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Sean McDermott not worried about leadership drain with Buffalo Bills

Eric, Kyle, and Zo...

Matt Warren is Associate Director of NFL coverage for SB Nation and previously covered the Bills for Buffalo Rumblings for more than a decade.

Over the course of the last three offseasons, the Buffalo Bills have lost three gigantic leaders on the team in Eric Wood, Kyle Williams, and Lorenzo Alexander. Each time one left, the team would look to the next guy on the list as a way to continue the great leadership. But now all three are gone.

Head coach Sean McDermott doesn’t see it as a problem.

“Yeah, that’s key to our success, player-driven leadership that you’ve heard me talk about before,” said McDermott in a conference call with the media this month. “For me to sit up there and bang the podium with not enough player leadership is not going to get us where we need to be and the players are aware of that.”

Pointing to players in years three through five of their time in the NFL, McDermott rattled off players who are a bit longer-tenured than that on his list of the next wave of leaders.

“To name a few; Mario Addison has come in as a young as a new player and really demonstrated good quality leadership. You’re seeing some other players; Jon Feliciano who was here with us really step up his leadership. Just need two on both of the lines in this case. Really great to see Jordan Poyer and I think he’s having a good offseason, really helped to that in that aspect as well and Reid Ferguson. A guy that, a position as a long snapper, you say ‘coach, hey what really?’ Yeah. I think that that’s cool to see where guys have it, and they’re able then to they want to work on developing themselves as leaders as well and so that’s been fun and exciting to watch some of these guys step up their leadership.”

Alexander has previously said that if there aren’t leaders to take over when he’s gone, he didn’t do a very good job as a leader while he was here. Eric Wood spoke following Alexander’s retirement, saying the Bills have been cultivating young leadership since McDermott took over as head coach.

“That’s something that they’ve had to adjust to the last two years with two really prominent leaders in Kyle Williams and Lorenzo Alexander both retiring, and this year it’ll be the next guy’s chance to step up,” said Wood earlier this offseason. “We’ll see who that is. They have done really well drafting. They’ve drafted guys that were leaders on their college teams – guys like Tre’Davious White, who was a captain at LSU and wore No. 18 there, which is the most prominent honor within their team. Tremaine Edmunds was a captain last year at 21 years old. Josh Allen, super young, and he was a captain as well.”

One thing that’s helped is those leaders aren’t completely gone. While they aren’t there day in and day out, they are there for the green leaders to look to and ask advice. Wood rejoined the team as a game analyst and is a constant presence. Williams has been at training camp and the team facility during the year to work with Ed Oliver and the other defensive linemen. Alexander has been sitting in on some of the team meetings during the COVID-19 virtual offseason.

“Well, whether it was Eric Wood, Kyle [Williams], Lorenzo….These guys are Buffalo Bills, and they’ll be Buffalo Bills for life. Right?” said McDermott. “There’s a lot of wisdom baked into those guys and things that they can share with our players on the field, in this case, and then off the field as well. So, how do you adjust to life in the NFL? How did you adjust to being a new dad in the NFL? We wouldn’t be being responsible leaders, Brandon and myself, if we did not involve them from time to time in what we do and so on and so forth. So that’s been great to see. I really appreciate that Lorenzo or Kyle and Eric and many others have wanted to come back and help. That’s the cool piece of this, is that tradition. That’s the Buffalo Bills; what it means to wear the red, white and blue. The Buffalo Bills; what it means to retire as a Buffalo Bill. I think that’s so cool and special that we have and unique to the Bills. I think it’s been great.”