brandon, you talk about taking a calculated approach to this whole thing over this two-year process. I don’t know if it was a necessary step back, but was it in some ways an expected step back that this team took in order to move forward this season? Aside from the 6-10 record, did this team take a step back in order to move forward if you look at the big picture?
A: You know, it’s hard. We definitely didn’t set out with a goal to only win six games, but back to the salary cap thing, we knew that you’ve got to hit on some free agents, undrafted guys, paying some guys lower level. There’s only so many dollars to go around with that much dead money. Again, that’s why I take a big onus in this record. Probably as much as anybody in the building, you can put the target on me for the calculated move of the cap. But that’s fixed and going forward, we’ll be able to operate and not have to worry about releasing a guy just so you can get into free agency and make some moves.
Q: Brandon, do you foresee any coaching changes?
A: To be honest with you, at the end of the day, Sean [McDermott] will make the final call on those. We’ve just today been about meeting with players because a lot of them are looking to go to sunny palm trees and things like that. We have not sat down to talk about that. We’ll get to that this week, though.
Q: Brandon, how did Josh [Allen]’s season play out compared to your expectations before it began?
A: You know, I was proud of Josh. At the end of the day, I didn’t really draw up what I thought it would look like. Somebody asked earlier was it good with how many games he played – I really didn’t know from the day we drafted him into training camp how much he would play, if any. We tried not to force it, we tried to let it come naturally. Obviously, it came even earlier than we expected, but I was thrilled with Josh did. At the same time, aware of the things that he needs to fix and continue to improve on. That’s the great things about Josh – you can have candid conversations with him about what he’s doing well and what he’s got to get better. I thought Brian [Daboll] and his staff did a really good job of continuing to utilize the things he does well and watch him grow, and you saw it with the play. He continued to get more comfortable as the year goes on. But he’s got a lot of work to do and we’ve got a lot of work to do before we get back in 2019.
Q: Brandon, have any NFL teams reached out or inquired about gaining permission to interview some of your assistant coaches for head coaching openings?
A: To my knowledge, no. They send those via email, and I’ve got a lot of emails. I don’t believe so, but I don’t want to say no for sure.
Q: Brandon, how much will you do on the field impact securing more sponsorships, ticket sales, etc.? Because your ticket sales were down this year.
A: No, we’re trying to win, and winning sells. Winning puts butts in the seats, sells more popcorn. I understand that business model well, and definitely that’s what we’re about. We’re trying to definitely improve off of this record, 6-10. I hope Sean [McDermott] is up here next year talking about a potential playoff game in that building right there. That’s what I’d love.
Q: What about the progression of Tremaine [Edmunds], Brandon? What’d you see from him from the start of the year until the end?
A: Similar to Josh, he’s come a long way. I think everybody forgets, especially if you’re around him all the time because he’s so big, that he’s 20 (years old). He’s still growing into his body, believe it or not. But mentally, this was a big step. A lot of asked of him that was not asked at Virginia Tech. For all that was thrown at him, I thought he really progressed. I thought yesterday, we saw a guy that just pulled the trigger faster than he had pulled it all year. There were times that he was still hesitant during the year. I remember the play against New England, James White, they threw it in the flat and he runs out there and that’s a hard play for a guy that’s 6’4-plus to break down in space and make that. Yesterday, I don’t remember what his total tackles was, maybe around 11 or 12, but really happy with where he’s at. He has the growth mindset. He is a great kid, as you know. He is not content with where he’s at. He’s one of those guys that you almost have to say, ‘Hey, you’re doing good.’ He’s so hard on himself. He focuses on the three or four plays he missed versus the 15 or 20 that he nailed.
Q: Do you see a glimpse of the core or foundation of this team now that you are heading into next season?
