The Buffalo Bills finished off their 2019 season at 10-6 plus a loss in the Wild Card round to the Houston Texans. Now that they are heading into the 2020 offseason, head coach Sean McDermott will meet with the media to wrap up last year and look to the future before general manager Brandon Beane takes the podium.
With $90 million in cap space, a host of free agents, and a complete complement of 2020 NFL Draft picks, there are sure to be just as many fireworks this offseason as there were last year. Another veteran leader retired in Lorenzo Alexander on the heels of Kyle Williams and Eric Wood the past two offseasons, so who will step up there? What can the offense do moving forward and do they have a plan if Brian Daboll becomes a head coach somewhere?
We will embed the live video below when the press conference begins and hopefully place an archived version in here when it’s done. (It was scheduled for 10 AM Eastern.)
Head Coach Sean McDermott
Tuesday, January 7, 2020
Opening Statement: Good morning. Before I get started I just want to take a minute to express my appreciation publicly for a couple people starting with Terry and Kim Pegula. The support that they give us is second to none, their commitment—and you guys have seen it—to winning is second to none in this league and so (for) that I’m extremely appreciative. To Brandon [Beane] and our staffs that daily stand behind both of us and support us, to our players—there’s no group of players to me that have stood and worked day in and day out as hard as these players have worked this past season and for that I’m extremely appreciative. To our fans, just being here three years now, this fan base is as loyal and as passionate as I’ve ever been around. To meet us at the airport at two o’clock in the morning in January to show their appreciation the way that they do week in and week out, year in and year out—it’s unique and special and for that I’m extremely appreciative. And to you guys as well, for writing the stories, the good stories, what’s good about our football team and how we are out in the community affecting positive change and giving hope, it goes a long way and for that I’m extremely appreciative as well. I do want to take a moment before we get into the football part of it to also express my appreciation and respect for Lorenzo Alexander and his family and the job that he’s done as a leader on and off the field and in our community here in Western New York. That goes a long way and he’s been a tremendous asset to me as the head coach and connecting our message to the locker room. I just want to take a minute to wish him well and thank him for everything he’s done in the past couple of years. Transitioning to the game and football, the game certainly did not end the way we wanted it to end. It did not go the way we wanted it to go, in particularly in the second half. Because of that, it’s been a painful couple of days for all of us and I recognize that. My hope is in time if it’s handled the right way, the pain will turn into strength and that strength will turn into growth. I think that’s what really separates the winning organizations to the winners in our lives and in our world. There’s painful moments, but those turn into that strength and then the growth that comes from that is what continues to move us forward as an organization, as a fan base and as a team overall, quite frankly. There’s a lot we can learn from that game. We have to keep our team together, as many pieces as we can, and then approach this off season with a tremendous amount of urgency, as we continue to grow and continue to build this football team and organization into what we want it to become.
Q: What do you feel are the biggest elements or steps that you have to take as a team and as an organization to reach that next level going towards this off season?
A: I would start off by telling you that we have a lot of work to do. We have to, number one, start in house. Start internally in terms of our roster and we’ve got some decisions to make. I won’t go into all of those decisions, you guys know some of what those are but making sure that we keep as much of this team intact as possible.
Q: In your three years, offense has probably been where you wanted to be and it seems there was some progress this year. What I would like to know is how much input on game day do you have with what’s going on? I know you are calling punt or go for it or that, but in terms of offense, play-to-play stuff, how much of a role do you have in that?
A: Head coaches vary. There are offensive head coaches and labeled defensive head coaches. As a head coach, it’s my opinion that you have your hand in all sides of it. The day to day and the play in and play out calling part of it obviously resides with Brian [Daboll].
Q: So they are calling a play—are you ever in there saying no, we are doing something else?
A: There are times when I do that. There are times when I make suggestions, there are times when within a series, you try within plays to offer when you only have so much time. There are times when we have quick conversations in there play to play.
Q: As well as Josh Allen played much of the season, what concerns do you raise over how he essentially unraveled in the end of the game and with the turnover that happened that led to the field goal? How that game unraveled?
A: Overall let’s start from the start with Josh. He’s made a tremendous amount of progress. Let’s start there. Let’s recognize the work this young man has put in and the growth that he has shown. Is there still work to do? Yes and he’d be the first to tell you that is in fact the case. The game did not end the way we wanted it to end and the reason is because we didn’t play well enough in the second half in particular. We scored field goals, we needed touchdowns. You look back and say hey, we were up 13 I believe it was after the half there, we have a takeaway and we had the chance to go up 20 to nothing at that point. Maybe the game changes at that point or maybe it doesn’t. There are so many things that he can do better and there are certainly things that I can do better and our entire football team. I think if you take the right approach, that’s being accountable and taking ownership and I know Josh did that, that’s really where it starts. With that he’ll put the work in and you know he will be better next season. I think you’ll see another step this off season into next season.
Q: Did you ever expect to voice (concerns) in other situations at this point though in Josh’s career (with) his second season under his belt in a game (of) that magnitude? Some of the decision making I’m talking about, whether it was the intentional grounding or the lateral, I’m referring to those specific types of situations.
A: I think it all comes back to, for Josh, just trying to do too much. That’s been something we’ve talked about and that’s something he has to continue to handle as he moves forward and continues to grow in his career and I’m confident that he will do that. I think that’s the next step for Josh, is that awareness, maturity, however you want to phrase it. It’s the understanding that I don’t have to do it all myself. I’m a tremendous generator and play maker but I have pieces around me. As we continue in all honesty, to build the roster, that’s what we have to do. We have to continue to give him pieces that he trusts in addition to the ones he already has.
Q: You talked a lot about continuity since you’ve been here, really. How much have you seen Josh grow with Brian [Daboll] over the past two years? Knowing that Brian has interviewed with the Browns, how much concern do you have there if Josh doesn’t have Brian back next year that he will continue on this upward string?
