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'It's the most important game because it's the next one' | Experienced coaches guide players into the AFC Championship game

Sean McDermott, Matt Milano (58) and Tremaine Edmunds (49). Buffalo Bills AFC Championship practice - Wednesday, January 20, 2021. Photo by Bill Wippert
Sean McDermott, Matt Milano (58) and Tremaine Edmunds (49). Buffalo Bills AFC Championship practice - Wednesday, January 20, 2021. Photo by Bill Wippert

Experience is one of the most valuable things a team can have in the NFL and in the playoffs, experience has to be earned. 

With this Bills roster being fairly young with little postseason experience before this season, it makes a huge difference that Sean McDermott, Leslie Frazier and Brian Daboll have coached in a combined 18 championship games. Along with a handful of players on this team that has played in a championship game, the Bills have the luxury of an experienced coaching staff that can prepare this roster for one of the biggest games of the season. 

McDermott talked about how his experienced staff has helped the team get to where they are now and how they can help the team leading up to Sunday's game. 

"Being around winning programs, being in those environments and being in those games to your point, I think all of that breeds quality experience," McDermott explained. "And so, that's all good to have this time of year but it also helps you get to where we are now. So, when you've been around what winning looks like, smells like, and so on and so forth, I think that's a good foundation to come from."

"It's the most important game because it's the next one"

In just his third season as a pro, Josh Allen will be playing in his first AFC Championship Game on Sunday. Allen, who is 24, wasn't even alive the last time the Bills were playing in the championship game and like a lot of players they are leaning on the coaching staff for advice. According to NFL Media Research, Allen will be the 12th quarterback in NFL history to start four or more playoff games at age 24 or younger. The Bills quarterback touched on how valuable it is to have an experienced coaching staff and is also looking at Sunday's game just like any other. 

"It's extremely comforting," Allen explained. "Just being able to talk to [Daboll] and the notes that he's had from the previous games that he's played in. From the guys that he's been with especially and just the tidbits that they shared with him back in the day. And again, it's just trying not to make it bigger than what it needs to be. It's another game, it's the next one and it's the most important one because it is the next one. We can't think about anything past that we got to focus on Sunday night at 6:00."

"With coaches and players, it's always good to have that experience"

Micah Hyde is one of the few players on this team that has played in a championship game in his NFL career. He knows from that experience how hard it is to make it this far in the season and has that chip on his shoulder to fight and earn a win in this round to be able to play in his first Super Bowl. Hyde thinks that this team has a good balance of experience and youth and here's why: 

"With coaches and players, it's always good to have that experience," Hyde said. "Playing in the championship games, playing in Super Bowls and playing in the playoffs, you need guys in the locker room that can share the message to the young guys or even the older guys that haven't been there yet. So, that's huge and that's important but at the same time I think there is also some success or some positivity in just not knowing what you don't know. So, I think a lot of these young guys are out here just playing. They don't know, obviously they know this is the AFC Championship game, but they don't realize the magnitude of it. So, that's also a good thing too but you need that veteran presence and I think it's a good thing that we have that."

"It's not anything different than what it's always been"

For Cole Beasley, this is the furthest he's made it into the playoffs in his career. Even though the nine-year veteran has never played in a championship game, he is preparing for it like any other game he's played in. He understands that he doesn't need to overthink things because he has trust in himself that in any game, he can help this team get a win. 

"It's so important because they can relay the message that it's not anything different than what it's always been," Beasley stated. "It's still football at the end of the day, there shouldn't be any added pressure. No matter how you think about a game, you're either going to win or lose, no matter how you go into it or how you're thinking in your mind. So, I kind of think about it that way it's easy for me to relax and go play because at the end of the day it's just football and I'm going to give my best effort because what else can I do. There's no reason to overthink things and add any pressure upon yourself. I know who I am as a player, I'm going to trust in myself and do the best things that I can to help the team win and that's it, that's enough."

"For us as players, you have the confidence in your coaches"

Stefon Diggs and John Brown are the only two receivers on this team that have played in a championship game. They have been through these situations before and can use what they've learned from their past losses in the championship round to help this team try to get over the hump and advance to the Super Bowl. Diggs has a lot of confidence in this coaching staff and knows they will put the players in the best place to succeed. 

"I think it gives you confidence," Diggs said. "People don't really think too much about your coaches, but they make a lot of the decisions. So, for us as players, you have the confidence in your head coach, the OC and your DC that they're gonna put you in the best place to be successful. … Just knowing that those guys have been there and also being with some guys on your team that's been in the big show or been in big games. It's just like you know how they anticipate this game; you know how his approach would be like. For example, I don't change, I'm gonna be the same guy I was in Week 1 that I am right now, maybe a little bit more juice. But I try to stay the same and stay the course, just having the confidence that everybody's gonna be on the same page."