A: Yeah, I mean, I’m really happy with the production that we’ve got out of the first and second year players. We’ve got to continue, and it starts with adding another draft class. Drafting is number one here. To the point earlier about being aggressive in free agency, we’re still going to be judicious in free agency and build this thing through the draft. I think if we continue to add another draft class here in ’19, another one here in ’20, now you’re rewarding your own in free agency. You know, Tre’ White next year is going to be going into his third year here. I think we all can agree that Zay Jones is trending up. These guys will continue to take a higher leadership stance as these new guys come in. There are pieces here that we have to continue to add. That’s our job in the personnel department – continue to find players that not only fit on the field, but fit what we’re trying to do from a culture standpoint.
Q: Brandon, you may have three spots that you’re trying to fill along the offensive line this offseason. Is it prudent in your experience that you do have a good free agency so that you can nab guys to come in and protect your quarterback, or is it better to go to the draft and get a young kid that you can mold? What is the way to do that?
A: I think you have to look at what is in free agency and not just say, ‘I’ve got to get one guard in free agency, a tackle, a center,’ whatever positions you’re referring to if they’re not capable, if they’re not upgrades. We’re looking to bring competition in, and we’ll definitely look at free agency, but if we get two guys that we think will are worthy, we’ll add two. If it’s one, if it’s five… Whatever it is, we’ll do that and then see how the draft falls. But you can also add talent after the draft I know people don’t think that, but there are times that you can. There will also be guys who I don’t even know that are coming out that are going to be cap casualties on teams in February and early March.
Q: Brandon, what factors into the looming decision on Shaq Lawson’s fifth-year option?
A: We’ll go back and watch all of Shaq’s stuff. I was super happy for him yesterday to get a couple sacks. His professionalism went leaps and bounds this year. He really worked hard, and I saw a guy putting the effort in not only on the field, but he brings juice and energy to our practice like I didn’t see a year ago. Bill Teerlinck tells me he brings it to the meeting room, as well. I think we’ll continue to watch him, how he handles the offseason, how he comes back in here, but I’m happy for him and his success. He worked hard this year and he earned everything that happened for him yesterday.
Q: How important was it to have Robert Foster step up the way he did and how did his development, his progression lead to parting ways with Kelvin [Benjamin]?
A: Robert, I can’t say enough good things about him. The one thing we just told him in the exit meeting is how proud I was and how next year, when we have the draft and the undrafted guys who stand up there and we honestly tell guys that, ‘Listen, no matter where you were, if you were a first-round pick or you’re undrafted, we’re all even now. You’re going to get a chance, even if you aren’t first in the rung or second, I promise you that you are going to get a chance.’ I think Robert will be a poster child, Levi Wallace, some of these other guys that went undrafted. Those two guys coming out of Alabama that it does not matter. We truly care about who can help us win games. To see what Robert did and the chip that he had on his shoulder… was he pissed off? Heck yeah, he was pissed. I’d be worried if he wasn’t. But he came in with a right attitude, he asked the right questions, he stayed here the bye week, continued to work and grow. He’s a super competitor. The challenge now for him is to build off of that. The thing we told him is, ‘Guys are going to have film on you. They’re going to be studying now, so you’re going to have to add something to your repertoire or they’re going to be ready for you come next August or September.’
Q: Brandon, what’s it like knowing you’re going to have $90 million to spend and 10 draft picks? Can you summarize what that feeling is like to have that kind of capital to work with?
A: You know, it’s not about having it to spend it. It’s about having it to be smart. In my perfect world, we draft and we sign our own. We grow them and we sign them. That’s why it’s important to be judicious and not just go spend it. To be selective, be smart, bring in some added competition to both sides of the ball and special teams. I’ve been on many teams where, at this time of the year, the GM and coach are having to answer questions how they’re going to get to free agency with any money because you’re either over the cap or barely have any money to operate. We don’t have to worry about that going forward, which is freeing, so to speak.
Head Coach Sean McDermott
Q: I asked Brandon [Beane] at the very end there and I’ll ask you: he’s got 90 million [dollars] to spend there, ten draft picks. That’s his deal, but it’s also your deal. How exciting is it to know that you’ve got that much capital to rebuild this thing?