A: I’m not going to talk about Brian with Cleveland, I’m going to talk about our football team and where we are trying to go. At the end of the day we all have to get better. That starts with me and it goes right into the rest of my coaching staff and then into our players. That continuity is important with Josh and our coaching staff, but it’s also important in other areas of our team as well. We’ve got some thoughts on where we need to improve and certainly continuity is important. Not just from coach to player, but coach to coach, player to player and the list goes on. The more we are around each other, the more continuity and that’s where we talk about keeping this team as intact as possible. That certainly helps you.
Q: What’s your timeline on evaluating staff? Any changes that have been made, stuff like that?
A: We are going to continue to evaluate our whole football team and that’s a piece of it. For right now I don’t plan on any changes at this point.
Q: You’ve given up a lot less points defensively but offensively you’ve scored about 19 points a game. What do you have to do to get better offensively, in your own mind? Everyone talks about receivers, running backs, what do you need?
A: Execution. It doesn’t matter, regardless of what you do or who you have, at the end of the day you have to execute better than the defense executes to score points. That’s a one liner for you on that. There’s more details that go into it and variables and everything but we’ve got to score more points. I think everybody knows that. I know that. We have to find answers to do that and that’s part of our off season.
Q: Despite the work that you have to do in the offseason, in general have you talked to Brandon in terms of the position of the team going forward into 2020?
A: I think as you look at it, you use your five senses as your leader. Part of that is awareness of not just what you see, but what you hear, what you feel, what you smell and what you touch out there and I think that’s real. The change that’s happened over the last two and a half to three years at this point and now it’s about where we go from here. I’m excited about what’s ahead of us. As much as we can carry over from the foundation that we’ve built is important to our future success. There’s also an understanding of every year is a new year and every team has their own team, is their own team and has their own identity. That’s where the urgency has to come in. We can’t sit back, nor will I ever sit back or Brandon sit back for that matter and say “hey, this is where we are, we’re good and we just have to take this much more.” That’s not how this league works. You see and you’ve seen teams, one year they’re up and the next year they’re down. I think there was a stat the other day about how there is only one or two remaining teams this year that were in the final eight last year. That’s the truth of our league so that’s where the urgency comes in and we have to approach it with a tremendous amount of urgency.
Q: How do you justify eight carries for Frank Gore in that game? You seemed like you were referring to his legend and stature rather than what he is right now….
A: I think that’s just the way the game and the play call is trended at that point. I know this, I know it’s not good to have one back carry the ball every time. You like to have two backs that work together. Does it mean it’s exactly how you want it to work out every week? Not exactly. Look, at the end of the day we didn’t win the game and that’s my responsibility.
Q: Three days later now, you look back on it. Your defense really played well all year. Are you still trying to figure out what happened in the fourth quarter and overtime? There were some crushing let downs on defense, which had not been something we’ve seen all year.
A: You look at it and the things that you have to do in playoff games, in the Super Bowl, you have to be able to do the little things. Sometimes the little things become the big things and that’s where I was going with it, it’s tackling. In key moments of the game we didn’t tackle well and so that showed up fundamentally. I know I talk a lot about it so this isn’t anything new. You have to be able to have high level of execution of your fundamentals in key moments of the game and we didn’t. And then, we have to continue as coaches and go back and look at why, schematically—why were we putting the players in the position, all of that. That’s really what we have to do. Evaluate from top to bottom.
Q: People have asked me to ask you. The third-and-18, what exactly happened? Why was there such a gap when your guys dropped so far back and they just couldn’t recover?
A: We got too soft in there with underneath coverage, and we had some young players in there that we got too deep in the coverage. We played zone on third-and-18, which is probably what we believe in doing, keeping the ball in front of us, but we didn’t react fast enough, and then again, tackling came into play. And then he knocked us back, and we didn’t knock him back, and we should’ve been on the scene a little quicker. It’s young players in that situation recognizing situational football, taking away the deeper routes that would throw and catch without the run and get the first down, then being able to react quicker underneath. They made a play and we didn’t.
Q: Speaking of plays that fans have asked us to ask you about, the opening kickoff of the second half, your interpretation of that, and kind of the explanation you got?
A: I wish I could go and give our fans an explanation, but I don’t want to go there right now. I can’t go there right now. So, the part I will say is we had a chance to go up 20-0 at that point, it got ruled that way at first and then it got changed, so I have to stand by and go with what the ruling got changed to, that’s the way our league works. I can tell you I’ve had a conversation with the league office about it, and the explanation they gave me, they supported the call on the field and what it got reversed to, so that’s what we go by.
Q: How about the blind-side block? Do you think they followed the letter of the law there?
A: Again, I asked about that as well, and they felt like it was called the right way.
Q: Tell me about the clock running to zero on that one pass completion….
A: Yeah, we did not talk about that. They stand by their calls. I want to reiterate. We control what we can control, and I want to make it clear for us, for our team, and our fan base, that is not why we lost the game. We take responsibility, I take ownership and responsibility as the head coach, and we move forward. We need to play and coach better. That should not come into play.
Q: You decided to activate Duke Williams. Do you feel like his activation took opportunities away from anybody else?
A: Not at all, Duke performed, he produced. I know he wanted to have another catch or two, which would’ve helped us. But, when you earn playing time, that’s who plays. I don’t care who it is, what round draft pick, what they get paid, and the players know this. Whoever earns playing time, that’s who plays.
Q: With that in mind, he earned it for the playoff game, so then why not for the last half of the season? Was it just something you didn’t see enough in practice?
A: No, it was somebody else had earned it to that point. And then we made a decision based on what had trended the last couple of weeks of the season, and then also in the Jets game and the week leading up to the Jets game. And that’s the reason we went that direction with Duke.
