Trusting the process may have sounded like lip service when Sean McDermott was hired. He was hired to replace Rex Ryan before Brandon Beane‘s arrival. Doug Whaley was still the GM on paper, as the new head coach drafted players for his process.
Not one person was surprised when Whaley was dismissed from his duties. I do recall a picture circulating of Whaley sipping a cocktail with the also recently unemployed former Buffalo Sabres GM, Tim Murray. Epic picture. It was one of those amusing displays because of the totally unforeseen pair of former GM’s at happy hour venting to one another. I take no joy watching anyone lose their employment.
I spent many years in a career where hiring and firing was a key responsibility of mine. I never enjoyed having to terminate any employee for any reason. Not even the difficult ones who deserved that fate ten times previously. The picture was simply one of those humorous situations because of its unique situation, not funny because anyone lost their career.
Similar to my neighbor earlier this morning who tells me outside that he was not avoiding shaking my hand because of the Coronavirus. I glared at him with a confused look. He then grinned and informed me that his failure to extend his hand was his fear that our household was out of toilet paper. I immediately laughed. The virus is not funny as people are sick, scared, and even dying. Jokes about certain topics are unintentionally funny as a tension breaker. Finding humor in something such as the hoarding of products by some over-reacting panicking individual simply becomes humorous as it is all that you hear about.
As soon as Beane was hired, the coach and GM guild aggressively put their stamp on the Bills restoring the team to respectability. Playoffs in year one while dumping certain players or salaries and rebuilding ended the drought. Making the playoffs in year three with ten wins was extraordinary.
The Bills Mafia heard all about culture and how the coach is the CEO from a certain tool in the past. Not Jeff Tuel, the undrafted quarterback who ended up somehow starting games for the Bills. The tool I reference is Doug Marrone. He talked a great game when he first arrived. In the long run, he played Kyle Orton over EJ Manuel, padding his coaching resume by reaching nine wins. No playoffs.
We heard the lip service about the already great defense aggressively improving to number one when Rex Ryan was hired. The team was going to have swag. The team would be all about confidence. They were building a bully that would take down the Patriots. The Tattoos, pick up truck, and entertaining press conferences were new and exciting. The hope was that those Jets teams Ryan guided to back-to-back AFC championship games would be how he would begin in Orchard Park. We certainly did not want the results of Ryan’s last several years in New Jersey. But we heard about the defense continuously which actually regressed under Rex. The undisciplined, unorganized team put together by Rex could not even secure Ryan’s employment for the entire second season as he was terminated with a game to go. I never quite understood Greg Roman being relieved of his duties so very soon in season two. In the previous season, he had the running game dominating the league. He had Tyrod Taylor looking the part of an NFL quarterback in his first season. Roman was the driving force behind T-Mobile representing the Bills at the Pro-bowl in his first season as a starter.
After the departure of Wade Phillips and the late John Butler, it was an exciting time as Tom Donahoe came in as a big name executive known for being a virtuoso evaluator of talent. The Bills’ new General Manager was handed the keys to the organization. He hired Greg Williams as the head coach. Lip service? Williams talked a great game about discipline and toughness. He bragged about the boot camp style culture he would implement throughout training camp and practices. Culture was a word thrown around as well. Donahoe was given a great deal of opportunity because he had to first clean up the salary cap issue. He would be disassembling any resemblance of the Polian-Butler/Levy-Phillips teams that accumulated a whole heck of a lot of wins. The coach lasted three seasons in which the second and third were really not necessary or deserved. The lip service and arrogance by Donahoe made him unpopular by fans. His second hire for coach, Mike Mularkey, walked out on the team and the GM after his second season. Similar to Marrone exiting after a non-playoff winning season, Mularkey surprised the football world leaving after guiding the team to nine wins.
Dick Jauron and Chan Gailey were both really nice guys. Hard workers, sure. Likable, well ok. They were really good coordinators in the past. You know the saying: “Nice guys finish last.” That is relevant with these two back to back head coaches.
They were likely great high school or college head coaches. They both were just average at best in the head coach role at the highest level of football here on Earth. They certainly did not inherit teams loaded with talent. They both were recycled head coaches. Jauron coached the Bears to one fluke great season and then was bad until he received his walking papers. Gailey was a casualty of Jerry Jones post-Super Bowl years in Dallas. Neither coach was set up for success. Marv Levy was the GM to put his face on billboards and sell some tickets. That was probably better than having a non-football marketing guy in Russ Brandon filling the role as a football guy which was the case post Levy. Eventually, when it became obvious that it was a poor decision, the fear of another power-hungry big-name executive like Donahoe resulted in scout Buddy Nix being the promotion to GM within.
A heck of a lot of lip service had been fired off this century in the coaching and GM department. The current coach/GM combination has established they actually do have a process. One that they trust in. A process that is unambiguously not lip service.
RADIO.COM NFL Power Rankings has Buffalo ranked number five in the entire NFL. Ranked ahead of the Bills is a small list of teams being Kansas City, San Francisco, Baltimore, and New Orleans.
It has been decades since the Bills were grouped in with that small elite club. That’s not lip service. The process is not lip service. I trust the process.