(This is the first of a two-part series with Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who met with the team media earlier this week via Zoom call.)
Pretty much any discussions of the 2020 Buffalo Bills start with quarterback Josh Allen and the giant step up he took from year number two to three.
The result was a 13-3 regular-season, the team’s first division title since 1995 and a berth in the American Football Conference Championship Game.
Individually, Allen was second in the NFL’s MVP voting based on his extraordinary year: 4,544 passing yards and 46 touchdowns (37 passing, 8 rushing and 1 receiving).
Indeed, there are those who wonder if the fourth-year pro can come close to duplicating those stats in a season where opposing stadiums will be full and loud with the entire team having a target on its back after last year’s success.
Thus, it was no surprise when Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll got plenty of questions about his 25-year-old quarterback during a Monday Zoom call.
WHEN ASKED if Allen had been told to focus on any special areas over the winter, he said, “Josh has a good offseason plan in terms of the things he’s done since he’s been here. There was nothing specific (he needed to work on). It’s like a golf swing, his mechanics, his follow-through, his base, his movement in the pocket, he does those things religiously throughout the offseason.
“Each year he learns a little bit more about the system and we try to tailor the system specifically to him. There’s a lot of really good give-and-take between the two of us … things he feels comfortable with and things we can do a better job of. He’s the consummate pro … never satisfied with what (he) did the previous year.”
Daboll added, “You wish you could bottle (last season) up and throw it out there the next (year) and it’s all the same, but in reality it’s not. We have almost 15 new guys on offense. You’re going to hit some tough times here and there and he’s such a good leader in that regard.
“I value his input in the things he feels really comfortable with. He really is the same guy every day since he’s been here … he’s humble, he’s got an underdog mentality, he’s a grinder, he’s never satisfied, he loves to practice, is competitive in the meeting rooms. His leadership skills are outstanding.”
Still, the veteran coordinator pointed out of his QB, “He’s not relying on what happened the year before ... what I appreciate about him is that he’s turned the page really quick. Ultimately, at the end of the year, there’s only one team that’s going to be happy. And if you’re happy that you made it to a certain point but didn’t make it to (the desired) point then we’re all in the wrong business.”
OF COURSE, Allen’s gaudy numbers left some observers wondering if Buffalo had actually thrown the ball too much.
“Where you rank in the passing game and the run game, we’re not really concerned with that,” Daboll maintained. “What we’re concerned with is the things we install and the things we ask the players to do. Are we doing that and executing it the proper way?
“You can look at all the stats, but ultimately it comes down to putting the players in the best position we can put them in with a good plan and them going out and executing it.”
And, he pointed out of the ground game, “There were a lot of good runs and some that weren’t as good as we’d like them to be (but) you can look at the pass game and say the same thing. You want to be the best offense you can be whether we rank higher in one area than another.
“If that week we need to run the ball, it’s really important, and if we need to throw the ball to win it’s really important. There’s a lot of different ways to win a game … first in the league in pass, first in the league in run, first in the league in total offense and first in the league in points, that rarely happens. The team that won the Super Bowl (Tampa Bay) was second in the league in passing and 28th in rushing.”
Daboll reiterated, “To me, stats really don’t matter. What matters to me is being effective in the things you’re asked to do when we need to do them. Everybody talks about balance … it’s good if you win, it’s not very good if you lose.
“Our philosophy is do what we need to do to win a football game. If we need to throw it 30 times in a row, then throw it 30 times in a row. If it’s run it 30 times, then run it.”
IN ANY CASE, the Bills aren’t going to live in the recent past.
“It’s kind of a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league,” Daboll allowed. “You can’t really get caught up on whether it was a season you wish you had done better or one you did well. None of that really matters … it’s not the same team. There’s a lot of the same guys, but there’s also 15 new people (on Buffalo’s offensive unit).
“We’re just trying to live in the moment and not look too far ahead and make sure the chemistry is right between the quarterback, wide receivers and tight ends that we have.”
(Chuck Pollock, a Times Herald senior sports columnist, can be reached at email@example.com)