Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane held a virtual press conference with select members of the media on Thursday to discuss the moves have made in 2020 NFL Free Agency, the upcoming NFL Draft, the NFL and Bills’ response to the Coronavirus, the current roster, the Stefon Diggs trade and a lot of other topics. What follows is nearly 10,000 words of unedited transcript sent to us by the Bills’ media department after Beane spoke for more than an hour. We also embedded the video if you want to watch.
Opening Statement: First, I want to wish, some of you may know Buddy Baker, an agent of the business for 20-plus years. Really good guy. And this this thing we’re all dealing with struck him very close, he lost both parents this weekend within about 10 minutes apart. So, very sad deal. And a lot of, we all probably know people that this is touched, but I just want to wish Buddy and his family all the best through such a trying time.
Also I want to just thank our first responders doctors, nurses, all the people on the front line. Pharmacists, the people at the grocery store, I mean just people that are willing to deliver groceries. Any others, I know I’m leaving people out because I don’t know everything that everybody’s doing. You know I don’t have a voice and a microphone a lot right now, we are behind the scenes getting ready for the draft, but I wanted to take this time and make sure you know, I really appreciate everyone as this type of Bills family and I’m sure Bills Mafia the fact that as well.
And then last, you know the Buffalo community. Seeing all the people just coming together trying to help as only Buffalo will do. You know, it’s been great to see all sorts of fundraisers and still working on finalizing something here, but we’ve got a pretty cool little deal (to announce) Monday. I was hoping to get it ready by now but not quite ready but Monday, we are going to partner with the United Way to have, obviously I’m going to make a donation, but a way for our fans to do it. I think it’s a pretty neat little contest to help raise awareness and be involved with the Bills as well, so think Monday morning, Derek and his staff are going to help coordinate and get that out. So with that, I’ll open up the questions on free agency or draft, or whatever you guys have.
Q: I know there’s been some reporting and sourcing on how exactly the Stefon Diggs trade came about. Can you just kind of give us in your own way a timeline of how things unfolded for you?
A: Yeah, so it was that Monday, the negotiating period started around noon so you know late afternoon, I don’t know exactly the time. Four or 4:30, somewhere in there. We reached out and just kind of, as we do you know all the time we hear rumors on, some of the same rumors we heard at the trade deadline last season on guys. I think it was pretty open that we were, we were snooping around midseason to make a trade for another receiver and we just couldn’t find a deal that worked for us. And you know, Stefon was one that we had looked into at that point, along with some other guys. And, you know, Minnesota was not willing to part with him at that point, but we checked back in, and it didn’t seem like a definitive 100% no. They just said, ‘Listen we’re not shopping him. We just agreed to a contract a little over a year ago.’ So talked to them, and they just said, ‘Listen, we’ll listen, but it’s got to be something, because you know we got to replace this guy, and he’s our number one receiver.’ And so did that. Then you know we were talking to other receivers agents, working through seeing what was available, what our options were. And then at the end of the night I told Minnesota, ‘Hey, we’ll circle back.’ And they, they were starting to get a little antsy because they were getting pressure, you know, there were some other teams involved. And so, we worked on it probably around 9:45 or so and I think 20 to 30 minutes later, we got it knocked out.
Q: Why was this a move that you felt like your team needed to make at this particular time.
A: Yeah, I mean, I said it at the end of season press conference. I blamed myself as much as anybody. It’s my job and my personnel staff’s job to add weapons to help run Brian Daboll and his staff, help our quarterback, help Sean. And so one of the things that I thought we still needed, hence I was referring to us snooping around at the trade deadline was finding somebody opposite John Brown to pair with Cole Beasley. And, again, the draft was is stacked with receivers as well. We’ve talked about that before. But I think it became ever present with what’s going on around us, that we don’t know what kind of offseason we’ll have. And I just felt like it was going to be really hard, unless I trade it up really high to find a guy that I know could walk in, day one. Let’s just say it’s August before we get back to things. You know, I just felt a proven commodity was worth this. The trade value of this move probably moved us up three to four slots from 22, might of got us to 18 or 19, not as high as I thought we had to get to get one of those premier guys that I knew would walk in the door, even August 1, and be ready to roll.
Q: Do you consider Stefon Diggs almost like your first round draft pick? And how are you guys doing the draft preparation given everything going on in the world?
A: It is one of those things where I view it that’s our first round pick. The way I’m viewing it with the draft capital that we moved to acquire him is we moved up, let’s just say four spots. We traded up there, and we got him. And we know the player. It’s just a more proven thing right now. And again, what we’re dealing with. What did weigh into it is, I know this guy knows ball and we’ll be able to understand the verbiage of our system quicker than, a lot of this stuff in college is all signaled in. A lot of these guys aren’t in huddles, so the biggest transition for these receivers beyond the routes and the physical stuff is just hearing these long play calls in the huddle and processing in their head from as little as ‘Do I go left? Do I go right? Am I on the ball? Am I off the ball?’ Now I got to start reading what coverage they’re in to know what route they are in. You know all those things, the mental part is so hard and that’s why I think so many receivers, we talk about all the time probably one of the higher bust rates across the league. I think it’s more mental than physical.