Q: You were just 4-4 at home this year, I know you can kind of throw out the last game, but how do you make this a tougher place to play?
A: This is a tough place to play. We have to play better. We had some close games here. The one loss in the last Jets game, you take it to three from there, so you say we’ve got three games, I think that two of them, the New England game and the Baltimore game went down to the last drive, and the Philadelphia game obviously was the game we didn’t have a chance in the fourth quarter at the end. So, that’s a big thing for us, playing well at home and trying to capture the AFC East.
Q: Given the length of time that the players start to disperse in the offseason, especially in the case of Josh Allen, where he’s talked about working with his quarterback guy, Jordan Palmer, like he’s done. In terms of you as a staff giving him specific points to address, is this offseason going to be significantly different than say last offseason, where you can maybe find or tune those points that he really needs to address. And he’s out of your sight for a while, so you have to assume he’s going to do that. How have you discussed that with him?
A: Some of that is driven by league rule and what you can and can’t do. The rest of it is, I would say that we have more known pieces now offensively, that guys communicate and guys like to get together and work out together. So, I think that’ll be a big thing this offseason and the time between now and the time that our players come back.
Q: But you can give him [Allen] a menu, I mean that’s legal. Can you?
A: We only do what’s legal.
Q: Jerry Hughes said today that he had torn ligaments in his wrist. Can you expect him to have surgery?
A: We’re still working through the final medical report on that. So, we’ll see how it goes.
Q: Is there a reason why he wasn’t on the injury report while playing with that?
A: He was on the injury report. It was not in relation to his wrist. He was on the injury report, I believe at one point for his groin, and then another time just overall for veteran rest.
Q: The last six weeks or so of the season, you had the playoff game experience, and then quite frankly, a couple games there that were like playoff experience, the Pittsburgh trip, Dallas, the Patriots game. How much of that can you take into next year? How much does that help the team, having played in pressure situations?
A: Yeah, that’s big with our young team. Whether it’s Josh [Allen], Tremaine [Edmunds], or anybody else, any of the other younger guys, those moments, I can’t get those moments out here on the practice field as much as I want. We can pump the crowd noise, we can do this and that, but being in those moments, there’s something to be said for that. I know it was mentioned before, the amount of experience I’ve had in the playoffs, there’s no substitute for those games, for two Super Bowl games, and how you prepare for those. Like I said, you try and keep the routine, but you build up some credits and some mental and physical fortitude, if you will, and strength of those moments and what they take. Again, my experience, we had some opportunities in Philadelphia, it was four NFC Championship games, a couple of them worked out and a couple did not. And so it’s, “hey, what do you learn from that coming off of it that helps you the next season?” There’s no guarantee to taking six more inches the next year, but how you start over and use that pain to turn into strength and growth for you, and that’s what we’re trying to do this offseason.
Q: With how important Cole Beasley became throughout this stretch of the season, especially when Josh [Allen] was making jumps and progress, why wasn’t he more involved in the playoff game, to the point where he was out-snapped by Duke Williams?
A: Yeah, that was one of our goals early on, and they did some things at times to take him away, but overall as you look again, that’s another area where we could have done a better job right there.
Q: What would you like to see Josh Allen work on this offseason?
A: I just think number one is let’s start with rest. As you look at the timeline of his offseason, get away, he’s a young man that spends a tremendous amount of time in our building, as you know. Get rest, push back a little bit, and then—and I know he’s going to do this—start working on his body first, getting his body healthy, getting his body ready to go, building strength. I thought he did a good job this year of staying healthy, which is a number one, availability. And then working with Jordan [Palmer] in this case, and making sure he’s working on techniques. Obviously, the deep ball has been a conversation, and he’s very aware of that, his feet. There’s plenty for Josh to work on, I’ll just start there. And Josh is very aware of that. That’s the greatest part about Josh, is he’s aware of it and he’s self-critical, and so that’s a start. He’ll take that and he’ll combine that with his tremendous work ethic, and I think he’ll have a great offseason.
Q: Do you believe Tre’Davious White elevated himself this season into the conversation as arguably the best cornerback in the league?
A: I think he’s had a heck of a year. And when you look at the work he’s put in all the way back to last offseason, and then the work he did on the field, when you look at making plays on the ball this season, taking the ball away, tackling. When you can combine both of those realms of corner play, you’ve got something pretty good right there.
Q: How would you evaluate the rookie class, especially those who played a lot of snaps like Cody Ford, Devin Singletary, Dawson Knox, and Ed Oliver?
A: You look at our team that’s out there in the playoff game and you’ve got Dawson out there, first-year player, you have Devin out there, first-year player, and you have some other first-year players and second-year players making big-time contributions. And I think this rookie class overall, probably progressed quicker than the class the year before, and that’s a credit to them. It’s a credit to Brandon [Beane] and his staff, and then also our development team and the way that they got these young guys in a short amount of time to understand what habits need to look like in the NFL if you want to play and want to perform at a high level. And then the players I think took the rest of it upon themselves to contribute at a high level, which bodes well again for the future.
Q: At the end of the first half, you guys came out of a timeout, you were up 10-0, and then you elected to run it with Frank Gore and then spike the ball. What went into that decision? Because it seemed like you were playing for the field goal at that point.
A: We weren’t, that’s just a series of calls we want back.
Q: With Lorenzo [Alexander]’s void and him leaving, how do you feel about the leadership that’s in place in the room right now?
A: One of the things that happened when we came off the Super Bowl in Carolina, lessons that I learned were we probably let too many of the leaders out of the building. And some of that happens with retirement and other reasons that come with age, but overall, that’s part of what I meant with keeping as much of this team intact as possible. Each year and each team is different, but you give yourself a better chance the more that you keep a team intact.
