How Sean McDermott and his staff plan to better connect with their players


Over the last two years, Sean McDermott and his Bills coaching staff have done a solid job of building a culture rooted in an unrelenting daily work ethic, a commitment to the team cause and a mental toughness designed to be superior to their opponents.

This offseason there were a handful of players who were quick to re-sign with Buffalo because of that culture and what the organization is building.

Always striving to improve the operation in every facet, McDermott and his assistants took on the task this offseason of finding ways to make stronger connections with the young players they work with every day for seven months of the year.

"We spent time as a staff this offseason learning how to relate better to millennials and how to relate more to what millennials deal with on a day in and day out basis," said McDermott.

McDermott and his coaches refuse to be blind to the fact that with each passing year they become further separated by age to the newest set of Bills who will arrive in two months' time via the draft.

"There has always been an effort to figure out a way to make that connection. I think the older we get, the wider the gap just from an age standpoint becomes and we have to go out of our way to be intentional in our efforts to make that connection," McDermott said. "We only have so much time to get to know these players and for them to understand what we're trying to teach. That connection is highly important for us."

More out of happenstance than purpose, Buffalo's newest additions to the coaching staff are all younger than their predecessors in those roles. In fact, four of the five new coaches are under 40 with the fifth, offensive line coach Bobby Johnson, just 46-years old.

Their age wasn't the reason they were hired, but McDermott does believe there are advantages to having some younger assistants on staff.

"The players relate to people, teachers and coaches who can help them achieve their career goals. That's number one," he said. "Number two is people who care for the players, who have their best interests in mind and then there is an element of relating to the players on their level. So younger coaches have a tendency to know the culture a little more."

In no way is McDermott satisfied with his younger coaches making that connection. He and some of the more experienced staff members carefully examined whether their teaching techniques were effective in catering to the way their young players learn and retain information.

"What we came out of those meetings with was let's remain true to what we believe in, but there has to be a compromise of how we go and meet them halfway at least," said McDermott. "It's the day in age of screen time and cell phones and computers and Ipads. So we have to be able to adjust and evolve."

When it comes to relatability to young players, who now live on social media, and the on-demand world they live in, they are known to have shorter attention spans. It's imperative that McDermott and his staff find ways to make sure their teaching techniques remain effective.

"That's due to some of the things that millennials deal with," McDermott explained. "Do they need breaks in meetings? Are we maximizing the ability of our players to retain information? Are we maximizing our time on the practice field, so we can get the reps that we need to build the elite level of execution? And then are we maximizing our time off the field with nutrition, recovery and rest? Are we getting our players stronger and more physically fit to better endure the demands of a 16-game season?"

The Buffalo coaching staff examined it all from pop culture to what's current on Twitter and all the other interfaces through which young players consume information and communicate. They then scrutinized their weekly schedule from front to back and back to front to ensure they are doing everything in their approach to give their players the best path to on-field success.

"We spent a lot of time vetting making sure our process in the offseason is the best in the world or the best in the league," said McDermott. "I like to ask those hard questions. We feel like we've got a good schedule, but let's make sure it's the best in the NFL."

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