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Top 5 things we learned from Sean McDermott's 2021 season wrap-up press conference

Sean McDermott and coaching staff. Buffalo Bills vs New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium, December 26, 2021.   Photo by Bill Wippert
Sean McDermott and coaching staff. Buffalo Bills vs New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium, December 26, 2021. Photo by Bill Wippert

1. 13 seconds recap

Head coach Sean McDermott stated that he has reviewed the final 13 seconds of regulation from Sunday night's Divisional Playoff a countless number of times and run it through his head "a million times." It won't change the results of those final moments, but he did admit that the outcome was so difficult to accept because of how often they prepare for those moments throughout the season.

"It's been disappointing, particularly the last part of the game," said McDermott. "It's an area, those 13 seconds in particular, that we pride ourselves in being detailed and prepared. And it's an area of situational football practiced almost daily here. It's typically handled very well. And it's something that we all have to face. We're not going to run from it. And hopefully one day as we look back, one day it'll be a part of our story and we'll be accomplishing the goals that we have as an organization. Somewhere along the lines that'll help us. Right now, it's hard, but I'm extremely proud of this team. I'm extremely proud of what we've we have accomplished. And I believe that we're going to face it and learn from it."

McDermott would not get into the details of those moments. He once again pointed to execution with respect to both the kickoff with 13 seconds remaining as well as the two plays on defense that followed.

2. The need for speed

The Bills pride themselves on being the most fundamentally sound team in football. That is particularly true on defense as their unit led the league in total defense, pass defense, third down defense and scoring defense among a handful of other top rankings.

As fundamentally sound as they were this year, the one thing that trumped Buffalo's core principle was elite speed. Kansas City's top end athletes on offense beat even the perfect angle of entry by Bills defenders who tried to make plays on the Chiefs' speedy ball carriers.

It led to a number of yards after the catch for Kansas City, which had a league-leading 118 in the Divisional Playoff round per TruMedia stats, and either shortened the length of their scoring drives or ended the drive altogether with a score.

Though there will be a lot of in-depth evaluation by McDermott and GM Brandon Beane on what this team needs going forward, on defense it is clear to the head coach that the Chiefs elite speed must be matched if the Bills are to get past their playoff nemesis.

"I think that's a valid point," said McDermott of prioritizing speed on defense. "That team speed is unique obviously with Tyreek Hill and 17 (Mecole Hardman) and 13 (Byron Pringle) – they've got a lot of guys that can fly. And it does impact the game. It impacts strategy, it impacts game-planning. And then on the field, as you saw, it impacts the result, right? So, it's unique, the speed that they have. And again, giving them credit, they've done a lot of things well. They've had quite some time to build that up, and so credit goes to them.

"We're going to continue to build this as well, and we're going to continue to address areas of need, and I think not just this year, but evolving with how the game continues to evolve, that we have to continue to evolve with it and try and be out in front of it, all the time. So that's what we have to do and one of the areas that we have to continue to look at – matching team speed on both sides of the ball."

That answer seems to indicate that player speed will be a priority when considering additions on defense this offseason.

3. Keeping Allen in the loop

Josh Allen in his locker cleanout press conference Monday did express a desire to have some say if and when the time comes to replace offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who is a finalist for the New York Giants head coaching job and has also interviewed with the Miami Dolphins for their head coaching vacancy.

When asked what kind of input Allen would have on potential future hiring decisions at offensive coordinator, McDermott confirmed that the Bills QB will have input.

"Josh and I communicate on a lot of things," said McDermott. "We spoke (Monday) about some of what you're discussing, and he will be in the loop, and he will be communicated with and we certainly value Josh's opinion on things and it's important that he's comfortable as well. So, no decision will be made without Josh."

Allen did give indication that he felt Bills quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey would be a worthy successor should Daboll land a head coaching position elsewhere in the league.

Further developing the offense will be a major offseason focus with or without Daboll on the coaching staff. The team broke new ground in 2021 as their attack was diversified late in the season with a running game that added more balance to their play and more effectiveness to their red zone touchdown efficiency.

"The health of an offense involves the threat of being two-dimensional," McDermott said. "I firmly believe in that. You saw the results of when we were really rolling. We had a good ebb and flow. Just the run and pass and the (play) action game, and some of those things as well. So, I think that helps the offensive line when you can do both. It certainly helps Josh. When I say the offensive line, it's a lot easier to rush the passer when you know where to find the quarterback, right? And so, when you can make yourself a two-dimensional threat, it seems to slow people down, and I think that's when offenses are at their best, when they can do that."

4. Philosophy on coaching staff promotions

Knowing the potential exists for the Bills to lose both Daboll and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier to head coaching positions, McDermott was asked about his philosophy on hiring replacements. First, whether he's open to promoting from within.

"You want to be able to promote from within, just like in any business, that's where you get your return on investment," McDermott said. "That's where you try and foster morale and camaraderie. Again and again, just continue to invest in the people we have in our building. There are two sides of that, right? They've got to show you that they have what it takes and will put in the time and then you'd love to be able to do that in every situation. So, we try and do that as much as you can."

When asked if he believes there are viable and ready candidates on his current staff to consider for such promotions, McDermott offered the following.

"I think generally speaking we do," he said. "I've been very pleased with our staff, and we got a good group."

5. Defensive line development

One position group that appeared to be a bit in transition was the defensive line. Buffalo depended on some veteran players early in the season but playing time at some positions shifted to younger players like Harrison Phillips and Efe Obada. With heavy draft investment the last three years in the form of Ed Oliver, AJ Epenesa, Greg Rousseau and Boogie Basham, the defensive staff was generally encouraged about the progress made by those younger players who will hopefully represent the core of the group in the years to come.

Coach McDermott outlined how important it is for the young core of the defensive front to further develop their individual skill sets as well as their performance as a unit.

"All season long we had some depth that we could pull from, which was important," said McDermott. "That's a position that tends to get banged up, very similar to the skilled positions, albeit in a different way. But it was nice to have some of the depth, but what we really have to do is develop some of those young players so that we can continue to affect the quarterback. And that will be a goal of ours – will continue to be a goal. It's just the game is – the importance of how well you play up front on both sides of the ball is critical to your team's success."

Oliver put together his most productive season as well as Phillips, who is a pending free agent. Basham, Epenesa and Rousseau all expect to be counted on even more next season.

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