Q: On that note, Frank [Gore] said that he’s undecided about his NFL future, whether it’s in Buffalo or anywhere else. What does he mean to your team and the running back group specifically this year?
A: I would say I don’t think I’ve been around a guy that’s pound-for-pound as tough as Frank Gore, a professional like Frank Gore and his habits day in and day out. And then, just as big was his example to Devin [Singletary], on and off the field. So, that’s some of what we’re talking about with veteran leaders, trying to get a veteran leader in every room, that Brandon and I are trying establish that. Frank was a great example of that to Devin.
Q: You talk about pain and the loss being painful. How long do you think it’ll take for you to get over what happened?
A: I don’t think you ever get over those memories. But, I believe that winners know how to turn that pain into growth. That’s what I’ve done, me personally, as you asked about myself. That’s what I’ve done. And as I told the team and as I told you guys after the game, we’ll never stop fighting. That’s been my career to this point, and I expect the Buffalo Bills to never stop fighting.
General Manager Brandon Beane
Tuesday, January 7, 2020
Opening Statement: I first off want to thank Sean [McDermott], what a great job and what a great year I thought he had. Overall, not the finish that he or I wanted and we’ll obviously get into that, but I thought he and his staff did a really good job with the players and where we started even before the draft and then developing our rookies. If you don’t have good coaches it’s hard to win in this league and kudos to Sean and his staff.
Our players, that game Saturday as painful as it was, I think you saw the fight. I’ve been on teams, I’ve had teams that when, especially on the road, the pendulum swayed the way it did, Josh got sacked, they got the ball, 4th-and-1 we make a stop, Josh and the guys rally down and not everything was perfect, we know, but they fought until the end. We get the field goal, we got a stop, we got the ball, we just unfortunately didn’t get that one big play to finish it off and come home with the win and I hate that. But I can’t thank our players enough for what they did and how hard they fought all season long.
One player in particular I want to talk about is Lorenzo Alexander. Many of you may not know, when Lorenzo came into the league in 2005 I was in Carolina and he was a 315-lb defensive tackle. To see him develop into a man and what he became—talk about re-inventing yourself—I don’t know anybody that’s played in the league that started as a D-tackle and finished as a linebacker. And then off the field, what he did and what his family brought to this community—second to none and will be missed. Talking to Lorenzo, he sent me a note yesterday and he still wants to be a part of this community, that’s how much this community means to him and his family, so I think we’ll all be blessed with that.
The Pegulas, Terry and Kim, I mean, Sean and I are very fortunate; you see things all over the league with ownership that changes or doesn’t firmly give the support that a coach and a GM need to be successful. You guys see it here everyday—you walk in and you see that weight room that we got last offseason, the funds to build our staffs, to build our analytics, to build whatever we’re trying to build, it’s been a big change from three years ago when Sean and I got here. I know we got here at different times. They have never batted an eyelash at what we need and I know that won’t change going forward, so a big thank you to them.
And then I want to finish up with our fans. I am just blown away by our fans and I know our players are. I’ve never heard players talk so positively about their fans because we know, especially with the social medial world, fans can be very passionate and there can be a lot of negative energy. We lose that game the other night and I was just shocked how many people—at 2 or 2:15 AM, whatever it was—were out there with signs, cheering, if you just walked up on that scene you would’ve thought we won the game. And I get emotional because I feel bad for them, I feel really bad that we didn’t win that game. You go back to Nashville, Miami, Houston—Nashville, that game was like a bowl game—their team does something good and you hear that side of the stadium, our team does something good [you hear that side], it was truly like a neutral field. And to have Bills Mafia, Bills Nation, support us that way all season long is unmatched. I’m very appreciative, our players, our entire building [are appreciative], and I know Terry and Kim are as well. Apologize I got a little emotional, I feel bad that we didn’t get that win, but I promise you our guys are hungry and we’ll be back.
Q: As you begin the process towards the 2020 season, what are the biggest areas of need that you see [necessary] to get this team over the top?
A: Well, we have to keep our defense strong, they had a really good year. I would say that you need to be strong in all three phases [of the game]. We want to be better on special teams, and our special teams did improve from a year ago, but we’re not happy with that. Offensively, we did show some improvements—statistically and obviously we’ll talk about Josh—Josh improved and we scored more points, but at the end of the day we didn’t score enough points. And a lot of times, if you make the playoffs your last game is kind of emblematic of—if you don’t win it all, whether you go to the championship game or lose like we did—a lot of times it kind of shows you where your season went, where you’re good and where you need to get better. And I thought we saw that [on Saturday], we just didn’t score enough points.
Q: You and Sean have been here three years and really all three years, the offense has been in the bottom quarter of the league. It’s been three years, what is holding it back? Why can’t you get over the hump and get to at least 20 points per game?
A: I’m going to look in the mirror first, to be honest with you. Like always, what can I do better to get our roster better? I think if you’re talking all three years, the first year we came in and it was our first time around Tyrod [Taylor], a different offensive coordinator, so I don’t think you can totally count that. We made a decision at that point that we were going to draft a young quarterback, so I would really look at it as the last two [years]. A rookie quarterback in ‘18 and honestly I didn’t do a good enough job in ‘18. Now, part of that was where we were in the salary cap, there were some restrictions I had, but there were things I could’ve done better to give us better up front protection; I think we hurt Josh [Allen] a little bit on that. Honestly, we didn’t plan on him to play as quick as he did, that was the best move for us at the time last year. I think it paid off, but it was painful early on. Then this year, we improved in a lot of areas, but it takes time. There was, I think, nine new starters [on offense] and that’s probably not ideal; we talked about it, you guys asked me at the beginning of the year, how quick is that o-line going to gel, how quickly is Josh going to gel with Cole Beasley and John Brown. I brought in Tyler Kroft, unfortunately he had the injury setback, so Dawson Knox is now cast in the forefront and he did a lot of good things for a young player, but I know there’s some plays he left out there that hopefully will get better. I think it’s a combination of things. Year two in Brian Daboll’s system, I saw improvement, but Brian would be the first one to tell you that there’s things he’d want to do as well. I think we at least took a step forward, but we have to take another step, to your point.
