The 2019 AFC Playoffs proved to be a bitter pill for the Bills to swallow after suffering a painful defeat at the hands of the Houston Texans in the Wild Card round. And though the result of that game certainly left a sour taste to what was in many ways a successful season, head coach Sean McDermott had already found a way to use it to bolster the team's intestinal fortitude going forward.
"It's been a painful couple of days for all of us," he said on the heels of the overtime loss. "My hope is in time that if it's handled the right way that pain will turn into strength, and that strength will turn into growth. And I think that's what really separates the winning organizations. The growth that comes from that is what will continue to move us forward as an organization as a fan base, and as a team, overall."
There were real lessons that McDermott's players will pull from that Wild Card game, whether it's recognizing time and score and applying it to what might be coming on each and every play or having air tight execution in the critical moments of games.
For Buffalo's front office, this year's playoff game served to confirm some suppositions that GM Brandon Beane and McDermott had about their team and what they need to do to change those deficiencies.
"If you make the playoffs, your last game — 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 you're good and where you need to get better," said Beane. "I thought we saw that [against Houston]. We just didn't score enough points."
In 2019, the Buffalo Bills celebrated their 60th season as a franchise by going 10-6 in the regular season and clinching the AFC's fifth seed. It is the second time in three seasons under Sean McDermott that the Bills have qualified for the playoffs, and was a great way to celebrate the 60th season of the Buffalo Bills and the 100th season of the NFL. Scroll through to view the top photos and moments from the season.
Seeing the Texans elite players like DeAndre Hopkins and Deshaun Watson make crucial plays at the end of that game might tempt a team like Buffalo to swing for the fences on a singular, dynamic, game-changing player to level up as an offense. But Beane sees their offseason to-do list as a more comprehensive exercise.
"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]," he said. "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."
In the same breath however, Beane indicated that a receiver capable of being a go-to option in critical moments is the kind of talent they're going to be seeking.
While adding more talent on offense won't be an overhaul like it was last offseason, it sounds as though it will be multi-layered, all in an effort to better assist quarterback Josh Allen.
"As we continue to build a roster what we have to do is continue to give him pieces that he trusts, in addition to the ones that he already has," said McDermott of Allen.
The message that Buffalo's head coach drove home more than any in his season wrap-up address is that efforts will be made to keep the vast majority of the roster together.
"We've got a lot of work to do," he said. "We have to number one, start in house. Start internally in terms of our roster and we've got some decisions to make. We need to make sure that we keep as much of this team intact as possible. Each year, each team is different, but you give yourself a better chance the more that you keep a team intact."
But in no way should that be an indication that he and Beane are satisfied with the caliber of the roster. Their team is full of quality players, but the Bills personnel boss knows he and his staff must find viable and fiscally reasonable upgrades wherever they can.
"We're going to look under every rock to find competition and upgrades where we can, but my philosophy hasn't changed," said Beane, "We've got to draft, develop and sign our guys. Hopefully we'll just be able to add some pieces here and there to help us take the next step."
A big part of taking that next step naturally hinges on Allen pushing his personal game forward. But his physical gifts combined with his unrelenting work ethic and competitive nature has his head coach convinced it will happen.
"You know he'll put the work in and you know he'll be better next season," said McDermott. "I think you'll see another step this offseason by Josh going into next season."
That combined with reportedly close to $90 million in cap space and the front office's ability to successfully mine quality talent should provide the Bills with a window of opportunity to achieve big things in 2020.
"It gives you a lot of flexibility, the more cap space you have," said Beane. "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 we get to free agency and then you have to hold money for the draft class. But it gives us a lot of flexibility. It will allow us to do what we need to do to get better."
Arguments could be made to find additional talent at cornerback, defensive end, linebacker, offensive line and receiver. Beane and McDermott will work diligently to come up with their best plan to turn a solid roster into a dominant one.
"We can't sit back, nor will I ever sit back, or Brandon sit back for that matter, and say, 'Hey you know this is where we are, we're good and we just need to take this much more,'" said McDermott. "That's not how this league works. You've seen teams one year they're up, next year they're down. I think there was a stat the other day about how there's 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 why we have to approach it with a tremendous amount of urgency."
At the same time they won't compromise how they cultivated their current level of success.
"We're not changing the plan. said Beane. "You still have to 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 as possible and make it much further than we did this year."