INDIANAPOLIS, IND. – The Bills coaching staff and scouting department are at the NFL Scouting Combine this week to assess the talent in this year's draft class and interview prospects who might be potential fits in Buffalo. They'll do these interviews with some new faces in the room this year as they have seen quite a turnover in their coaching staff since the season ended.
As soon as the Bills hit the offseason, head coach Sean McDermott's coaching staff started to change. With Buffalo coming off of three-straight 10-win seasons and postseason appearances in each of the last three years, McDermott knew it was bound to happen.
Even though this is the most additions he's had to make with his coaching staff since coming to Buffalo, he also hasn't experienced anything like this before.
"I think just seven (new coaches) or more in one season is a little bit unique in my experience, not only as a head coach, but as a position coach in Philadelphia and in Carolina," McDermott said on the podium at the NFL Combine. "But again, going through it, it gives you a chance to kind of reset and rebrand a little bit and then try and make things better."
McDermott said he is excited to see how it comes together and is eager to work on building chemistry with those who are new to Buffalo. While there are several new hires, McDermott also promoted a few coaches from within.
"We added a lot of new staff and some of those were promotions from within, so we feel really good about that," McDermott added. "You want to be able to do that. You want to be able to hire, develop, just like we do on the field, and then promote from within."
Here is the list of coaches who will have new roles on the Bills coaching staff this season:
- Ken Dorsey, offensive coordinator (promoted from quarterbacks coach)
- Matthew Smiley, special teams coordinator (promoted from assistant special teams coach)
- Bobby Babich, linebackers coach (moved from Bills safeties coach)
- Jim Salgado, safeties coach (moved from Bills nickel coach)
- John Butler added passing game coordinator to his defensive backs coach title
- Joe Brady, quarterback coach (new hire)
- Aaron Kromer, offensive line coach (new hire)
- Jaylon Finner, defensive quality control coach (new hire)
- Kyle Shurmer, defensive quality control coach (new hire)
- Marcus West, assistant defensive line coach (new hire)
- Cory Harkey, assistant special teams coach (new hire)
- Austin Gund, fellowship coach (new hire)
If you dig into the new additions to Buffalo's coaching staff, you'll see several coaches are very young and come straight from coaching at the collegiate level. McDermott believed it was important to add youth to their staff this year because of how the college game bleeds into the NFL.
"With college, that's a big part of the NFL game," McDermott said. "And so, it's only going to continue to roll that way. So getting some of that perspective, experience, I think, is good for our staff. We're staying current with new ideas."
New ideas and a fresh perspective are important to this coaching staff but when it came to hiring an offensive coordinator, the most important thing was a familiar face.
"More than anything, I wanted Josh to be comfortable," McDermott shared.
"Part of our plan, when we got started, was continuity for Josh, from the coaching staff, the organization, the plays, the protections," Bills general manager Brandon Beane said. "Even though we've got a new O-line coach, we don't have to change all the protections. He's coming in to kind of learn our system. The more we can keep the same for Josh, the easier it will be to assimilate.
"Ken's going to have his own nuances. Everybody does, to how they do things. But a lot will be the came. We just felt in the end that was the most important."
McDermott and Beane wanted to make sure Allen had a say in the decision and believe Dorsey has played a big role in developing multiple quarterbacks, including Allen.
"When you look at Ken's influence on Cam Newton, and you look at then what Ken has been able to do alongside of Josh, alongside of Brian (Daboll) and helping Josh," McDermott shared. "Then Josh putting his stamp on Ken, I think that alone says a lot or says enough. Ken is a good young coach that works at it, is smart, and as I mentioned earlier, those are two good qualities that give you a chance to be successful."
Allen will get to work with a new quarterbacks coach in Joe Brady who comes to Buffalo from the Carolina Panthers. Brady was an offensive coordinator for the Panthers from 2020 to 2021 and helped win LSU a national championship in 2019 as their passing game coordinator and wide receiver coach.
"I knew his name coming through the ranks with what he did at William and Mary and what he did after in his postgrad years in terms of his coaching career, his early coaching career and who he spent time with," McDermott said. "You're talking about, by all accounts, a smart guy that works hard. And so when you combine those two things, which was a big part of some of the decisions that went into those other hires, as well, you can find some intelligence and an ability to work hard or willingness to work hard. Overall, I think you've got a chance to be pretty good in this business."
McDermott shared that Dorsey and Brady will work together with Allen quite a bit but their day-to-day roles will be different.
"The way we have done it primarily is the OC will be involved with Josh, big picture-wise," McDermott said. "But the day-to-day interaction in the room itself is primarily the quarterback coach and then the other quarterbacks in the room. So, the coordinator checks in and has his influence and role in connection with a quarterback, don't get me wrong, but a lot of the legwork is with the position coach itself, and that's true of most positions."
The 2021 NFL Scouting Combine is underway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Click through to see photos of current Bills players from when they performed at the Combine.
Another person who will have his hand on the offense is new offensive line coach Aaron Kromer. Kromer was the Bills offensive line coach from 2015 to 2016 but most recently coached with the Rams. McDermott thinks Kromer can do a great job of developing Buffalo's offensive linemen.
"I feel so good about Aaron in terms of the level that he's coached at as an offensive line coach," McDermott shared. "A big, big emphasis for us is protecting our quarterback and you know, why I don't need to tell you why. So making a big-time hire at that position was important for me this offseason so that those players are developing the right way. And I know Aaron's had a track record of developing players at that position."
Matthew Smiley was promoted to Buffalo's special teams coordinator from assistant special teams coach after Heath Farwell took a job with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Smiley actually started in Buffalo before Farwell came in and has a great relationship with the roster, that's one reason why McDermott wanted to keep him.
"(I'm) confident in his ability," McDermott said. "He's learned and he's taken a lot of notes over his, I think, nine-year career to the point in the NFL. Another guy that's earned that opportunity. I think he's a good coach. The players respect him, and I look forward to what he's going to do with that unit moving forward."
While there has been lots of shifting and adding to the Bills coaching staff, McDermott expects the product on the field to improve with the help of the new coaches. Heading into year six, McDermott wanted to make it a point to reflect, reshape and rebrand. He gets the chance to do that with this staff in a league that's constantly changing.
"We are able to infuse some new ideas, some young coaches into our system and can develop them," McDermott shared. "And that's what you have to continually do just being with Andy (Reid) over the years, when you win people want a piece of what you do and how you do it so they start grabbing. And you're seeing that on the personnel side, you're seeing that on the coaching side, even some of our non-coaching staff as well. So, I think that's the exciting piece of the challenge of rebuilding for next season."