Q: The fanbase to which you referred is clamoring for receiver help— the clear thought is that Josh will become significantly better and the offense will become significantly better if this team gets big time help at receiver. Do you agree with this premise and, if so, do you see this offseason as that [wide receiver] being a critical place to address?
A: That’s a great question. It’s one of the many positions that I think we need to try and get better. We’re not going to go in and just throw a bunch of money [around] or throw everything we have at receivers or anything like that. But we’re going to try and find [help], the first place we’ll be looking is we’ll be going to these all-star games and seeing what’s there. Free agency is first on the calendar so we’ll take a look—we’re already looking at that—sometimes guys re-sign or get franchised [tagged], things like that. That’s a fair question, but I don’t think we’re one player away, I never think you are and I definitely don’t think we’re one player away [now]. You lose in the first round of the playoffs, that doesn’t say to me that the Bills are one player away from being exactly where they want to be. But that’s definitely a position we’re going to look and see if we can find more talent.
Q: As a talent evaluator, what’s your view on where Josh [Allen] is at right now at the end of year two, heading into year three?
A: I think Josh is a young player. Overall I’m very proud. The thing about Josh, we had our exit meeting with him and you don’t even have to start going down [the list] on areas of improvement, he’s got them. He’s very aware of the things he does well and the areas [he can improve], and I think we saw that, if you take it back to Saturday, when he walked out here a year ago to when he came back in the spring. You all that were at practice, training camp and then carrying over into games, he improved in a lot of areas. Is he perfect? Is he where he wants to be, where we want him to be? No, but he’s got the DNA to continue to improve and I have no doubt that he is disgusted like we all are that we didn’t finish that game and come out with a win. I think you can talk about playoffs, but you can’t simulate it until you play it. I think sometimes Josh—he wants it so bad—that sometimes he tries to do too much. If we’re not moving the ball at times, I think that’s one of the things he needs to work on, is still playing within himself. I think he tried to put all 45 other players on his back and do things that he shouldn’t do. Deshaun Watson made some great plays, I’m sure he’d seen what was going on, “Man, he’s making some great plays, I gotta go do it.” I’m sure it’s all in there. As you know, he’s a fiery competitor and I would much rather have those errors than check-down Charlie, being timid, all those types of things. I’m very proud of Josh, I have no doubt that he’s going to come back an even better version of himself in April.
Q: How do you coach that out of him, the hero ball perhaps? Is it just from experience or is there a worry that this is a hump he can’t get over?
A: I don’t think there’s a hump that Josh can’t get over. I think he’s so determined—people say a player can take coaching or take criticism—Josh truly takes it. He wants the feedback, he doesn’t get his feelings hurt. He knows every question you guys are asking about him. He knows. He’s very in-tune and he’ll come off to the sidelines like, “I know I can’t try and force that ball, I know I have to protect that ball,” if it’s a sack-fumble or whatever happened. I think at the end of the day it’s maturity, and again, it’s me doing a better job of increasing the talent around him too, so he can have more players to trust and make plays for him where he just has to get the ball out, hand it off, do whatever where he can feel like he doesn’t have to do too much.
Q: Coach [McDermott] noted that he wants to keep this roster as intact as possible, I realize there’s a lot of decisions in between to accomplish that, but with that in mind, do you feel the lift for you and your personnel department this offseason will be less than what it was last year when you had to bring in a slew of offensive players?
A: Yeah, we are going golfing next week (laughs). No, I don’t feel like it’s less, I really don’t. Just because we probably won’t be spending at the deep end of the pool like we did last year, it’s still up to us to find either pieces to compete with what we have or pieces that can upgrade. You can get guys that are minimum contract guys, guys that are low-tier, sort of middle of the road, those sometimes are as important or more important than those big-ticket items. We’ll have a meeting this week with our coaches and some of our personal to sort of uncork everything that happened all season long from start to finish with our players. We have to have a real assessment of where we see them, how they finish and our vision for what we see each player is going forward, is this a guy that’s on the decline? Is this a guy that’s ascending? Is this a guy we can win with, or is this a guy we have to upgrade from? We’ll have some frank discussions, we won’t all agree with each other, but that will kind of lay the groundwork for what our next steps are.
Q: I know you’re big on getting people with the right kind of DNA on your roster, over the last few years do you feel you’ve done that to a point where you’re in better position [now] to tweak more than overhaul?
A: Yeah, I don’t think we’re looking at an overhaul. Last year, offensively, was an overhaul to your point. We’re going to look under every rock to find competition and upgrades where we can. But my philosophy hasn’t changed, we’ve got to draft, develop and sign our guys. And we’re now getting into the area where guys who have been here for three years are up for contracts, guys that we’ve claimed who are free agents, all those discussions will commence here real soon as the guys who are potential free agents and whether we want them back and can we work it out with them and their agent to come to an agreement on financial terms.
Q: Do you anticipate trying to work out a long-term deal with Tre’Davious White this offseason?
A: I don’t really get into contracts, but I’m very proud of Tre’Davious, he’s a guy we want here for (the) long term. He’s exactly what I just said: draft, develop—and he has developed, is still developing—I think he can be better than he even was this year. The thing I was real proud about Tre’Davious this year, most of his play has been steady the whole time, this year he took the ball away, which was big for our defense.