A: Yeah, it’s exciting. It’s different than where we’ve been, we’ll start there. It’s different than where we’ve been. There’s been some necessary evils, necessary steps that we’ve had to take in order to, in some ways, reset the deck here. Those are hard, but to get us to where we are heading into this offseason, as opposed to continuing that thing down the road, we’re back into a position of more of a healthy situation cap wise, draft wise. It’ll allow some freedom, although we’ll have to be judicious with it moving into free agency.
Q: Two-part question: With your coaching staff, do you anticipate wanting to make a change with any of your assistants at any spot, and then the other part is, have you heard from other teams wanting to, say, interview any of your assistants for head coach [positions]?
A: Right now, we’re going through my evaluations of us, and that includes our staff. Brandon and I will then sit down and go through our roster as well as we go through the rest of the week here.
Q: With Josh [Allen] being a rookie quarterback, how important to you is consistency, not only on the coaching staff, the guys that work with him, but also the other quarterbacks in the room?
A: Yeah, that’s important. There is an element of contingency that it important, both on the staff and on the roster. I keep that in mind as we look and we evaluate.
Q: Sean, how did this year play out compared to your expectations for this season?
A: Well, nobody wants to be 6-10. That’s a little bit of an uncharted territory for myself and a lot of the guys on this team, but as I mentioned earlier, it’s where we are and we have a lot of work to do. There are necessary steps in trying to get this organization where we’re trying to get it to. We are where we are because of some things certainly that we can do better, starting with myself, but also because of dealing with some of the things that were mentioned earlier: cap management, drafting, not developing players, everything that we inherited when we got here. Those are not excuses; that’s real in terms of the state of the union and the situation we took over. What I’m most proud of is the development of this roster in terms of these young players, what you saw yesterday. Does that mean we are where we need to be? No. That means there are signs of growth, signs of development and signs of a future for this organization, but with a lot of work to do moving forward.
Q: Sean, there were sometimes where it got a little ugly, like during the middle stretches of the season, especially when Josh was out. How difficult was it for you to not veer from this long-term view, especially when you’re [in the situation you are] and wanting to win?
A: That’s tempting, it’s challenging, it tests your resiliency, and I’m extremely proud of the staff and the players and the way they handled it to be out there every week. I believe the question was asked the other day [of] how long can these guys play as long as they played every week in terms of playing hard? You hear that talk around the league and the way that the Buffalo Bills play, and that’s another reason for my optimism going forward is that these guys play hard. It means something to them to wear the colors of the Buffalo Bills. That was on display yesterday, in particular, with Kyle [Williams].
Q: Sean, you guys struggles, sometimes badly, this year on special teams. What have you identified as the reason for that and how does that get fixed going forward?
A: Yeah, I mean, that’s part of our offseason evaluation, and that’s really just beginning. Brandon just came in here before I did, as you know, and we just finished up meeting with a number of players and getting their feedback on a number of things and then communicating with them what we want them to do or need to do as they have a productive offseason. That’s a part of it. There are times when we didn’t play well enough on special teams and we’ll dive deeper into that as we get into our evaluation in the next couple days here.
Q: Is there a reoccurring word or theme from players as you talked to them this morning?
A: They feel like, overall I would say, and that’s a better questions for the players, but I felt like there was an overall optimism about where we are and where we’re headed. They understand the vision for this football team and have a better feel. It’s a young group of guys, so they have a better feel for what it’s going to take to try and get us there. I encourage them to watch the playoffs, starting this weekend, and watch the intensity, watch how fast the guys play, because playoff football is different than regular season football. For our young players, and that being the goal or the direction that we want to head is, have a feel for it before we get there. That’s a whole different level.
Q: Sean, is it possible you could grade this season on some type of curve, especially with the way you won four of your last seven games. Despite finishing 6-10, can you take into account the peaks and valleys you knew you were going to go through with such a young roster, and knowing you still finished 6-10?
