This season marks Bills head coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane's fourth year together in Buffalo. Since they arrived in 2017, the two have established a strong culture that reflects their core values. While building the culture, the pair felt it was important to look to the past to learn from a championship culture in Buffalo that was created long before they arrived.
"We all had a meeting with him when he (Sean McDermott) first got the job," former Bills wide receiver from 1985 to 1999 Andre Reed said. "He actually called us in and flew us in, me, Bruce [Smith], Thurman [Thomas], Jim [Kelly], Darryl [Talley], Cornelius [Bennett], Steve Tasker. He just wanted to see where our mindset was and how we became the team that we became through interaction with each other and through a lot of things. He picked our minds about a lot of things. One thing he wanted to do in Buffalo was change the culture of the organization. I think he has done that, not only through the draft, but just getting the players that they need."
After making that initial connection and hearing how the Super Bowl teams worked toward success, the bond between the current team and past teams grew. Former players quickly realized McDermott could be the coach to help take Buffalo back to greatness. Some even see similarities between McDermott and a former Bills head coach.
"I still attribute everything to Coach Levy and the way he ran things almost like Coach McDermott now," former Bills linebacker from 1987 to 1995 Cornelius Bennett said. "You have Beane there, the general manager, but the soul of the team really goes through the head coach. From being around Sean [McDermott] a few times, I sense the same kind of enthusiasm, the same kind of manner as Coach Levy."
"Here's the one thing that I can say when I first met Brandon Beane and had a conversation with him in the hallway, I asked him a few questions and the man has done everything he said he was going to do to the letter," former Bills linebacker from 1983 to 1994 Darryl Talley explained. "It's funny to see it come to fruition. He has done everything he said he was going to do when I talked to him. I put my hands up and say, 'Let's get on board boys because the guy has a good plan.'"
The Bills Legends Community is on board just like much of the national media. Buffalo has been named by many national outlets as the favorite to win the AFC East this season. The last time the Bills won the division was in 1995. They haven't been favored to win the division since 1996.
Many former players from the '90s believe this current roster and coaching staff is capable of taking Buffalo back to being champions of their division.
"I think it takes time to rebuild a team like that and I think Sean and Brandon are doing a great job of doing that," former Bills kicker from 1992 to 2001 Steve Christie said. "They're not just spending a whole lot of money on big names that may not be the best for the team, but I think they're doing it patiently and very intelligently. They're building this team properly, and it's showing. It has been a long time since we have been favored to win the division because New England has been so dominant over so many years."
Scroll through to see the best photos from Buffalo's practice as they prepare for Week 1 against the New York Jets
Talley who played 12 seasons with the Bills totaling 38.5 sacks, 11 interceptions and 14 forced fumbles thinks Buffalo's current defense is what gives the team potential to take the AFC East.
"Honestly with their defense I think they have a chance," Talley said. "They're not out of any football game. As long as they play great special teams, they've got a chance. They've got to start using their number one weapon, the weather in Buffalo to beat people up. They've got to get used to that, understand it, learn how to play in it and then use that as the weapon it is."
Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, who led the Bills to four straight Super Bowls, understands it takes a cast of talented players to make it to the postseason. Kelly's eyeing one new weapon on the Bills as this year's difference maker.
"I think [Stefon] Diggs is going to be the additional ingredient that we do need," Kelly explained. "Bottom line is we have to stay healthy. And, if Josh is the quarterback we prayed and hope he will be. I think he will be. We are right there. I think without Tom Brady in New England now we are right at the forefront. I think we probably are, going into this season, the team that you have to beat. I think if we lose it's because of what we did on the field."
These legends know what it's like to play with a lot of outside noise due to success. Before Week 1 kicks off, they have some advice about buying the hype.
"Number one is don't believe the hype," Bennett said. "Don't believe the hype. It's going to take hard work and perseverance. Don't believe the hype because that's not going to get the job done. You'll need hard work and perseverance and that's in anything. That's a lesson that those guys that are there, they'll realize that's a life lesson. That's something that I learned when I was playing. I always heard about how good I was but the only reason I was there was because of the hard work I put in before I went out on the field."