Q: You referenced Josh trying to do too much. It seemed like after the Week 4 game against the Patriots, that since then he did a lot better job at it. Why do you think it came back like it did in the playoffs?
A: Again, I think the momentum had changed and I think most of the things that he did in the second half was when the momentum changed and I’ve got to make a play for this team. And again, that’s his first time in the playoffs. And I think he’ll learn from it. I have no doubt he’ll learn from it. I’m as convinced today as ever that Josh can be a better version of himself next year. It’s hard to play quarterback, it’s the hardest position and I know everyone here and obviously everyone in this community is focused on our quarterback. But I study quarterbacks from other teams as well and see how they do. And I’m very proud of where Josh is at.
Q: At defensive line, you’ve got some issues. You might lose Shaq [Lawson] and Jordan Phillips. Jerry Hughes is going to be 32, I think. Trent Murphy is going to be 30 and Star Lotulelei. Is that an area that you really have to kind of hit this offseason?
A: Yeah, I do think, that was my point to Vic [Carucci] earlier when he mentioned receiver, we’re a lot of positions away that we’ve got to clean up or answer, whether it’s resigning a free agent, some of the guys you mentioned, some guys that are aging. We do want to continue to get young, we added some young guys last year in Ed Oliver and Harrison Phillips will come back as a young player. I know everybody probably forgets about him because he got injured early in the year and then, you know, Darryl Johnson I thought did some really good things. Didn’t get as many reps being the fourth guy, but he showed some promise. I think a year, just him growing and learning, I think he’ll offer more next year. But yeah, we do have to pay attention to that. We believe in being strong up front, so we’ll definitely have to pay attention.
Q: Do you need a dominant edge guy? Your guys on the edge this year were pretty good, but you don’t have that Von Miller. Do you need one of those guys?
A: You’d love to have one, you really would. There’s not even 32 of them, though, one for each team. So, I promise you we’re looking for those guys and would love pressuring the quarterback. If the quarterback’s on his backside, he can’t do too much damage to us so we want to be strong up front, we want to stop the run, things like that. But at the end of the day, there’s only so many Von Millers and that type of player.
Q: What you saw from Cody [Ford] this year and the way the roster is structured, do you see him long term as a tackle or is that still yet to be determined?
A: Yeah, I mean I love Cody’s versatility and Cody got some great experience this year. I think if you look at rookie tackles across the league over the last few years, very rarely do they go out there and just dominate and you don’t look to help them at all. And I think Cody had some really good moments. He had some moments that he learned. Playing at, just take his situation, playing at Oklahoma, never being a three-point stance. It’s a big change to then do that. He’s not facing DeMarcus Lawrence, Von Miller, J.J. Watt. You just, you can’t replicate that stuff. We can try to tell him to practice that all day long, but until you go through it and feel that speed and feel that speed in an away stadium, where you’re going off silent count and that guy’s coming off the ball at the same time you are. At home, it’s a little bit easier because you can time up your cadence. On the road you can’t. You’re out there on an island, trying to look back at the ball, you’re trying not to jump. Overall, Cody did some really good things. I would say we love his versatility and, you know, we like that with all our o-linemen. Jon Feliciano did a great job this year when Mitch [Morse] went down a couple times, being able to jump in at center. So, we just look at him as a versatile piece. I’m not going to stamp him in as tackle or guard. We’ll see how it plays out this offseason.
Q: Do NFL teams need elite quarterback play in order to win a Super Bowl? If so, what did Josh show you that would make you believe that he could get there?
A: Yeah, we don’t win ten games without Josh Allen, first off. He did a lot of great things. Was everything perfect? No. Elite quarterback—it’s a quarterback league, so if you do have elite quarterback play it definitely ups your odds. I don’t want to sit here and say you can’t win a Super Bowl without an elite quarterback. There have been some cases, but generally speaking, most of the teams that advance in the playoffs year after year and the teams that are steady, winning their division, have good quarterback play.
Q: As a follow up, there’s a general school of thought that I’ve been told, among NFL personnel people, that with young quarterbacks the jump from year two to year three, that oftentimes is when the most progress is made. Given what you’ve seen from Josh [Allen], is that your expectation for him? And the fact that he’s got a postseason game under his belt, how much does that help with that?
A: Yeah, I think it does help. I think we were, that was one of the things that I was excited about, making the playoffs. I wish I wasn’t up here right now. I wish we were still preparing for another game, but that he now has one playoff and a road playoff game under his belt, you can’t replicate it. So, I do think—I have no doubt that Josh is going to come back. He is so hungry, so determined to, he knows he has doubters. He knows all the people; from the day he was drafted and still today. He understands that’s the world we live in. He can play three good games but the first time he has a bad game all the naysayers are going to jump on him. He is self-aware, he understands what he has to do and again, Sean and I, we have no doubt that Josh will come back here an even better version in 2020 than he was this year.
Q: Were you satisfied with some of the, Sean addressed this earlier, were you satisfied with some of the answers that you got from the controversial calls in that Texans game? Is that good enough, what they told you?
A: You know, we can only control what we control. That’s the best thing I can say. I don’t agree with everything, but I always look at it as what we can control, and we do try and learn from it. We do reach out to the league to understand why calls are made so that we can teach our players and coach them better if it is a foul that maybe they still say as a foul or is not. But things happen, there’s human error all the time in games, but if we make certain plays, maybe it doesn’t come down to a controversial call. That’s probably the best way I can do it without losing any money in my wallet.
Q: Sean was up here stressing continuity and keeping the team intact. I know you want to add competition at positions but what is the importance and how much do you feel this team is in place and you need that group moving forward? I guess, continuity being the issue.
