The Bills made it clear they aren’t satisfied with the offense.
What’s far from clear is who is going to take the fall.
“There’s a lot of hands in the cookie jar, so to speak,” Bills GM Brandon Beane said. “We’re far from a finished product.”
That answer was in response to a question about how much blame Tyrod Taylor shoulders for the offensive failures during the annual end of the season press conference held by Beane and head coach Sean McDermott Tuesday.
McDermott was quick to fire off the usual offseason cliches: It’s early in the process. We’re still evaluating. We don’t want to speculate on anyone.
Beane, at least, offered a reason to believe Taylor won’t be shown the door at the Bills’ earliest convenience.
“Tyrod has a lot of ability. he did a lot of good things,” Beane said. “He’ll tell you, he has weaknesses to work on like a lot of other guys. You can never question his work ethic. He gives himself the best chance to succeed on the field because of what he does off.”
Specific questions about the future of offensive coordinator Rick Dennison were similarly dodged.
McDermott reminded the assembled media of his methodical nature and approach. He would not guarantee the future of any current Bills assistants.
He also understands it’s not courteous to make his assistants wait forever.
“There’s families behind these individuals this time of year. Being responsible in making decisions for our football team is what we do. Yes, there is a time element to this. That said, we’ve got to make sure they’re well thought through decisions.”
McDermott said the decision on Dennison’s future will be his, but he will discuss it with Beane.
“Brandon and I work together on a lot of things,” McDermott said. “We’re building this thing together. We’re aligned on all of it. I’m not going to hold that away from Brandon.”
The decision on offensive coordinator and quarterback will be related. McDermott acknowledged a connection and then may have delivered a damaging blow to any thoughts Dennison would be absolved of the offense’s failure because of Taylor’s limitations.
“At the end of the day, good coaches are good teachers. That’s where you start.”
On the other hand, Beane said the offensive problems were everyone’s responsibility, including his own for not finding the right players. “It was a new scheme, a new year, a lot of new parts, a lot of new things here. We just could never get on track consistently.”
The Bills will be open to pursuing a quarterback in free agency, but Beane quickly latched onto a reporter’s use of the phrase “responsible spending”.
“We’ll spend what we need to spend. The key is to spend wisely,” he said. “What you have to do is set (a level) where this guy belongs and then not get in chase mode (if the asking price starts to escalate).”
McDermott and Beane both say they want a veteran in the room, whether that veteran plays or not, for the leadership they offer. It’s something that goes for every position group.
There’s no doubt the Bills will be interested in drafting a quarterback, as well. They are well stocked with four of their eight draft picks this April coming in the top 60.
Whether the Bills move up, move down or stand pat is too early to speculate about. The organization has watched these quarterbacks play extensively, but that’s only one part of the puzzle.
“We’ve yet to meet any of them,” Beane said. “There’s so many layers of what it takes to play QB in this league, there’s still a long way to go. We will go where we need to go to get the right players.”
McDermott did not go into detail about the level of Kelvin Benjamin’s knee injury, but did confirm that he was not himself.
“We know when healthy what Kelvin is capable of. He wasn’t healthy after that Chargers game. The young man toughed it out and there was leadership shown by him doing that.”
McDermott called it a “big offseason” for him.
While Beane stopped short of writing Kyle Williams a blank check, he made it very clear the Bills would welcome the veteran defensive tackle back if Williams wants to play another season.
Williams’ part of the scene in Miami when the Bills qualified for the playoffs is something Beane won’t soon forget.
“To see that moment in the locker room, him and his sons, what it meant to this city. He’s a big part of the leadership. Definitely want that back,” Beane said. “Who doesn’t love Kyle Williams? We’ll give him time to sit back. At the right time, we’ll get together.”
THANK YOU FANS
McDermott and Beane both opened the press conference with heartfelt appreciation for Bills fans.
“The energy throughout the fan base and throughout the city was phenomenal,” McDermott said. “It helped us get through the highs and lows of the season. Great to see fans show up in Jacksonville. It’s been a team effort. The whole building on board.”
“I want to say how impressed I was with this fan base,” Beane said. “You knew it from afar, but until you experienced what it was like this season. The passion and outpouring, from videos to fans showing up in -3 or -2 degrees when our plane got back from Miami, you see what it means (to Buffalo). Our guys saw that and felt it. It was team effort. that includes the fans as well.”
McDermott would not go intos specifics about what happened with Cordy Glenn’s foot and ankle injury or his potential future with the team.
“I dont think there’s air to clear,” McDermott said. “Cordy had successful operation. He’s currently rehabbing and getting himself ready for a great offseason.”
REVELING IN THE SEASON
There was no doubt the Bills braintrust knows there is more work to be done. Nine wins and one and done in the playoffs is hardly the finish line.
However, McDermott and Beane did take a few moments to acknowledge what they accomplished this year: ending the Drought with a roster in year one of a makeover.
“We threw curveballs with trades in August and during the season,” Beane said. “To go thru that and endure a three game losing streak and still make the playoffs, it says a lot about what Sean and staff did.”
“I’ve been around some successful teams before. This was one heckuva football team, one heckuva team,” McDermott said to distinguish how good the group of guys was together, regardless of the play on the field. “When you look at the ways guys sacrificed for one another, they were unselfish in their approach. Fought through adversity.”
The nine wins and the playoff spot happened while the Bills were using the entirety of their draft class extensively.
“We were following though the year the playing time of our rookies versus the rookies on other teams. It was trending high,” Beane said. “There’s no substitute for play time and you can’t simulate postseason experience. That’s huge as we build this thing going forward.”
The Bills will continue to look for guys that have the character they desire and fit into their culture. As well as that worked out in 2017, there’s no guarantee it works in 2018.
“One of biggest challenges is to sustain success. Each year is different, one from next. Decisions we make will be key in trying to build on what we did this year,” McDermott said.
There’s no doubt the Bills exceeded outside expectations. Inside the organization, the Bills believe they have been on the same path since McDermott arrived 12 months ago.
“Everyone drew own conclusions,” Beane said. “This team defined itself. Our plan did not change.”