There isn't a whole lot of faith from the national pundits regarding the offensive fortunes of the Buffalo Bills in 2018. Whether their analysis has any merit is inconsequential to the players in Buffalo's locker room. They believe in the talent they have on the roster, and they are resolutely confident their offensive coordinator will put them in position to succeed.
Brian Daboll has come in as Buffalo's new offensive play caller and made a dramatic impression. He came to the Bills with quality credentials having worked under one of the best college coaches in the game in Nick Saban, and one of the best NFL coaches in the game in Bill Belichick. However, once Daboll arrived at One Bills Drive, he still had to prove himself.
“Daboll is a smart coach. He finds ways to get guys the ball in open space. ... He’ll put us in different formations to make the defense have to account for that. So all those things help us out even if we don’t have the big playmakers that people think we need.” Running back LeSean McCoy
It didn't take long for him to convince his players that he will make their offense a more consistent and more productive operation.
"Daboll is a smart coach," said LeSean McCoy. "He finds ways to get guys the ball in open space. He does a good job of sharing the ball. He'll put us in different formations to make the defense have to account for that. So all those things help us out even if we don't have the big playmakers that people think we need."
"My coaching style, I'm demanding," said Daboll. "I expect the players to know what to do. It's our job to teach them how to do it. Players don't really care how much you know until they know how much you care. I have a lot of appreciation for our players and how much they work and what they do on a daily basis in terms of what they do in practice and their daily preparation habits."
Too many times in the past there were games where the Bills offense lacked creativity and appeared predictable. Halftime adjustments didn't seem to give the offense a way to climb back into a game or sustain what may have worked in the first half. It led to offensive rankings that sat in the bottom quarter of the league.
"As I went through the process of finding the right person for the job, he stood out among the others in every area," said head coach Sean McDermott of his decision to hire Daboll this past offseason. "Brian is a high-level thinker. He does a nice job of teaching fundamentals at every position, which is unique in our league. He's what I would call a people person. He relates well to people on and off the field. He's easy to talk to, which is an important quality as a coach."
Though Buffalo's offensive playbook has been described as voluminous, there's a style of teaching that Daboll possesses that enables players to master their assignments.
"I've been around a lot of offensive coordinators and head coaches that people have called geniuses," said Ryan Groy. "But they're not good with people or players in communicating what they know. That's the difference between Brian and other people.
"He can really tell people how he wants it done and show you how he wants it done, instead of just calling a play. Then if you don't do it right and then those other coaches can't communicate why they want it a certain way. Just his communication and the way he presents it is pretty good."
"When you're in a role of a leadership position, you have to effectively communicate," Daboll said. "I learned a long time ago from veteran players that I was with early on in my career, the Lawyer Milloy types, to just be honest with them. Tell them what they need to do better. Give them an answer to the question that they have and if I don't, it's okay to say I'll find it out for you. That's being frank and being honest; I think it's the only way to go."
Daboll uses anything and everything to try to create an advantage for his players. He might focus on a mismatch. It could be a tempo variation in running the offense or throwing multiple personnel groupings at a defense down in and down out. Buffalo's offensive coordinator will use whatever he can to get his players an edge.
It has players confident that his play calling alone will make a difference for their fortunes this season.
"I think he's extremely smart," said Nathan Peterman. "He is an extremely hard worker. He calls me late at night going over ideas and things that we can do. That makes you feel secure as a quarterback, [and] as a guy playing for him [knowing] we've seen every look and we've got to trust the rules and go out there and perform. He's going to put us in the best position to win."
"Just talking to him and seeing how he thinks. I've been around some smart coaches offensively, and the way they scheme things up and find mismatches and take advantage of them is not so simple," said McCoy. "It's an offense where you have to think and put the defense in a bind. That's hard (to draw up)."
McCoy believes Kelvin Benjamin will have a big year. Not only because Benjamin is as healthy as he's ever been in his NFL career, but because Daboll is an expert at exploiting mismatches. He also foresees success for Charles Clay and Marcus Murphy.
"I realize I'm the main focus for defenses, but we have a lot of small pieces put together to make plays," said McCoy. "Then you sprinkle in a genius at the offensive coordinator spot who comes from a winning program last year with Alabama and also with the Patriots.
"They might be our rivals, but you've got to give them guys credit. They find ways to win and they do well offensively. Some of the things he brings here is that coaching and attitude and then the smarts and making guys accountable to know the playbook."
Daboll naturally downplays his level of impact on the team.
"We're all a part of this thing together, myself [and] the coaches," he said. "It starts with Sean [McDermott], Brandon [Beane] and our ownership. I'm just a piece of the puzzle trying to do the best that I can do along with the help of a lot of other people around here."
The proof will come on the field once the season gets underway this weekend, but the faith in Daboll's scheming has Buffalo's offense feeling they'll always have a good answer for whatever defensive look they face.
"He's got a ton of answers for a lot of different situations," said Groy.
"The special coordinators are coaches who can put you in plays that will be successful," said McCoy. "Just in terms of not running a play into a bad look. Always having an audible out of it or always having a play where we can get out of a bad look. That's half the battle, giving us a chance or an opportunity."