A: Yeah, I do agree with continuity. The more cohesive you are out there—this is the ultimate team sport. I think—I don’t know what Sean said but I know how we think—I would say we want to keep as many intact as we can, but we wouldn’t do it in spite of upgrading a clear upgrade. But if you’re talking about, I’m bringing in a guy with a similar skill set, why would I do that if this guy can do it. I’m looking for, if we’re going to change out guys, other than people that leave in free agency that we can’t control, we do believe in continuity and we want to keep as many of this core, these guys that we’ve drafted and spent time developing and learning our system. We do want to keep them, and that’s our plan here so hopefully we’ll just be able to add some pieces here and there to help us take the next step.
Q: Can you give us an overall assessment of the rookie class, in terms of their contributions?
A: Yeah. We’ll start with Ed [Oliver]. I thought Ed did a really good job, you know, first year. He came out and I thought he had a really good camp. I think when we got into games, maybe early on, he was swimming a little bit. In fairness to Ed, at Houston he played just over the nose, playing the three-tech was different. And so, I think once the game started slowing down, I think the best thing that happened was he had Jordan Phillips here, and Jordan had stepped up his game. And so, we play who has earned it, and Ed could’ve sulked, he could’ve moped. He took it in stride, and I was very impressed, and he picked his game up. I think he ended the season playing well. And I’m hoping this will be a very good offseason for him, entering next year. We talked about Cody [Ford]. Devin [Singletary] was our next pick and I thought Devin had a really good year. I hate he had the hamstring setback. I think that hurt us a little bit and slowed his development. But you saw it as the year went on, he began to get more and more touches in the games whether it’s the pass game or the run game. Dawson [Knox], I briefly mentioned earlier, I thought he did a nice job being thrown in as a rookie. You know, for him it was probably a blessing that Tyler [Kroft] got hurt, so he got more reps. Not all those reps came out the way he wanted, but again he got experience. He made some big plays for us. I think we’ll all remember the Cincinnati play he made when we were down in that game and needed a big one. But I know he’ll be the first to tell you he left a few out there, but like where he’s at and what a pro. I have to think of who’s next. Vosean [Joseph] was out. Jaquan [Johnson] did a really good job on [special] teams, got a chance to play in the Jets game and did some good things. He would’ve had that INT if we didn’t have the penalty. And then I mentioned Darryl [Johnson] earlier. And then, Tommy Sweeney, talk about a guy who played early, Tyler [Kroft] comes back. He played in the Jets game against their starters and made some big plays for us and it was a tough decision, whether we would activate him each week and even into last week going into Houston
Q: With regards to Frank Gore, how do you weigh what he brings to the room and what he’s brought to, maybe his leadership with Devin, versus what was a pretty noticeable declining statistical production over the second half of the season?
A: Yeah, I mean, good question Jay [Skurski]. I love Frank Gore. I think I told you when we signed him that I was a fan. It was funny, when I was looking up something on Lorenzo [Alexander], I was like I think it’s almost the same age as Frank. May of 1983, you’re talking about two tough dudes that were born on opposite ends of the country. Frank was just, he brought so much, and I don’t think Devin has all the success that he had this year without him. To where he goes next, I’m not sure. At the end of the year, a guy at his age—It was super awesome to watch him climb into third in the rushing stats. But we’ll let him decide what he’s going to do and we’ll self-inventory ourselves and make a decision. But nothing has been determined from him, whether he wants to continue playing. And then on the other end, whether we would have a spot for him back.
Q: Since you got here in 2017, how do you think that the perception of Buffalo has changed from a free agent standpoint?
A: You know, it’s funny, last year I had to defend Buffalo up here, I think. Didn’t I? I think that people understand and see what we’re building here. I think people across the league see that we have a young quarterback that’s developing and growing. I think that those can be attractive pieces. You look at what Green Bay did all those years with Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers and that group. If you have a quarterback, someone to build around, I think those are attractive things. I think people see that we play selfless football and we have guys that are going to fight. Not everything was pretty the other day, but I thought it was a good show that this team is going to fight 60 minutes—60 plus minutes on Saturday. And that we’re hopefully considered a young team on the rise and an attractive place. I mean, it’s not for me to determine, but that would be the part that I would sell for anyone that was looking at Buffalo.
Q: Do you worry about fans expecting too much? You and Sean [McDermott] both know from Carolina that it’s common for a team to win double digits and then not finish over .500 the next year.
A: Yeah, actually, good question, Jerry [Sullivan]. I mentioned that, I don’t talk to the team at all, except kind of at the end of the year, beginning and the end and I mentioned that. That one of the big tests for teams that start making the playoffs is other coaches, when you play them the next year, will use that as a measuring stick. This is a team that won the division or advanced in the playoffs or whatever. So, you’re going to get everyone’s best next season and you have to be prepared for it. There’s no sneaking up on anyone or people underestimating the Buffalo Bills. So, that’ll be a different test and we didn’t always answer that in Carolina and Sean and I talked about that. That will be something that we’ll definitely focus on this offseason into training camp.
Q: Sean [McDermott] mentioned the need for urgency this offseason. How do you balance that as you’re making roster decisions? You’ve had such a patient approach in your first three-ish seasons. How do you balance that while also sprinkling in some of that urgency, without getting carried away?
A: Yeah, I mean, urgency is defined in a lot of different ways I’d say, Matt [Fairburn]. I don’t think you’re going to see us go crazy because again, it goes back to that one player away. I don’t think we’re there. We have to continue to build it and as much as I’d like to have three drafts within four months apart or something like that and just continue to draft a bunch of young guys and add them into our group. You have to be patient; you have to still do it the right way. If it’s going to last and be sustained success, we want to be urgent in our approach, we want to press our guys, we want to turn every switch and button that we can to win as many games and make it much further than we did this year, but we’re not changing the plan. We’re still going to draft, develop and sign and sprinkle in free agents where we need holes. But I wouldn’t expect us to make some radical, trade all our draft picks or do anything like that or we’ve got to get this player to get us over the hump.
