Prior to the start of Buffalo Bills OTAs early in the week, head coach Sean McDermott addressed the media in a zoom call to discuss the upcoming season. ESPN’s Marcel Louis-Jaques asked McDermott about continuity within the Bills’ coaching staff, particularly at the coordinator positions, and how retaining both defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll for another season would benefit the team. Frazier has been in Buffalo since McDermott’s arrival in 2017, while Daboll arrived the following offseason. McDermott explained that having the same coaching staff in place for multiple seasons can be a big advantage, but was also quick to point out how it can be a double-edged sword.
“Yeah, I mean it’s real,” McDermott said. “Continuity usually works in your favor. That said, if you’re not careful, and not keeping things fresh – so that’s the other side of continuity – is the challenge of keeping things fresh, keeping messaging fresh, finding different ways to challenge oneself, to grow, and also to challenge the people around you, and them challenge you.”
While McDermott was asked about the coaching staff specifically, these same principles can be seen in the construction of the roster. McDermott and Beane have shown they value stability, but not just for the sake of continuity. You can see this continuity most clearly on the backend of the defense, as Tre White, Micah Hyde, Jordan Poyer, and Matt Milano have all been on the team since 2017. Furthermore, Tremaine Edmunds, Taron Johnson, and Levi Wallace joined the team a year later in 2018. These key players being together in the same system for several years is undoubtedly valuable and projects to success.
In contrast, the defensive line has been in constant flux throughout the past four years and that turnover continued during the offseason, as the team selected defensive ends Greg Rousseau and Carlos ‘Boogie’ Basham with the team’s first two picks in the 2021 draft.
If evolution describes the defense during the ‘McBeane’ era, revolution was the word for the offense in 2020. Buffalo has shuffled a lot of the pieces around Josh Allen over the past two seasons. General Manager Brandon Beane has steadily improved the quality of talent surrounding the team’s franchise quarterback, bolstering overall skill and depth at both the skill positions and the offensive line.
Allen had this to say when asked about continuity within the team –
“It creates a very good space. Just being able to talk with guys in a very comfortable fashion, being in the same system now going on the fourth year with Daboll and coach Dorsey, and understanding our offense in and out, and being able to relay that to my teammates,” Allen told reporters Tuesday. “It’s a blessing to be in this situation. Not many people have that luxury of being in the same system, and understanding and knowing guys on a personal level.”
The stability on offense paid off last season, as evidenced by the supreme jump Allen and the offense took in 2020. With almost all of the starters back, the hope is Allen can continue to build upon his success while still making improvements to his game – particularly on throws over the middle, which he has been focusing on this offseason.
The Bills are finally playing at a high level and the team’s continuity is really starting to show its value. But, that doesn’t mean the roster-building is done. Even with minimal salary cap space available this past offseason, Brandon Beane was able to make some key moves during free agency. However, with big contract extensions looming for Allen and a handful of other key players, the team will be relying on keeping their nucleus together and developing the talent on the roster. They won’t have the luxury of dipping into the free agent pool much. With that in mind, identifying which players to keep around as part of the culture of continuity and which to move on from will be among the biggest keys to success for the franchise moving forward.