(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second of a two-part series with Bills general manager Brandon Beane from his season-ending press conference. Today, what’s needed in 2020.)
ORCHARD PARK — Bills’ general manager Brandon Beane and coach Sean McDermott are in constant contact and not merely because they’re close friends. McDermott tells Beane what he needs, or would like to have, player-wise, and Beane pursues the player procurement.
Hence, at the season-ending press conference Beane shared with the coach, much of the questioning centered on needs.
ONE OF his first responses urged Bills fans to pump the brakes with his team coming off a second playoff appearance in three seasons.
“I don’t think we’re one player away (from being a Super Bowl contender),” Beane said. “I never think you are and I definitely don’t think we’re one player away (now). You lose in the first round of the playoffs, that doesn’t say to me that the Bills are one player away from being exactly where we want to be. We’re going to see if we can find more talent.
“One of the big tests for teams that start making the playoffs is other coaches, when you play them the next year, will use that as a measuring stick … this is a team that won the division or advanced in the playoffs. You’re going to get everyone’s best next season and you have to be prepared for it. There’s no sneaking up on anyone or people underestimating the Buffalo Bills. That’ll be a different test and we didn’t always answer that in Carolina. That will be something that we’ll definitely focus on this offseason.”
So what are the priorities heading into the 2020 season?
“We have to keep our defense strong, they had a really good year,” Beane maintained. “You need to be strong in all three phases (of the game). We want to be better on special teams … our special teams did improve from a year ago, but we’re not happy with that.
“Offensively, we did show some improvement — statistically — and we scored more points, but at the end of the day we didn’t score enough. A lot of times, if you make the playoffs your last game — if you don’t win it all, whether you go to the championship game or lose like we did — it kind of shows you where your season went, where you’re good and where you need to get better.”
But he also admitted, “I don’t think we’re looking at an overhaul. Last year, offensively, was an overhaul. We’re going to look under every rock to find competition and upgrades where we can. But my philosophy hasn’t changed, we’ve got to draft, develop and sign our guys. Now we’re getting into the area where guys who have been here for three years are up for contracts. All those discussions will commence real soon — the guys who are potential free agents — whether we want them back and can we work it out with them?”
WHAT DOES Beane see as the biggest need after his first three seasons?
“I’m going to look in the mirror first,” he said. “What can I do better to get our roster better? The first year was our first time around Tyrod (Taylor), a different offensive coordinator, so I don’t think you can totally count that. We made a decision at that point that we were going to draft a young quarterback, so I would really look at it as the last two (years).
“A rookie quarterback in ‘18 and honestly I didn’t do a good enough job in ‘18. Part of that was where we were in the salary cap, there were some restrictions. But there were things I could’ve done better to give us better up-front protection; I think we hurt Josh (Allen) a little bit on that. Honestly, we didn’t plan on him to play as quick as he did, (but) that was the best move for us at the time last year. I think it paid off, but it was painful early on.”
He continued, “This year, we improved in a lot of areas, but it takes time. There were nine new starters (on offense) and that’s probably not ideal; you (media) guys asked me at the beginning of the year, ‘How quick is that o-line going to gel, how quickly is Josh going to gel with Cole Beasley and John Brown. I brought in (tight end) Tyler Kroft, unfortunately he had the injury setback, so (rookie draft pick) Dawson Knox is now cast in the forefront and he did a lot of good things for a young player, but I know there’s some plays he left out there that hopefully will get better.
“It was Year 2 in (offensive coordinator) Brian Daboll’s system. I saw improvement, but Brian would be the first one to tell you that there’s things he’d want to do as well.”
So what’s in Buffalo’s future free agency-wise?
“I don’t think you’re going to see us go crazy because it goes back to that one player away,” Beane said. “We have to continue to build it and as much as I’d like to have three drafts within four months apart and continue to draft a bunch of young guys, you have to be patient; you still have to do it the right way.
“If it’s going to last and be sustained success, we want to be urgent in our approach, we want to press our guys (so) we can make it much further than we did this year. But we’re not changing the plan. We’re still going to draft, develop and sign and sprinkle in free agents where we need holes (filled). But I wouldn’t expect us to make some radical, trade-all-our-draft-picks or do anything like that to get (one) player to get us over the hump.”
(Chuck Pollock, a Times Herald senior sports columnist, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)