The second question, this is definitely different. You know I really feel like our scouts have done a great job in the fall of talking about who these guys were. We had guys at East West, NFLPA, Senior Bowl. We did have the Combine. So we had our formals, but we also try and get around some of the guys, and I can’t get around them all, but I tried to spread things out. So I feel like we got to know some of these guys. The next step is doing some FaceTimes, Zoom, whatever video conference that you use. We’re trying to do those in lieu of these 30 visits and I think that’s helping. Is it the same as bringing a guy in your building or going on campus and being able to take him out to dinner, getting him in a meeting room? Probably not, but it’s equal. It’s across the (board), everybody’s dealing with the same thing. So we’ll get to the right answer here within a few weeks.
Q: How did the familiarity with all of the former Carolina players factor into your decision to sign them?
A: Yeah, I think that does help. And that’s part of it in planning. These were some guys that we did target. Obviously when we signed Josh (Norman), we didn’t know this was going to break out like it has. Josh was just a familiarity thing. We didn’t feel like the system that he was in in Washington played to his strengths and we think he fits our scheme well. Knowing Josh, I don’t think he liked the way things went there this past season. Any of the guys who have ever been around him, he’s a great young man who plays with a chip on his shoulder. He’ll bring an edge to our defense and I think he’s got something to prove that’s what we’re betting on here. Obviously he’s got to go out and prove that he can still play at a level that we would deem acceptable. AJ Klein. familiarity with him. Obviously, he left around the same time I left, he went to New Orleans. You know, Vernon Butler, Mario [Addison]… Mario is a guy that, when I was the interim GM for those 10 weeks…. Jerry Richardson was crazy enough to let me do that. Mario was a guy that I stole off of the Redskins practice squad, he had bounced around that year through several teams. Coincidentally, he and Jerry Hughes, I found this out later. But they had lived together a little bit during that that rookie year when he was in Indianapolis. So both those guys have kept in touch with each other and I think we’re excited to reunite here towards the, you know, the twilight years of their career. But Mario is just a real pro. And I know where his age is, but you watch the film, and he’s still getting it done. And so, I think he’s still got gas left in the tank and he’ll bring an edge of toughness and he’s just a really good rusher. You guys know we added Eric Washington. I think there was a natural fit there. Transitioning to Vernon Butler, you know the lights seem to come on a little bit for Vernon last year. First few years probably weren’t up to where we saw his talent level when we drafted him in first round but I think he had six or six and a half sacks last season, and just felt like the light was starting to come on. I kind of view him, you know, how we got Jordan Phillips. Maybe a guy who, not everything had played out perfectly yet, you know, Jordan was a second round pick. And we just feel like our system fits Vernon the way Jordan did it, and hopefully he can get to the level that Jordan did before Jordan left for Arizona.
Q: I wanted to ask a little bit more about the draft and how things are changing. Do you think this will change how you view some guys that maybe had an extra question, you know that you couldn’t check off? Whether it was character or injury. Will it change your strategy or how you view certain players?
A: Yeah, good question. We are trying to close the loop so to speak. Medically, character, learns, and there’s still some guys we see the physical play on the field looks good, but back to the learns that I was talking about receivers earlier, so we’re trying to close as many loops as we can, either through our medical staff making calls to trainers, doctors, whatever. Especially, the bigger medical concerns would be anybody that was supposed to come back to the rechecks, or non-combine guys. Our guys are working to get some answers from some of the fellow trainers, doctors, at some of these schools where these guys were that were not invited to the combine. So, yes. Short answer here is there may be some loops that we can’t close. If we can’t close them, those would probably be guys that might slide a little bit for us, maybe I’m not as comfortable in the second, third round, but maybe I’d be a little more comfortable in the fourth, fifth or beyond that, if that makes sense.
Q: New Orleans just announced that they’re going to be having their draft war room in one of the Benson owned breweries. What are your plans in regards to that? The second thing is how much with how things were ramping up on the coronavirus thing, did you need to change your approach to look for an established receiver because there was uncertainty there. How quickly did you change that approach and how much could that change?
A: Yeah, I mean, it definitely was in the thought process when we decided to make the trade. We were looking at also options in the free agent market at receiver, because, those guys would be veterans that we knew would be able to come in and understand our verbiage quicker than a rookie. So, it definitely played into it, but it still had to be the right person and the right fit. No, you don’t want to force something that you don’t think is right. Obviously, time will tell if this move for Stefon was right. Sometimes best laid plans don’t always translate but we’re confident and that’s why we swung the first round pick. You guys know I love draft picks. And that was not easy for me to part with the first round pick but at the same time I view this as our first round pick and I thought it was good for the value of getting a guy like Stefon. Your other questions, the league is still going through some things as to what the setup is going to be. I know there’s a lot of things floating around out there. Some people saying it’s 10 people, some people saying two people. I think by the end of this week or Monday, we’re going to have, you know, a final answer of where our draft will be, but we’ve got options if we can’t do it at the facility. And then we’re planning, if they relent and say we can go there I think that’s still an option on the table right now but the final answer John is unknown, so we’ll be ready. Wherever they tell us, if we got to draft in my car, we’ll draft there.
