When head coach Sean McDermott and GM Brandon Beane came to the Buffalo Bills in 2017, they had their work cut out for them. The Bills hadn’t seen the playoffs since 1999. Rex Ryan had promised a lot and delivered nothing. Doug Marrone quit. And the other recent team leaders before that left little in terms of positivity or legacy. In just three years, McDermott and Beane have changed the Buffalo Bills. They’ve taken the team from a punchline to playoff caliber. They’ve crafted short term success and a foundation for the future. McDermott and Beane have architected a turnaround for the Buffalo Bills.
Architects: Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane
Collectively known as “McBeane” amongst Bills Mafia, Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane rebuilt the Bills in a short time. The 2019 roster only has three players on it from the year before they took over. McBeane focused on changing the team in order to build a winner now and for the future. They’ve been shrewd in free agency and the NFL draft, and have navigated salary cap issues. The results have been two playoff appearances in their first three years and the fourth most salary cap space heading into 2020.
When Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane took over in 2017 they had a roster that needed work. A lot of work. And they got to it right away.
Sammy Watkins and Marcell Dareus, both previously thought to be franchise cornerstones, were gone by mid-season. Starting cornerback Ronald Darby was traded. If a player didn’t fit the direction McBeane was going in, they were shown the door. No matter who they were or what role they played. And then new players came in their place.
The Bills signed safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer. They drafted cornerback Tre’Davious White, linebacker Matt Milano, and tackle Dion Dawkins. They made a series of moves that went largely unnoticed but helped in both the short and long term. Ironically, the subtractions they made garnered more attention than their additions. The result? The Bills made the playoffs for the first time since 1999.
2018 was a more difficult year for Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane. This was the year the tear down and rebuild hit the hardest. To begin with, the Bills carried over $50 million in dead money against the salary cap. They also traded starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor and starting left tackle Cordy Glenn. And they placed starting guard Richie Incognito on the Reserve/Retired list. But much like in 2017, for every exodus there was an arrival.
The Bills signed defensive tackle Star Lotulelei and defensive end Trent Murphy. They drafted quarterback Josh Allen, linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, defensive tackle Harrison Phillips, cornerback Taron Johnson and safety Siran Neal. Cornerback Levi Wallace was signed as an undrafted free agent. Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips was signed after being released by the Miami Dolphins. Each one of these players went on to play meaningful snaps in 2018 and in 2019. And they added onto the core that began to form in 2017 with Hyde, Poyer, White, Milano, and Dawkins.
2018 was the year that set the foundation for what was to come. It was the year the culture and identity of the team became established. The Bills went 6-10 but found out who they were going to be going forward and who was going to lead them. They learned and grew as they faced adversity and criticism. It wasn’t pretty. But it was a part of the plan for Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane.
In 2019, McBeane brought in 21 players via free agency. They revamped the offensive line by bringing in three new starters and rotational depth. John Brown and Cole Beasley bolstered the receiving corps. Then they drafted starting defensive tackle Ed Oliver, starting running back Devin Singletary, starting offensive lineman Cody Ford, and starting tight end Dawson Knox.
The result was the Bills made the playoffs for the second time in three seasons and had a playoff spot locked up in week 16. Each year has seen further improvement and growth from the Buffalo Bills. Something that hasn’t occurred since the great Bills teams of the 90s. And that improvement and growth and success, is due to Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane.
20 of the 22 starters on the 2019 Buffalo Bills were brought in by McDermott or Beane or both. In the span of three years they’ve turned over the Bills roster and made the playoffs twice. And the core of the team is young and still growing. For example, starting middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds has been a two year starter for the Bills. He’s the quarterback of their elite defense. He’s also 21 years old.
What It All Means for Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane
Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane have their fingerprints all over this Buffalo Bills team. They created the blueprint for this team. And then they built this team according to that blueprint. They wanted a strong defense. So they got a strong defense. They wanted a franchise QB. So they got a franchise QB. They wanted culture and character so they shipped out guys that didn’t fit and brought in guys that did.
Again, this current Bills roster only has three players on it from the year before McBeane. That kind of roster turnover is drastic in that amount of time. And in that same amount of time they’ve made the playoffs twice. Something unheard of in Buffalo for almost 20 years. It would be nice if the Bills made some noise in the playoffs this year. But if they don’t, they have the leadership and team structure to ensure they will in the future. The outlook is bright for the Buffalo Bills with Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane at the helm.
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