Q: How important was it for Josh [Allen] to have stability at offensive coordinator from year one to year two? You look at the 2018 class, not everybody did, and it turned out differently for those guys.
A: I think going forward, a lot of our guys on offense will be back, and so I think that will help. I do think continuity, to John [Wawrow]’s question earlier, is important. And we’ve had more of that, more stability. Of the three phases we’ve had the most constant on defense and I think that showed in the stats. We’ve got to build that continuity on offense and I think year two, this will now be year three in Brian [Daboll]’s system, then it’ll be year two for John Brown, Cole Beasley, a lot of these o-linemen that we brought in. So, you got to think that we’ll be able to pick up in a different place in April and May when they get back than where we were a year ago, when they were just having to learn the play calls and where to line up, if that makes sense. Does that answer your question, Sal [Capaccio]?
Q: I’m wondering from Josh [Allen] specifically. From year one to year two, you see so much upheaval from other quarterbacks around the league, new OCs, new quarterback coaches. How much has that really helped him, if he would’ve had another OC from year one to year two?
A: Yeah, it’s hard. You’ve seen some of these quarterbacks over the years—I don’t want to mention their names, but you guys know them—they get talked about, where this is the fourth coordinator in five years, the third head coach or things like that. And I think that’s what’s great about Terry [Pegula] and Kim [Pegula], back to when I came in and interviewed we talked about stability for this organization was probably the thing that it lacked before, and that was the thing that needed to get fixed first. And that goes for all of us, but it definitely helps Josh and hopefully we can continue that with him and Brian [Daboll] and Ken Dorsey now in year two and as many players as possible.
Q: With $89 million being the projected cap space and that number can change based on some moves and decisions you make, but when you hear that number, how much flexibility does that give you and what’s your interpretation of that amount of money?
A: It gives you a lot of flexibility, the more cap space you have. Now obviously we want to begin re-signing some of our own guys and putting those funds there, so I don’t know what it’ll be by the time free agency (hits) and then you have to hold money for the draft. But it gives us a lot of flexibility. I love to have money in the bank if we need to make a move in August, September, whatever. Sometimes when you are cap strapped you can’t do that, so it’s currency just like draft picks. It will allow us to do what we need to do to get better. We aren’t going to not be able to sign a guy or not be able to trade for a guy because we don’t have the cap space. We want to be cap strong as long as we can. Hopefully Josh [Allen] continues to ascend and hopefully he makes us pay him some of those hefty salaries at that time, which we want to be able to be in cap strength to handle that as well, and not all of a sudden sign a quarterback and then have to release three other players just to stay under the cap. Does that make sense? So, it’s not just that $89 million that you were referring to this year, it’s making sure we are cap strong 2021, 2022 and beyond.
Q: What was your review of the season Shaq Lawson and Jordan Phillips had heading into free agency?
A: I was very proud of both those guys. I’ll take Shaq [Lawson] first, we didn’t pick up his option and that can go one of two ways. He can sulk and say “I’m out of here” or anything like that. Shaq took it in stride, and we challenged him and told him, Listen Shaq, us not picking up your option has nothing to do with us wanting you here, it’s just where we are at this time. We would love for you to have a great year and sign you to a long term (contract). So, I was very happy with Shaq and we will obviously talk to his representatives. I thought Jordan [Phillips] really stepped his game up this year on the field but also bringing some young guys along. I thought he was good with Ed [Oliver] and just showing him some different things. I think Jordan still has room to grow. Again, he had a career year sack production, so he has earned the right to see what his value is on the market and we’ll just have to see where that goes.
Q: Do you feel like your roster is in a good enough spot where you can now have the option to potentially get into compensatory draft picks?
A: We are getting there. I would love to say we are at that point where we are going to get them. I think they do help you. We’ve had to use other avenues, whether it’s trading a player at the end of camp or things like that to add some of those picks that you can get. The more we can continue to draft and just re-sign our own, and then when you lose a few and not have to dig into the free-agent market, it helps. I think we are getting there. We don’t have a lot of free agents this year so I’m not sure this is the year, but I think in time as we build this—the teams that have taken advantage of it have been the teams with stability and not having a bunch of changes. We are still early in this going into year four of a total rebuild, so I think Sean [McDermott] and I will get there with that, but I can’t say this will definitely be a year that’ll happen.
Q: Quinton Spain said that he told his agent that if you guys want him back, he’d like to get something done before free agency. Not to get into him specifically, but what’s your philosophy on that? Do you identify your own guys or do you want them to have the right to go and see and then come back to you?
A: If you have a guy that you want, whatever player it is, you’d love to go ahead and get something done before they get to free agency. But I also respect the business part of it. We have to make business decisions that are sometimes painful, because you get to be around these guys, and you love them, and you appreciate what they’ve done for you. I don’t hold it against any of them if they say hey I really want to be here, but I want to wait a little closer to free agency and get a feel for my market because maybe I don’t think where your offer is at, I think I can get more, or I just want to make sure before I commit. Some guys are like I just want to be here and that’s what I want to be and that’s great for us or whatever team they like. A lot of guys or their agents may say let us see what’s out there and let’s circle back closer to free agency. There’s different times these agents fill out and find the market. Any guy that says I definitely want to be here, and we can be on the same page of their value that we want, we’d love to go ahead and get them done as soon as possible.
Q: What’s that say about this organization, where it is, when you have guys right when the season ends that say, “I want to be here?”
A: That’s what you want. It’s much better than the alternative where they’re speeding out of here and leaving skid marks in the parking lot. I didn’t know he said that, but that’s great to hear that Q [Quinton Spain] said that and we’ll see where that goes.