Q: You know you’ve talked to us extensively about how you and your staff do all these draft preparations and go through a myriad of different scenarios trying to prepare for where you’re picking. Now without a first round pick, how much more difficult does that become predicting the 53 things that are going to happen in front of you? And how is it maybe altering your approach in terms of direction?
A: Yeah, day one will be hard. We just got to play some videos of Stefon Diggs when 22 comes up. But beyond that, we’ll just be patient and go through it and watch it all and then the big thing will be when day one is over, which we do whether we have a pick or not, we’ll stay there for a little bit and stare at the board and start looking over. Okay, what’s on the board that we like here. Is there anybody left in our first round guys, guys we gave first round grades to. Is there anybody there? Obviously those are targets. How long before a guy stays there before we make a move like Cody Ford last year, whatever. And then secondly is start looking at all the teams in front of us and what their needs are. Let’s just say we were looking at receiver and let’s say we have three receivers there in the second round. And how many teams that didn’t take a receiver in the first that we have penciled as a team that we see a receiver need for maybe they reach here in the second round for that guy and will the third guy get to us? Maybe we love to have any of these three, if two of them go, do we want to be aggressive and go get that other one? Or do we want to be patient, maybe we get one in the third round and focus on another position. That’ll be my plan. Watch day one. And then see what’s on the board for us going in to be ready for day two.
Q: What’s the message you’re getting from the league on how this season will proceed and how are you dealing with that?
A: Yeah, I’m just taking it one day at a time with any unknowns. I know there’s all sorts of things out there. You know people are speculating, you know, I’ve seen people speculating even on the college game saying maybe there’s no season, NFL maybe. I think there’s just so much out there, I think there’s too many unknowns. And I think if you really talk to people in the know, everyone would love to get back to normal, but, you know, right now, this crisis and the health of our country and our world is number one. And so, my focus right now is what’s in front of me and that is the draft. When we get done with that, you know, maybe I’ll dig in a little deeper and see where things are on May 1st. And then June 1st, but we’re going to be ready for all scenarios. Sean and I’ve had meetings with coaches, personnel, football ops, all sorts of people just planning for whatever hand we’re dealt. And I think that’s the best we can all do no matter what our profession is.
Q: Being in pro sports, can you give a sense of what it was like for you seeing the other major sports leagues shut down for the time being and also can you envision games being played in front of 70,000 at New Era Field any time soon?
A: Yeah, a lot of unknowns. I mean I’ve talked to my parents about it and you know they’re in their 70’s and I asked if you’ve ever seen anything like this and the answer was immediately no. I don’t think anybody saw this, you know, we’re at the combine what five six weeks ago, and I don’t think anybody saw this coming at all. It seemed like it was a distant problem that, hopefully, you know, another country would be able to get resolved. I mean we go to the combine, I was traveling to pro days. I was at Clemson, and then literally things just started changing, not by the hour but by the minute. And we went from going to pro days to three hours later I was getting all my guys off the road and trying to figure out how I was getting back home. And it just kept changing, you know by the minute. So, I don’t think any of us saw where we’re at. But, you know, it stinks. You know I know everybody’s ready to get life back to normal. But again, this is bigger than sports. We all got to do the right thing and social distance and flatten the curve and all the things that everybody’s saying to do. As hard as it is, you know I think it’ll pay off in the end and I look forward to that day when we get past it.
Q: In your gut, do you think the NFL season is in jeopardy?
A: I just don’t know. I wouldn’t want to comment either way because I’m not in the know enough. I’ve really just been focusing on the Buffalo Bills, and paying attention to, you know, the governors and the leaders of our country. Beyond that, I think there’s too many unknowns, to make decisions. You see some of these majors sporting events being canceled. So of course, every option to me is on the table. But I’m an optimist too. And so I’m going to think positive and hope that there is some type of season, but again I really don’t know Leo. I just look forward, as I’m sure everybody on this call does too, when we can get past it and get back to normal.
Q: How have you and the organization wrapped your heads around how this is changing how you do things? Messaging is a big deal in your organization especially, what has it been like to get everyone on the same page?
A: Yeah. I wish I had bought stock in Zoom a month ago when I was leaving Indianapolis. We’ve been using a lot of Zoom, I know some of our people been using (Microsoft) Teams. It was like for a week everybody just kind of went in a hole and just kind of paid attention and trying to do your job watching film whatever getting ready for the draft or free agency. Since then, I’ve been trying to schedule weekly meetings with various people. My sports science and medical team and my strength department, and, talking about if we don’t have an offseason program. What are programs that when we’re allowed to connect with our players virtually that we can get with them? Just all the different things that we have to plan for the unknown right now and we’ve got to be ready. Just like we got to be ready to either draft in, you know, somebody’s house or cars or else or our facility. We got to be ready to conduct some type of offseason program, whether it’s remote or not, we got to be ready. You know, we still have to plan for, even if we don’t have an offseason program, to go to training camp at some point and be ready to roll. And so I think we’re looking at it and the challenge within our organization is to find competitive advantage. All 32 are dealing with this, this unknown. And, you know, Sean and I are not wired to sit still, we’re trying to find ways. And so, I think one of the things people, you know people like that I found is just that interaction even if we can just do a roundtable seeing people’s faces, like right now seeing you guys. You’re stuck in a house or apartment or wherever your residence is and you’re not going out and so sometimes just seeing people’s face helps cheer you up a little bit so we’ve been between Sean and I we’ve been trying to schedule that with as many people as we can and keep people knowing we’re taking a positive approach to this and that we’re going to come out stronger on the other side and I think that’s the only way you can leave.