A: I understand where you’re coming from with that and I’m more concerned right now with the direction of the organization, the direction of our football team. I’ll let you guys grade on a curve or not grade on a curve. That’s not for me to do. For me, it’s to look at our football team and say where were we a year ago? I know where we were a year ago in respect to the record, but where are we now one year later as it relates to this organization, where this team is headed? As you look at our young football players, namely Josh Allen, Tremaine Edmunds and the games that they had down the stretch, the games they had yesterday, [it was a] totally different complexion at those positions than it was a year ago. To me, the direction of the football team is a positive one with a lot of work to be done yet.
Q: Is it fair, to follow up on that a little bit, to say that- you go 9-7 last year, make it to the playoffs, but then this year, there seems to be more optimism because of Josh Allen. Is that fair to say, because that’s the quarterback, that’s the position?
A: Those are hard to find. Those positions are hard to find. It’s a critical position, as is the middle linebacker position. Right now, they’re occupied by two young players with bright futures, we feel like, and whose best football is ahead of them if we continue and they continue to do things the right way with their development. It’s a process that takes time. It’s not all going to get fixed on time, but there is, again, a direction for our football team, a vision for this football team. I’m committed, as is Brandon, as is Terry and Kim [Pegula] both to staying the course and continuing to drive this football team in the direction that we feel it should be driven.
Q: Sean, sort of a similar question that he just asked. Is it possible that you feel better after a 6-10 season than you did after a 9-7 playoff year?
A: In the context of where we’re trying to go, yes. Again, I’m not a good loser in terms of 6-10. That keeps me up at night. It wakes me up awful early. I’m not going to go there with that, but in terms of where were trying to go and what I’ve been around in this process before, once in Philadelphia and once in Carolina, and what it takes to try and get the organization to where we’re trying to go, I feel like there’s been some small wins, albeit not on the scoreboard enough, that have us headed in the right direction.
Q: Can you assess the state of the offensive line and what you need to do to get that group where it needs to be?
A: I thought, and I know, I believe Brandon mentioned this, there were sometimes in the game, in particular yesterday, where I thought we played well. There were some other times throughout the season where I didn’t think we played well enough; we were out of sync up front. As you’ve heard me say before, the game is won or lost up front. I thought yesterday we did a good job in winning the line of scrimmage on both sides yesterday, but not enough throughout the season, in particular, on the offensive side. That’s an area that we have to look hard at this off-season.
Q: Following up on that, how has Dion [Dawkins] developed as a left tackle and is there any possibility that he may be moved back to the right?
A: Yeah, we’ll look at that. That’ll be, again, part of our overall evaluation. There were some moments that I thought Dion improved this year from what he was a year ago. I thought as a whole, [he was] too inconsistent, starting with penalties. We talked about that, and this will be an important off-season for Dion.
Q: As someone who is so competitive and confident, was it tough or frustrating at times knowing that you had constraints to improve in areas you wanted to improve [in]? Things were calculated with salary cap and things like that at times. Was that tough for you to navigate this year and things like that?
A: Well, when you take a job, not everything is going to be right. There is a reason for why these jobs come open. For me, as a responsible interview candidate, you go into it knowing that something in there has not been right. That’s what you take ownership of when you take the job, but you’re committed to making it right. You’re trying to find a way to get it right. Sometimes, that’s easier in some areas than others. That’s why the leadership team with Brandon and myself and Terry and Kim and Dave Wheat, it’s a committed group that has a shared investment and looking for a shared result.
Q: Coach, six head coaches were fired this morning and eight this year. As someone who was a first year head coach very recently, what would your advice be to the possible coaches next season?
A: Oh man, do you have about four, or five hours? I think it relies a lot on the job; there’s no substitute for experience. I prepare, you guys know I’m a thorough guy in my preparation and I prepared for a number of years. I watched two great coaches in Andy Reid and Ron Rivera do it the right way. There’s just no substitute for the job experience. I would say probably the best advice I would give them is to stay the course. There are going to be a lot of things that aren’t right or aren’t the way you want them to be early, but to stay positive and really just find a way in spite of all of that to stay positive and get the team headed in the right direction.
