1 - ‘Overall optimism’ is encouraging for Sean McDermott as offseason begins
As head coach Sean McDermott met with his players for one final time before the commencement of the 2019 offseason, he noticed a general theme, an overarching belief that his team shared.
“They feel like, overall, I would say, and that’s probably a better question for the players, but I feel like there’s an overall optimism about where we are and where we’re headed,” McDermott said. “They understand the vision for this football team and have a better feel, and it’s a young group of guys, so they have a better feel of what it’s going to take to try and get us there.”
Though Buffalo finished the 2018 season with a 6-10 record, the campaign wasn’t without its positives, with the development of the team’s young core perhaps being the most promising takeaway. The Bills’ foundational pieces, the players they’ve identified as the ones who will lead the team into the future, largely performed well, leaving the team itself with optimism moving forward.
As McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane met with their players before they left One Bills Drive for the offseason, the sideline boss encouraged them to watch the NFL playoffs, as he wants his team to match that intensity once they ultimately return to the postseason.
“I encouraged them to watch the playoffs, starting this weekend, and watch the intensity, watch how fast the guys play, because playoff football is different than regular season football,” McDermott said. “For our young players, and that being the goal, the direction that we want to head, is, ‘Hey, have a feel for it before you get there.’ That’s a whole different level.”
2 - Allen, Edmunds bring ‘different complexion’ to future
In a season in which Buffalo consistently received strong outings from a number of young players, quarterback Josh Allen and linebacker Tremaine Edmunds often stood out from the pack.
The two prospects, both of whom were selected by the Bills in the first round of the 2018 draft, played well in their debut campaigns. Allen constructed a 5-6 record as a starter and finished the season with 2,705 total yards. Despite never playing a down at the middle linebacker position in his life, Edmunds effectively filled the role in his rookie season, totaling 121 tackles.
Both Allen and Edmunds made discernible progress as the season went on, something that has McDermott excited for the future.
“You look at our young football players, namely Josh Allen, Tremaine Edmunds, and the games that they had down the stretch, the games that they had [Sunday],” McDermott said. “Totally different complexion at those positions than it was one year ago. To me, the direction of the football team is a positive one with a lot of work to be done yet.”
“[Quarterbacks] are hard to find. Those positions are hard to find. It’s a critical position, as is the middle linebacker position. Right now, they’re occupied by two young players with bright futures, we feel like, whose best football is ahead of them if we continue, and they continue, to do things the right way with their development. That’s a process, that takes time. It’s not all going to get fixed at once, but there is, again, a direction for this football team, a vision for this football team, and I’m committed, as is Brandon [Beane] and Terry and Kim [Pegula] both to staying the course and continuing to drive this football team in the direction that we feel it should be driven.”
3 - The vision that gets McDermott up in the morning
For the past five months, football has consumed McDermott’s life.
His days have consisted of reflecting on his last opponent before preparing for the next one. For the next few months, however, no football will be played. Though free agency and the draft will keep McDermott occupied, the rush of actually getting out on the field and playing the game is something that the head coach will go without until mid-2019.
Until then, it will be a vision that McDermott has had for quite some time that will help him cope.
“The thing that gets me up every morning, when I get up, is my vision for this football team,” McDermott said. “That vision of an AFC Championship game hosted right here. We talked about this in a team meeting the other day, and Kyle [Williams] mentioned this as well, of what that’s going to feel like. What that’s going to smell like. What that’s going to sound like, and the fans out here in pregame. Much like [Sunday’s] environment, in the cold.
“I asked the players the other day after practice to turn around and look at the flags when we went outside, because those flags were blowing. I said ‘This is the type of weather that we have to be ready to play well in here at home when we host a playoff game.’ That’s what gets me up in the morning.”