Q: Obviously, it’s well known that (Diggs) wanted out of Minnesota and that he was very public about wanting out of there and his dissatisfaction with the quarterback situation there. So that would lead to the obvious question of the kind of player that wouldn’t seemingly be high on your list of player, focusing on what wasn’t right for him and get me out of here. How did you resolve that this guy could in fact fit into yours and Sean’s program?
A: You know, I think one of the misnomers out there is that we’re looking for all choir boys and that’s not accurate. We’re looking for professionals. I would say this about him, he’s a very competitive guy. He was one of the guys that we looked at around the trade deadline so we did some recon there. You know, Terrance Gray was in Minnesota when they drafted him. So Terrance is still very connected there and was around him before coming to Buffalo. There were other you know connections from people that coached him in college with people on our staff so we did do some digging. And again, this guy’s a super competitive guy and brings an edge to that position. I know diva gets put into that position a lot, I would not call this guy a diva. I would call him more of I think what he was referring to Josh Allen is, as a dog. And, again, I think he will fit in, I don’t know all, everything that went on in Minnesota. I’m sure like anything there’s two sides to every story I’m sure there’s things that he probably wishes he would maybe have handled better in retrospect, but it’s a clean slate here. And, you know, we believe in our culture and we believe the facts that we know about him. We believe he will be a fit here.
Q: You referenced that everybody’s sort of in it together all 32 teams, but you also just were talking about the offseason, and the offseason plan and you don’t know what it is. So, if you think about the difference between the changes you made a year ago, and the changes you’ve made now, I mean you revamped the entire offense. Does that not give you an edge? I guess if you look at the difference between what you were trying to accomplish offensively with an offseason bringing everybody in and this year when you don’t know when you’re going to get all your players together, but most of your offense especially is coming back this year.
A: Yeah, I think it’s a year or two. Our offensive line has made some really good improvements obviously that was a major overhaul a year ago. And that was one of the things that I was answering questions and I know Sean (McDermott) was as well as how soon are these guys going to get on the same page, you got five guys trying to work in the court. And so, I am happy that this was not the year that that happened, knowing the uncertainty of what the offseason will look like. So, we will have, you know, at a minimum, right now we do have those same five, but we’ll see what happens in the draft but that helps. It helps on the quarterback, running back, all four tight ends that played last year plus Jason Croom is healthy again so the continuity I think will help us on offense. It’s funny, we’ve probably had more changes on defense. You know than we did on offense, but we still feel like, you know, to Marcel’s question earlier, bringing in some of the people that Sean and I are or Eric (Washington). Quinton Jefferson, Dan Morgan was very familiar with him with his time in Seattle. We just, I know everybody, always talks about Panther people to Buffalo, but it’s really more about people of familiarity and that went in to bringing E.J. Gaines back. With E.J. knows the defense, he knows what’s expected and we know that he can come right in and do that. I would say the only guy that we didn’t really have anybody that had been around was Matakevich, but he was a guy special teams wise, and we brought Taiwan Jones back. We just felt special teams it’s one of the things that we haven’t talked about yet either is something that we weren’t good enough. We had improved from the year before, but not good enough to be elite. And so bringing Taiwan back to help on our coverage teams as a gunner and Matakevich which was just a real ass kicker on special teams and so excited to add him. He’s really probably the one guy that nobody had really been around. Everybody else we had some familiarity and I do think that will help us whenever we do return.
Q: Like everybody else said thanks for doing this for all of us, but kind of want to look at a different angle of the, of the [Stefon] Diggs trade. Was this the combination of a long process because you guys did a nice job you in particular adding all these all this draft capital, getting all these draft picks so that eventually either you could trade up in the draft to go get the guy you wanted, or make a trade for a veteran who’s established like Diggs. Was this the culmination of something that you guys have been planning and plotting for a while now?