Q: Does that show how cutthroat this business can be? That’s 25 percent of head coaching jobs in this league that are vacant.
A: That’s the reality of our business, it’s a result driven business. I think we all, when we sign up for it, whether you’re a head coach or position coach, when you’re in this business, you understand it. It doesn’t make it right, but at the same time, we are paid to move things in the right direction.
Q: What do you need to see from LeSean McCoy in this offseason?
A: I just think overall, LeSean had one of those years. It’s not on him solely, it’s on us as an offense. We were out of sync at times, out of rhythm, maybe, overall. It was just too inconsistent. In particular, yesterday, you saw some of the flashes of the old LeSean: in space, with the moves, playing at a high level. Just overall [we] couldn’t get him at a high level enough, starting if you go all the way back to the beginning of the season.
Q: Stability is so important in this industry. Yourself, Brandon, and Josh it’s the three pillars of any good organization. Where do you feel about that and where you’re at as an organization?
A: I feel really good about that. I really do. Those are hard pieces to find and again, we’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve got a lot of young players occupying key positions, and that’s been part of our growth this year, and also part of our challenges. At keys moments in the game, how did we handle it while we were young? There is going to be some of that and some of that moving forward, quite honestly, as we go. I’m extremely optimistic, encouraged and I feel like the future is bright because of those two young men.
Q: You mention the DNA of players that you guys try to bring in. You mentioned the other day that maybe there’s a void on the offensive side. Maybe more leaders on the defensive side. When you guys target free agents and draft guys, how much will that be important on the offensive side specifically with those leadership skills?
A: Yeah, that’s huge. We’ve talked in here, just as a group I feel like every other week, about leadership and coming down the stretch with the Kyle [Williams] situation. The goal is to get a seasoned leader in every room. Is that attainable every year? It wasn’t this year, I can certainly tell you that. It’s on our radar that is part of the evaluation as we move forward as we have more cap space and draft picks. Ideally, we had that in the Carolina Super Bowl year, we had one, if not more, in every room.
Q: Sean, did you get a chance to meet with your medical or training staff about any players that may need procedures this off-season?
A: Yeah, not comprehensibly let. We had a flash meeting this morning just so I knew where we were. Anything at this point is a little bit premature.
Q: Sean, you were pretty realistic about your expectations heading into this season. You mentioned it was kind of a necessary step back in some ways. What would be a fair expectation heading into 2019, heading into year three?
A: Fair expectations are that we’re going to come out and we’re going to play good, hard, solid football. Buffalo Bills style football. And we’re going to work our butts off this off-season starting today and then tomorrow, we’re going to stack days this off-season because we’ve got a lot of work to do.
Q: When you were coming into this job and interviewing for it, what were kind of your expectations when you laid out the plan about the type of team that you’d be landing in 2019?
A: Well, I felt like it would be better certainly than the one we fielded in my first season. That’s the goal. Every year, to improve, continue to climb, continue to put this organization in a better position than it was the year before. That was my promise and commitment to Terry and Kim both that I would protect their investment, and that’s what I plan on doing.
Q: Sean, the last four or five months, you’ve gotten a payoff every Sunday one way or the other. You learned how well you did that week, or how poorly you did that week. Heading into the off-season with some head coaching experience, where do you get your payoffs over these next few months that you go into this phase of your job? You just went through your 16 results. Now, you don’t have another game for nine months. What gets you up in the morning?
A: Oh, man. The process of getting this team where it needs to be. It’s been mentioned a couple times in team meetings the vision for this football team. The thing that gets me up every morning when I get up is my vision for this football team, and the vision of an AFC Championship game hosted right here. We talked about this in the team meeting the other day and Kyle [Williams] mentioned this as well – what that’s going to feel like, what that’s going to smell like, what that’s going to sound like in the fans out here in pregame. Much like yesterday’s environment in the cold. I asked the players the other day after practice to turn around and look at the flags when we went outside because those flags were blowing. I said, ‘This is the type of weather that we have to be ready to play well in at home when we host a playoff game.’ That’s what gets me up in the morning.