(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first of a two-part series with Bills general manager Brandon Beane from his season-ending press conference.)
ORCHARD PARK — Before Bills general manager Brandon Beane got into the question-and-answer portion of his end-of-season press conference, he followed the lead of coach Sean McDermott, whose session was just before, with some heart-felt remarks.
“I’m just blown away by our fans and I know our players are,” Beane said. “I’ve never heard players talk so positively about their fans because we know, especially with social media, fans can be very passionate and there can be a lot of negative energy. We lose that game the other night (22-19 in overtime at Houston in Saturday’s playoff opener) and I was just shocked how many people — at 2 or 2:15 a.m. — were out there with signs, cheering. If you just walked up on that scene you would’ve thought we won the game.
“I get emotional because I feel bad for them that we didn’t win that game. You go back to Nashville (Titans), Miami (Dolphins), Houston (Texans). (At) Nashville, that was like a bowl game — their team does something good and you hear that side of the stadium, our team does something good (you hear our side), it was truly like a neutral field. To have the Bills Mafia, Bills Nation, support us that way all season long is unmatched. (Myself), our players, our entire building (are appreciative).”
OF COURSE, looking to the team’s future, as with McDermott, Beane was asked to assess the play of quarterback Josh Allen in his second season.
“Josh is a young player ... overall I’m very proud,” he said. “The thing about Josh, we had our exit meeting with him and you don’t even have to start going down (the list) on areas of improvement, he’s got them. He’s very aware of the things he does well and the areas (he can improve).
“A year ago to when he came back in the spring ... at practice, training camp and then carrying over into games, he improved in a lot of areas. Is he perfect? Is he where he wants to be, where we want him to be? No, but he’s got the DNA to continue to improve and I have no doubt that he’s disgusted like we all are that we didn’t finish that (playoff) game and come out with a win.”
Beane added, “You can talk about playoffs, but you can’t simulate it until you play it. Josh — he wants it so bad — sometimes he tries to do too much. If we’re not moving the ball at times, that’s one of the things he needs to work on, playing within himself.
“I think he tried to put all 45 other players on his back and do things that he shouldn’t do. (Houston QB) Deshaun Watson made some great plays, I’m sure (Allen saw) what was going on (and thought), ‘Man, he’s making some great plays, I gotta go do it.’”
Beane pointed out, “He’s a fiery competitor and I would much rather have those errors than check-down Charlie, being timid. I have no doubt that he’s going to come back an even better version of himself in April.”
What about his penchant for trying to do too much?
“I don’t think there’s a hump that Josh can’t get over,” Beane maintained. “He’s so determined — people say a player can take coaching or take criticism — Josh truly takes it. He wants the feedback, he doesn’t get his feelings hurt. He knows every question you guys are asking about him. He’s very in-tune and he’ll come off to the sidelines like, ‘I know I can’t try and force that ball, I know I have to protect that ball,’ if it’s a sack-fumble or whatever.
“At the end of the day, it’s maturity, it’s me doing a better job of increasing the talent around him too, so he can have more players to trust and make plays for him where he can feel like he doesn’t have to do too much.”
Was that a factor in the playoff loss at Houston?
“Most of the (ill-advised) things he did in the second half was when the momentum changed (thinking) ‘I’ve got to make a play for this team,” Beane said. “That’s his first time in the playoffs. I have no doubt he’ll learn from it. It’s hard to play quarterback ... the hardest position. I know everyone in this community is focused on our quarterback. But I study quarterbacks from other teams and see how they do. I’m very proud of where Josh is at.
“We don’t win 10 games without Josh Allen. He did a lot of great things. Was everything perfect? No. It’s a quarterback league, so if you have elite quarterback play it definitely ups your odds. I don’t want to say you can’t win a Super Bowl without an elite quarterback. There have been some cases, but generally speaking, most of the teams that advance in the playoffs year-after-year and the teams that are steady, winning their division, have good quarterback play.”
Does he subscribe to the theory that NFL QBs make the most progress between their second and third seasons?
“I think it does help,” Beane said of Allen. “That was one of the things I was excited about, making the playoffs. I wish I wasn’t up here right now. I wish we were still preparing for another game, but that he now has a road playoff game under his belt, you can’t replicate it.
“He’s so hungry, so determined to, he knows he has doubters ... all the people; from the day he was drafted and still today. He understands that’s the world we live in. He can play three good games but the first time he has a bad game all the naysayers are going to jump on him. He’s self-aware, he understands what he has to do.”
(TOMORROW: What are the Bills priorities for 2020?)
(Chuck Pollock, a Times Herald senior sports columnist, can be reached at email@example.com)