A: Yeah, I mean, from the standpoint of, you never know what opportunities are going to be presented Josh. But, one of the things that, you know, in our build right now we haven’t been able to - I get asked about it – a decent amount. I know you know with comp picks and Joe’s been on me about comp picks and what’s up Joe? And so, it’s one of those things where we haven’t been able to do that with where we are in the build. But last year we add enough depth and we had some before went up where I’ve been able to move some guys late in August, to get us some picks that maybe okay they weren’t competent but they were still picks that we could use. So, the plan is to always be in cap strength and in draft picks strength, like this presents itself. I mean there are certain teams that I would like to have traded for, Stefon Diggs or some of these other players have been traded for but didn’t have the cap space. Or didn’t have the capital to do it so will we have that every year Josh? I don’t know, but this is all been a plan to have our caps strong and have the draft picks to be able to send them to acquire a veteran player or to move up and down the draft how we want. When we want to acquire seeing if there’s a guy that I think fits a need and the value you know that’s probably where I get some people maybe say too aggressive in the draft, but if there’s a guy that I think is a real sure fit – If I overpaid a little bit, so be it. It’s better than waiting, sitting on my hands and I’m not really fired up about a guy when my pick comes up. That’s just my viewpoint, that may not be 31 other GMs but that’s how I see it.
Q: As well as I can be of course. When you make a move like acquiring some of the talent, like Stefon Diggs, you’re adding now a third very good wide receiver to the mix your team offensive scheme really has been geared towards running the football since you’ve gotten here. Does this mean now things are going to open up a little more, and we’re going to see Josh throw it more with these type of weapons around him.
A: Yeah, I mean, you do have to be able to throw the ball and the key in this league is you got to be able to throw it when the other team knows you’re going to throw it, because you can’t control things. Penalties happen, lost yardage whatever you’re going to be in third and long when everybody in the building knows you got to throw the ball and win. In those situations, that is an area we have to improve, and I think we still we don’t want to just throw in every game, it’ll still be team-specific and opponent-specific. If we feel we’re playing an opponent and they’re weak with us running up the middle or running on the edges or screen game, whatever it is, you know, Brian Daball and his staff, they will they will see that and that’s what they will attack. So I wouldn’t say hey the Bills are going to go out and throw it 40 times every week, but if it’s a game that we have to throw it 40 times and we’re playing against one of these high powered offenses that we got to keep up, then that’s what we want to be able to – we want to be able to play any style that you know that we need to. But we still want to be rough and tough. We want to host games in January, and we want to be able to run that rock when it’s windy or snowy. We want to be able to play for all conditions and I think it starts with a quarterback. You know how he’s built physically and mentally to be able to do that.
Q: We mentioned you know so many of the new faces and the new players that you guys have added, but you mentioned before the continuity and the consistency, which of course is your offensive line now after re-signing Quinton Spain. How big is that especially with, you know, so much of the unknown with everything that’s going on, but you have now all of those starters coming back where spent so much time rebuilding important is that have that consistency and continuity with bringing him back now.
A: Yeah, I think it’s great. We have offensive line coaches are back. We have that starting five and we’ve got some of the depth players that were here last year as well. Ty Nsekhe is healthy again, Spencer long, Ike Boettger and Ryan Bates. All those guys are back so we didn’t lose anybody up front, and you know we’ll see. We added Darryl Williams, again, another guy I was familiar with that can come in and he’ll compete Darryl, you know this is one of the guys haven’t talked about yet Heather, but he’s a guy that unfortunately he was playing out of position last year. Carolina needed – they had a need at left tackle, and he started the first three or four games there. And that’s not his position he’s a right guard/ right tackle, and I think when he moved after they got their left tackle back, they moved him to the right, and his play was much better. He was a really good guy was a second team all pro a few years ago, had a bad knee injury similar to Trent Murphy, I think, we’re kind of betting on the fact that we’ll have enough playing out of position and year two coming off that knee injury, but he’s the only new face on that line, I think, to answer your question. I’m excited that we will have this same group together. Plus whatever additions we make in the draft or after the draft.
Q: Couple things here first on T.J. Yeldon. Obviously, you guys haven’t addressed running back yet this offseason. Where’s the confidence level in him. If you know kind of get to a place where he has to be that running back to.
A: Yeah, we’re very confident T.J. I can remember scouting him coming out and watching him in his years in Jacksonville, and he’s a three-down player, he’s smart and he fit us well. The great thing about T.J. – again he wasn’t up last year but just the way we had it with special teams, but you know he played some. Devin (Singletary) got hurt and he’s a guy that we feel can play at any point. Very good out of the pass game was probably more of a threat than Frank (Gore), out of the backfield. But we just felt like Frank last year brought us, that heavier downhill presence that, maybe Devin’s not, and maybe TJ, that’s not his biggest strength. But very confident that T.J. can come in. If something – Devin’s out number one as it stands, and if something happened to him T.J. has carried the load in Jacksonville and he’s proven it, and so we look forward to bringing him back.
Q: You mentioned Eric Washington and it got me thinking, how much you talked about Bobby Johnson last year, and how important he was bringing guys in like Jon Feliciano. How cool is it to have a guy like Eric Washington in the building with all the coaching experience he brings, and the understanding of the skill sets of some of these guys who bring it in.
