It’s rare when outcomes provide the kind of satisfaction I was blessed to experience by the Buffalo Bills hiring Sean McDermott. After babbling for more than 15 years about how ‘intangibles’ should be treated with the same seriousness and respect as analytics, McDermott came along with his mantra of building a new culture at One Bills Drive.
It was like my own personal ‘Pied Piper’ had arrived in Western New York.
There were some who jousted with me regularly on Twitter about my obsession with intangibles, with creating a positive culture in the locker room, and why team chemistry is so vital, yet so fragile.
Truth be told, if this Bills team isn’t a perfect example of addition by subtraction, I can’t think of a better one.
McDermott withstood the heat after starting Nathan Peterman against the Chargers. He took the heat after three disastrous games in the middle of the season and then somehow engineered an in-season turnaround – the likes of which we haven’t seen since Marv Levy turned the Bills around after Hank Bullough was fired in 1986.
And, McDermott/Beane did so after ushering away the most talented wide receiver on the team and the highest paid underachieving player, among others.
Throughout these eye-popping decisions releasing players or getting through three horrible losses in a row, McDermott never lost his cool – and I never lost faith in his ability to get most out of the players left on or added to the Bills’ roster.
So when the New Years Eve fairy tale unfolded and the Bills improbable path to the playoffs became reality – along with the tears and the cheers and the laughter was a gigantic feeling of personal satisfaction because of my strong belief that team chemistry is something to be nurtured by a visionary head coach like Sean McDermott.
The number of times I heard or read people ‘poo-pooing’ how important it is to have the right people giving the right message in the right situations is only exceeded by the rolling-eye emojis after I’d crank out some ‘wyobabble’ about team chemistry on the old Buffalo Bills Message Boards (RIP). LOL.
It didn’t surprise me to see how players, coaches, staff and ownership reacted to the miracle of New Year’s Eve. McDermott masterfully brought this team – his team – his way. He no doubt played a strong role in convincing Brandon Beane he should consider the general manager position with the club after Doug Whaley was fired.
The ‘fingerprints’ of this season have Sean McDermott’s name all over them. His response in the locker room as joyous players jumped up and down spoke volumes about his quiet, humble nature. Bows his head with tears in his eyes, clearly proud of the significance of what we all witnessed.
McDermott created the equivalent of a 9.0 Richter scale shift in the cultural paradigm of the Bills locker room in his first season as head coach.
As we watch the next leg of our journey in the playoffs unfold in Jacksonville, one can’t help but smile at the irony of facing an opponent whose head coach abandoned the Bills. You can’t make this stuff up.
No matter what happens on Sunday in Jacksonville, I bet a lot of old Bills fans like myself will smile and remember what it felt like in 1988 when you could see a team rising together out of the ashes of many failed seasons. The sense of excitement about the future for the Buffalo Bills is palpable.
That the Patriots are mired in the cracks of their aging dynasty makes it all even sweeter.
Editor’s babble: Still crying at every video clip of the Bills improbable miracle and end to the playoff drought on New Years Eve. Excited for all Bills fans around the world who waited seemingly forever for this moment. You can find me on Twitter @RobynMundyWYO.