Many of his predecessors tried to set the bar for a new beginning in the past. Some came close. Others not so much. The 2017 season will be remembered for ending the Bills 17-season playoff absence, but the most important thing Sean McDermott did in his first season as head coach was set a standard.
The mantra was 'Playoff Caliber.' Everything had to be done at a playoff level. Film study, weight room work, practice tempo, team work, coaching. It was demanded by McDermott and reinforced by his coaches and team leaders.
"We have a foundation to build on," said Eric Wood. "I have a lot of confidence going forward so let's keep improving and let's go try to win a Super Bowl."
"Since day one when I got here he's been talking about playoff caliber, and we made it to the playoffs," said Leonard Johnson of coach McDermott. "Then we were in the playoffs and we were talking about championship caliber. We fell short of that, but just to see how far we made it when a lot of things were said when we made transactions and letting this guy walk and that person. But we as a team felt like we were better than what a lot of people gave us credit for."
For McDermott, the first step in creating that culture was developing a unified belief that they could achieve 'Playoff Caliber' results with the proper, dedicated approach.
"The culture is huge to me in terms of one of the first steps you try to establish," he said. "That's easier said than done, though. It starts with people. People in our building and also the players in the locker room. I remember standing up here in free agency and one press conference after another talking about the character of the players we're bringing in, as well as the drafted players.
"That's really how it starts to get going in the right direction, in terms of the culture. It's so much driven by people. Whether it's players or other staff members, coaches, people in our marketing department, ticketing. It's really a people-driven type of ingredient of success really, in terms of the culture. You have to have that, in my opinion, before sometimes you get the results on the field. The belief comes before the results at times."
There were a lot of moving parts through the latter stages of the offseason and even during the season, but McDermott and his staff were still able to keep the team locked in on the details each and every week.
"I thought Sean and his staff did a one heck of a job," said GM Brandon Beane. "We threw some curve balls with some of the trades in August and even the two during the season and bringing Kelvin (Benjamin) here. But to go through all that and the three-game losing streak and getting this team to the playoffs says a lot about what he and his staff and these players did, and it was fun to be a part of."
"I wanted to make sure we're doing everything at a certain type of level," said McDermott, who is already focused on preparing for year two with the Bills. "A standard, and that's a standard of winning. I think our team, the players that left on Monday really personified that and helped us to establish a standard around here of what winning looks like."
As effective as McDermott was in establishing how things operate with his team on a daily basis, knowing the player turnover that exists from one year to the next, there will need to be efforts to re-establish it again in 2018.
"Each year in the NFL it stands on its own," said Lorenzo Alexander. "Obviously, we can build on that standard, but we have to come back here and put in that same work and not lay our hats on breaking the drought and being okay with that. That's over."
"It was a good start this year," said free agent Mike Tolbert. "But now it's time to go back to the drawing board and get more 'W's next year."
Relive some of the biggest interceptions made by Buffalo's defense during the 2017 season.
Most of the veterans in Buffalo's locker room were quick to point out that making the playoffs in 2017 guarantees nothing for 2018. So, re-establishing the standard and then raising it to another level is what they have in mind for their second season under McDermott.
"We have to come back and really find something else to lay our hat on," said Alexander. "Ultimately that's going to the championship and getting everybody to buy into that and buying into our culture here, with the new guys who come in. That and making sure the rookies understand that this doesn't happen every year, that you make it to the playoffs."
"We finished the season with some momentum and obviously last Sunday didn't turn out the way we wanted, but there's a lot to build on," said Eric Wood. "I'm excited for 2018."