A: Yeah, most definitely. I mean it’s refreshing. You know with us making a change to have a guy like Eric who’s coached in this system as a d-line coach and was a coordinator. You know now is back as a d line coach and he’s around. He coached Star Lotulelei as rookie, Vernon Butler, Mario Addison. And so, these guys are going to know how Eric operates. They’re going to be able to walk in, not day one like it’s day one and I know Eric, you know reached out to, you know, Jerry Hughes, Harrison Phillips, Ed (Oliver) and Mike Love and all the guys Trent Murphy, everybody to, you know, establish that that rapport and what will be expected so I know that those guys are excited to play for him and Eric is going to bring you know, a toughness and a grip and just, you know, if you look at the stats at Carolina’s d-line in his time there. I don’t think anybody generated more sacks over a tenue than that d-line did, so we’re looking forward to Eric, being able to show you know the buffalo fans and team, you know, his abilities as a d-line coach.
Q: So, you talked you’ve talked a lot about the continuity. You know you’re looking at, you’ve got it in the front office with Joe (Schoen) and Dan (Morgan) you’ve got it in the coaching staff I think only Eric is your only new coach, you’ve got it probably in your starting lineup I think probably 20 of your 22 starters if you take out Lorenzo (Alexander) and then you add in Diggs. How big of an advantage can that be given that you know you’re not looking at having much of an offseason here you may not have any offseason, you might go right to training camp. How big of an advantage can that continuity be?
A: I think it can help you know you can’t hurt us. And, yeah, to your point, there are some teams that will be dealing with new head coaches or new quarterbacks or new coordinators where they’ve got a new system in place. I think those are the teams that will struggle to get going. I know in 2011 is my only experience with no offseason, so if that were to happen and those are some of the conversations that Sean and I had one on one, and with our respective staffs of what that was like, in 2011. And my experience there was when I was a first time I was with Sean and Ron Rivera and that grew, and they were a whole new staff. We were signing free agents like in August to go start training camp. I mean it was something I’ve never seen so it did take us time to get that rolling, and so I think that will help us, definitely get some of those teams. Looking at our division, there was no head coaching changes this year, but I do – you count the coaches and the players. I like the continuity and where we’re at, but we still have a lot of work to do once we are back.
Q: And I just wanted to circle back on Diggs and ask one thing real quick, is a contract in terms of a number one receiver I think could be termed, you know team friendly. Have you gotten any indication from his camp that he’s satisfied with that contract or is that something that has come up at all in your conversations about him potentially wanting a new deal?
A: Yeah, I mean we. That’s one of the things I really don’t like to get in the contract stuff. I’m not trying to avoid the question it’s just, it’s one of those things. I’d rather not get into, but he’s happy to be in Buffalo, and you know as far as the best way I could leave it.
Q: I wanted to ask you about one comment that [McDermott] made at the combine. I think he was asked about adding playmakers to the offense and he said it was important to do that but also to protect the quarterback better than it happened last year, and the only substantial upgrade or the substantial piece you added was Daryl Williams. Do you feel that you’ve done enough to upgrade protecting the quarterback through the offseason so far?
A: Yeah, I mean, listen. There were players that we looked at. We looked at players in pretty much every position. You know, how can they improve us, whether it was a starter, you know, or a backup. Did we look at guys? Yes, but we’re also confident, and I talked about the continuity earlier with Heather’s question. You know, year one of five guys…This is probably the hardest thing to do, is to get five guys working together so I think naturally year two, I think, playing tackle is not easy and you saw, Dion [Dawkins] had a pretty good rookie year, second year, not as good. Last year, came back strong. Cody [Ford] had some really good moments, had some moments that looked like a rookie. So I think all of that… Quinton Spain back, [Jon] Feliciano, Mitch Morse, we just had such an overhaul that getting on the same page is not always easy and new coaches. So I think all these guys year two, in this system, year two, with the same guys next to them…again, that doesn’t mean, you know, Daryl Williams doesn’t beat somebody out, it doesn’t mean that Ty Nsekhe doesn’t beat somebody out, it doesn’t mean that somebody we add in the draft. But, at a minimum, we do have the five, so we’ll see how it shakes out. It’s a long way till September. If we weren’t confident, I would have done something different and added another piece, whether it was guard, tackle, or center.
Q: Now that you have Stefon and you feel confident in your offensive line, what are your expectations for Josh heading into year three? I know it’s a general question but I think a lot of fans want to know because he’s coming up on that rookie contract and of course the fifth year option decision coming up next up after this coming season.
A: Yeah, no, I’m very confident in Josh. I know I’ve had conversations with him just, you know, life stuff, whatever. And then he reached out to Diggs and some of these guys we signed and he’s working, you know he’s out on the west coast. De did a little bit of travel I think after the season just to kind of burn off some steam and stress, but I’m just confident in Josh and who he is and he is not going to leave a stone unturned. He’s his own worst critic. I know he has many critics out there. Some which I just think are way off base, but I am confident. Sean’s confident. Our team is confident. And I think our fans and everyone else should be confident in Josh Allen. I have no doubt, just like he took a big step from year one to year two, that he will continue to grow. Again, he’ll have to, you know, ideally, I wish he and Stefon were able to throw right now. That’s not available, but I know he will figure it out. You know, how to make improvements to some of the things that didn’t go, perfect for him last year but again I thought he took some great strides and he’s looking forward to taking that next step and proving any of the doubters and naysayers wrong.
