Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott is a strong believer in implementing themes for the team each year. From the “Trust the Process” mantra that’s since trickled down throughout the roster, to the team being “Playoff Caliber,” these slogans, while often joked at by many, are truly a sentiment that the team embraces each and every year since McDermott was hired in 2017. Now entering his fifth season with the team, McDermott has a new mantra for the team as they enter training camp to prepare for the 2021 season, and that’s to remain “Humble and Hungry.”
Coming off of a 13-3 season and an appearance in the AFC Championship Game, expectations for this Bills team are extremely high. Anything less than a Super Bowl appearance will be viewed as a failure by many. And while Buffalo is firmly on the radar of every team, fan and analyst around the country, McDermott is taking this humble and hungry approach seriously, as nothing in the NFL is a given.
When McDermott addressed the media prior to the team’s first training camp practice, he talked about the importance of starting back at the basics and building the team from the ground up.
“It’s really similar to what we’ve done. Every year is different, every team is different,” McDermott said Wednesday. “But you’ve got to start at square one every year. You have to start over, and mindset-wise, you’ve got to be as humble and hungry. And over the years, I’ve found that a humble and hungry approach goes a long way, inside the building and outside the building, and really in life in general. That’s what I subscribe to and that’s what I expect from our team.”
Getting a strong message across to his players is important for McDermott, but staying fresh to a roster that’s enjoyed as much continuity as the Bills’ has can present challenges. So the fifth-year coach spent time going over previous meeting notes in order to formulate a message that would resonate not just with the new players that are just joining the team, but for the veterans that have been with the team for several seasons now.
“I take notes,” McDermott said. “I go back to my notes on previous meetings and what I’ve shared with the team and try to figure out, this year, what’s relevant? And not just give them a canned – here’s the first meeting all over again – because I’d lose them pretty quickly, you know with some of the guys that have been here going on five years now. And also make it relevant to what’s going on with our situation, with the landscape of what’s going on in America and really meet them where they are and where our team is, and what we need to do going forward.”
“(My message) is always evolving,” McDermott added. “There are some things that players will tell you that they hear at every meeting, but those are the things we believe in, so they’re going to hear them quite a bit.”
McDermott knows firsthand just how important it is to erase the memory of a previous successful season. In 2015, McDermott was defensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers, who finished 15-1 and ultimately lost in the Super Bowl. Going into 2016, expectations were high and Super Bowl aspirations were real. However, the team fell flat on their faces, stumbling to a 6-10 record.
This experience is at the forefront of McDermott’s mind entering the 2021 season, and he knows all too well that Buffalo’s 13-3 record from a year ago means absolutely nothing in a league with as much parity as the NFL.
“One of the hardest things to do is to sustain success,” McDermott explained. “I’ve been around it, I’ve seen it. And you see it not just from the teams that I’ve been a part of – and I’ve learned from it – but other teams. That’s the way the NFL is built, for parity. One year they’re up, and the next year they’re down. So that’s been a message since a month after the season. You’ve got to have enough self-awareness to manage yourself. And if getting noticed was the goal, then maybe we accomplished that. But if it was winning – and goals that we set- we know we didn’t accomplish those. This is a new team, and I’ve said this countless times, but we’ve got to respect the process and remain humble and hungry. Because if you don’t, this league gets you and gets on you fast.”
This year’s team returns nearly every starter and key role player from the 2020 season, and they’re hungry to win a Super Bowl. With training camp underway, it will be interesting to see just how fiery this squad can be as they look to prove that last year wasn’t a fluke.
Stay tuned to Cover1 for the latest Buffalo Bills news, storylines, rumors and more throughout 2021 training camp!