NFL coaches and GMs lie. All the time.
It’s just part of the job. In a sport full of hyper-paranoid individuals who will do anything to gain even the slightest edge, there’s no benefit to being honest and every potential benefit to simply lie or at the very least, obfuscate the truth. Be it through coach-speak, blatant word salad, or a meaningful deflection, the coaches and general managers of the National Football League are never known for their transparency or vulnerability.
If you’d like a shot at getting the most honest version of those notoriously dishonest people, though, the best time to ask them a question in a formalized setting is the end-of-season press conferences. Without a game to prepare for and with most other teams distracted by their own coaching searches, offseason staff changes, Senior Bowl prep, and gulp playoff games, a coach and GM are generally less guarded than they would be during the season or in the lead up to the NFL Draft.
Head coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane have historically been on the more open side of the scale when it comes NFL HC/GM duos (with Beane even being voted the most trustworthy GM in the NFL through an agent poll done by The Athletic), but the best time to get some reasonable feedback from them that can potentially be utilized as a window into their thinking for the offseason is still immediately after the season has concluded.
Now that they’d had their say, here are two takes I have based on the information received from Beane and McDermott in their end-of-season press conferences:
Don’t expect any drastic coaching staff shakeups
The Bills will have to replace assistant head coach/defensive line Eric Washington after he accepted the defensive coordinator position for the Chicago Bears under Matt Eberflus. Additionally, linebackers coach Bobby Babich has gotten some looks around the league as a potential defensive coordinator, but Sean McDermott praised special teams coordinator Matthew Smiley’s ability to play the hand he was dealt on a weekly basis, contributing to a special teams falloff for a unit that had been at the top of the league in 2022. It feels reasonable that McDermott would believe that the injury issues on defense that forced backup second-level defenders onto the field there would have impacted Smiley’s ability to field an effective unit, as many of his multi-phase special teams players come from the defensive back seven. Despite kicker Tyler Bass having a tough season and punter Sam Martin’s inconsistency, I’d expect Smiley to be back in 2024. Washington will need to be replaced as DL coach, but there’s still a possibility that Babich is promoted to either DC or DC/assistant head coach now that Washington has vacated that leadership position in addition to his work with the Bills’ line.
On the other side of the ball, Josh Allen gave Joe Brady his recommendation publicly to be the full-time offensive coordinator. Josh Allen also gave Ken Dorsey his recommendation publicly. I think Josh Allen would give any OC he had his recommendation publicly.
But ultimately it comes down to Sean McDermott making that decision, and McDermott gave credit to Brady for coming in midseason, making adjustments on the fly, and getting buy-in from Josh Allen. Brandon Beane also contributed to the idea that Brady would be the permanent OC moving forward:
“I would see both (Kincaid and Knox) helping us going forward. And again, giving Joe various options, depending on who you’re playing.”
That statement used Joe Brady in a future state.
The comments made combined with the lack of urgency in which the Bills are interviewing other candidates for offensive coordinator with the Senior Bowl looming (seen by many staffs as a deadline for coaching staff changes to allow for scouting with a fully intact group) leads me to believe it’ll be Brady back in 2024 as well.
Overall, the Bills may need to plug a hole or two, but a widespread overhaul in response to another Divisional Round playoff exit would be a surprise.
Expect a new face or two in the top four of the Bills wide receiver depth chart
Given Brandon Beane’s comments about not shopping on Main Street in New York City (related note: someone give Beane a quick geography lesson), it appears likely that this addition will happen in the draft. Sean McDermott talked about wanting to make sure the offense was “explosive” in the same press conference where he philosophized that he believes in passing the football in order to win. Beane pointed out that getting more weapons to take pressure off Stefon Diggs (who he defined as still being a number-one receiver) was important.
Combine these comments with those about Gabe Davis and it’s easy to see the potential for two new faces in the top four on the WR depth chart in 2024. Whenever a GM says that a player has “earned the right to see where their market is,” it usually means that player will be back only if the free-agent market proves less fruitful than they believed. Beane has discussed previously that he has a value he sticks to fairly rigidly in contract negotiations. The contract extension for linebacker Matt Milano was a surprise to many before free agency specifically because Beane had made a similar comment about him. That means it’s not impossible that Davis could be back, but it would likely be an even bigger surprise than it was when WGR550’s Sal Capaccio broke the Milano news leading up to free agency in 2021. More than likely, it’ll be Diggs, Shakir, and two new faces at the top of the Bills’ wide receiver depth chart in 2024.
...and that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I’m Bruce Nolan with Buffalo Rumblings. You can find me on Twitter and Instagram @BruceExclusive and look for new episodes of “The Bruce Exclusive” every Thursday on the Buffalo Rumblings podcast network!