Q: With less visits with players, less scouting the road, does it almost end up with all 32 teams kind of working from the same book of information and therefore does it make it harder to find a day three steal in the draft? A Milano, Taron Johnson because there isn’t that unique piece of information you guys have and maybe everybody else doesn’t?
A: Yeah, I mean, at the end of the day, I don’t know. I think it’s hard to say. I’m confident in our process. I’m confident in the work we do in the fall. I know there was some talk about people saying push the draft back or whatever. We’re happy to draft whenever. We know the timeline, we have never thought that it would be moved. We’ve scheduled everything, even though we’ve had to do things differently. A lot of what we’re doing here with my personnel staff. But we have split things up to connect with as many players, or people that have been around these players to close those loops. And I’m very confident that we’re still going to find very good players with the seven draft picks that we currently own.
Q: I want to ask, what is it like for you to work mostly business as usual while the whole sports really shut down and really the world in general is almost shut down.
A: You know, I’m thankful for it. I’m a guy that’s stressed when I’m not stressed. And so, I get that from my mom, but it’s just one of those things where it’s able… I don’t want to sit on TV and watch the news 24 hours or sit on my phone and read, because I know what it looks like and again, I started this out by thanking all these people for all they’ve done to help try and solve the problem but [work] has been a good distraction for me. And I think my staff to focus on something other than what’s hitting us in the face right now. And, again, I’ll probably be a little bit sad when the drafts over, because I don’t know what the next distraction will be or where our country will be at that point. But I’m looking forward to the next three weeks.
Q: Just your thoughts on the entire quarterback carousel that we’ve seen in free agency, specifically, obviously, Tom Brady leaving the AFC East and if you can also maybe even touch Cam Newton and what he meant to Carolina and you guys down there obviously moving on as well.
A: Yeah, you know, did not expect, candidly, did not expect Tom to leave. It’s one of those things, all sorts of rumors and speculation, you know obviously I’m on the outside looking in, but what a pro. What a legend he is. I’ll miss us playing against him. I go back and forth. You always want to take down the best and, you know, that’s probably the disappointing thing as I sit here was, in my time we didn’t beat Tom Brady. And so we’ll have to find another way to play Tampa, to be able to maybe beat him before he hangs them up. But New England’s still gonna be very good. I mean, you look at what Bill Belichick did in 2008… They got robbed of a playoff. They were 11-5 with Matt Cassel at the helm. So I think it’s funny, and comical that people are writing them off and labeling whether it’s us or another team as the team to beat in the east. The team to beat in the east is the Patriots and until somebody beats them. They are the team to beat as long as Bill Belichick’s there. You’re talking about, probably the greatest head coach of all time that was paired with the greatest quarterback of all time. So, until we beat him, you know, we’ve done nothing and we got our work cut out for us. Cam Newton. I’ve got a lot of respect for Cam and it’s unfortunate that injuries have hit him. I think if Ron Rivera was still there, I think Cam Newton would still be there. I think it’s one of those deals where he’s been banged up a little bit the last two years, new regime. They just want to wipe the slate clean, and start over and I understand and respect that process but I think somebody should take a shot on Cam Newton. I think he will definitely, as I talked about Josh Norman earlier... I’ll never forget those two fighting in a practice. A quarterback and a DB. It was a real one. So, two guys with chips on their shoulders so I think Cam is a proud guy, has a lot to prove and I think whoever takes a shot on him, will appreciate what he brings to their team.
Q: Obviously this has been a pretty chaotic time with everything. I guess just from a human standpoint, how are you staying sane? What are you doing, that’s not football related?
A: I just try and get outside, put my headphones in, and listen to music, and just walk, jog, bike. Just something to kind of get away and also sometimes when the calls back up, you know, I’ll just at least go walk. The other day I went off for like two hours just returning calls and I got like 18,000 steps in just kind of jogging and walking. It was one of those things, I’ve done it. Ever since I did it one time about 10 days ago, I’ve tried to do it more because I felt mentally better beyond the physical stuff. But other than that, just trying to use this time to watch players and was still kind of back and forth last week, there’s still some free agents, you know the guys that maybe their prices dropped. There’s still some guys out there. We still could add a player or two, but who knows. So mostly probably 80% focus on the draft now, but still keep an eye on some guys that maybe their value dropped and would be a bargain signing for us.
Q: I know it might be deemed as one of your, maybe more minor additions but bringing Dean Marlowe back. Just seeing the way coach Frazier used him and Siran Neal in your guy’s big nickel package, and it just seems like that, that role is growing in importance. Why do you think that is? Just because more teams are playing 12 personnel?
A: I think if you have the right personnel, it is. It’s one of those where you can match up with various personnel groups that the offense is giving you. If you can do different things… you know, that that buffalo nickel role that we have, whether it’s a guy blitzing, whether the guys dropping in coverage. I think it gives it gives Leslie Frazier various looks that he can throw at an offense or a quarterback and make them not who’s coming, how many is coming, who’s dropping. It’s been an effective piece, but again, you got to have the right personnel and Dean…Specifically talking about him, he played some of that in college and bounced around and played safety. When I was at Carolina, we got him as an undrafted rookie, and safety only and he battled injuries, but I think the biggest thing for Dean too is he’s really figured out how to make an impact on special teams. He showed some improvement last year. I think the reason he was struggling to get a jersey early on was, he was only being used by the defense as a backup and if you’re not starting, you need to have some type of role in special teams so that’s probably one of the things I’m most proud that he took that head on last year and allowed him to get a jersey. Again he’s versatile, he can do that buffalo nickel, he can play the safety, and special teams.
Q: I’m curious. I guess this could go either way. You’re kind of in a spot where I know you love going best player available and you’re in a good position to do that since your starting lineups intact. You mentioned on the last question that getting a rookie receiver up to speed would have been tough, you know, with this offseason kind of in flux. You think, with the offseason that way, that you’ll maybe lean more towards guys in the draft that need time to develop because you’ve got the luxury of a starting lineup intact or are you looking for guys that you know from your recon that are able to pick things up quicker?
A: Yeah, I mean, I don’t know. It may be a tiebreaker, but I’m not gonna pass up a good player. I’m still gonna go best player available. We do put a lot of emphasis on knowledge and the ability to learn and process information. Guys learn different ways, you know some need to walk through, some can do it off the video, some need to be up on board but as long as we know, they can learn it in one of those forms or fashion. Some maybe take a little bit longer, but I don’t want to pass up a talented player, if I know he can get there, even though, to your point, he may have a slower start if we don’t have much of an offseason here, but we’re really looking. Earlier as I was talking to you guys back when we spoke in the draft room back midseason whenever that was, early in the draft is definitely best player available. As you move later in the draft, then you start looking at, okay, what are some needs? Because now the best player available may not make our team in the fifth round if we’ve already drafted someone there or filled up that position in free agency. So early on, second, third and through there, will definitely be best player offense, defense, whatever.
Q: You mentioned taking a lot of long walks. How’s your family like having you around a little more this time of year? They getting sick of you yet?
A: I think they are. I think they’re ready for me to go back to work. No, I think it’s one of those things where this is…. Everything has happened, as we all know, for a reason. My viewpoint on it, maybe I’m crazy, is that sometimes we’re all running 1000 miles an hour, and we’re not focused on what’s right in front of us and our family. It’s been fun. I haven’t had as many lunches and dinners with my wife and two boys since they’ve been born, and they’re in high school now so I’m looking at, I got one it’s gonna be a senior next year and gone. I’m looking at the positive in this. Enjoying the moment. They’ve been playing video games too much but I have to yell at them for that when I can and tell them to get their butts outside.
Q: You guys were really healthy last season, for the most part for the only big injury you had was Harrison Phillips. Can you kind of give us an idea of where he is in the rehab process, how confident you are that he’s ready to go when the season comes around. Just kind of an update on Harrison Phillips.
A: Yeah. Can you knock on wood with that statement? I’m superstitious but Harrison is doing well. Right now, we kind of ended, just with everything going on in our state in the area, there are some rules where they could come in and rehab, but we just wanted to be extra cautious and make sure it wasn’t in our building. So what our guys are doing is, they’re doing some FaceTimes with him and Levi Wallace and some of these guys that you saw had surgeries. But trying to find different ways to make sure these guys are getting the rehab and Harrison falls in that category. He’s doing as well as could be expected, he’s very positive. He texted me some this weekend saying he had reached out to all the new guys and he’s excited. I know he…. You guys know, this kid teared up last year, when he got hurt. And there’s nobody that’s gonna be more excited to run out of that tunnel this year than Harrison Phillips and I think I’ll be just as excited for him. He’s worked so hard. But he’s doing as well as can be expected. He’s still got a ways to go. He’ll be a guy that we hope will be ready for training camp, but we’ll have to see. I don’t know how much testing we’re going to be able to do with him and depending on how long this Corona Virus lasts.
Q: You speak a lot about taking care of your own guys and we saw that with Jordan Poyer last week. How much of a priority is that moving forward for the guys with more urgent contract needs like Matt Milano or Dion Dawkins?
A: Yeah, I mean, you’d love to sign all your guys back, you really would. We know that doesn’t work in this business sometimes, you only get so many dollars and things like that. But those are guys that you mentioned that we would. We’ve obviously invested a lot, they were drafted here in ‘17. And again, the guys that fit like they do, fit the DNA, show the physical skill sets, and bring what they bring, you’d love to. At the same time, these guys have representatives, they have values that they put on themselves so when we get to that point of talking to extension with these guys… They are guys we would love to have back, I’ll say that. Again, some guys really want to go test free agency, some guys want the security. And so, to each his own. As I said with the class that just kind of walked out of here, we lost some guys, we got some back. Jordan Phillips and Shaq Lawson and Kevin Johnson, those guys, they earn that right to go out there and see what their value is. So, again, we’ll look at these things. In my perfect world, guys like Matt and Dion, I would love to get them extended here long term on what I call is a win-win. A win for the Bills and a win for those guys’ person.