ORCHARD PARK, NY – In just a few short months, Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott has already begun instituting serious culture changes inside the organization. But until Monday’s first offseason workout, he hadn’t had a chance to address that vision with his entire team. Now that he’s got all his players in one place, he’s already hard at work making them believers.
“This part is another chapter for us in moving forward as an organization, McDermott said. “Getting the players back in here this morning was big for us. I was chomping at the bit to get in front of them, just share with them everything I know and then I had to hold back a little bit. We’re moving forward in the right direction but we’ve got to continue. There’s a lot of work to be done yet”
Leadership will be paramount in moving forward into this new, hopefully, winning era of Buffalo Bills football, and if you didn’t know already, McDermott greatly values leadership. So much so in fact, that he plans on establishing a group of vocal players to serve on a leadership council, helping establish some accountability in the locker room and encourage free-flowing conversation across all levels of the organization.
“I’m a big believer in leadership, and player-driven leadership, McDermott said. “The players having a part of this, and the ownership part of this is big, and empowering those guys – and that leadership council will help me with that.”
So what is McDermott looking for in his team leaders?
“I think you look for a range of characteristics,” he explained. “Age is one of them. Experience – but that doesn’t just limit it to the older crowd, so to speak. You want representation from, really, the cross-section of the team and really guys that represent the whole team, not just certain parts of the team.”
Even on the first day of the offseason training program, some leaders have already emerged. Upon entering the field house for the start of Monday’s workout, the trio of defensive tackle Kyle Williams, linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, and newly acquired safety Micah Hyde were the voices addressing the team.
Stepping into a leadership role is something Alexander wouldn’t have so anxiously done a year ago at this time. Back then he was the new kid on the block in Buffalo; brought in primarily to contribute on special teams and spell some guys on defense from time-to-time. However, after being thrust into the starting lineup due to injuries and posting a career year that included 12.5 sacks, Alexander is fully embracing his role as a leader in year two with the Bills.
“I think I will exert myself a little bit more vocally, the 10-year veteran asserted. “Last year I did talk to guys and take them to the side, but I think I will kind of step to the forefront. Making sure that it is out front, everyone knows about it and if I correct one guy, or help one guy everybody else sees it and maybe will learn from that and that same correction.”
Essentially, the 33-year-old wants to help breed accountability throughout the Bills locker room, something that was nonexistent during Rex Ryan’s head coaching tenure, as numerous players have implied since his firing this past December. According to Alexander, that lack of accountability prohibited Buffalo from having more success on the field.
“I wouldn’t say that the old regime didn’t have a vision in place, I think as players we fell short,” Alexander explained. “You can bring in anybody to come in here – coach McDermott, a hall of fame coach, Bill Belichick – but if the players don’t buy in to what’s being taught and don’t fall in line, and you don’t have leadership reinforce that, you’re not gonna win games. I think that’s where I fell short last year as far as not holding guys accountable.
“This is a players league, the coach sets the vision and the expectation and the players have to go out there and execute it. Coaches are not out there [on the field] on Sundays, so the scheme can only go so far. I’d say it’s 80% on the players [to hold themselves accountable] and 20% on the coaches.”
That staggering estimation proves just how important it is for McDermott to get his message resonating with his players, and considering that team leaders like Alexander, Williams and Hyde, among others, are already on board, he’s off to a tremendous start.
“His vision for our team, for the organization, for me as a player individually, [he] really just made me feel comfortable and to be quite honestly inspired.” Williams said of McDermott’s message. “[He] kind of breathed a little life into me.”
“This is a totally new football team,” said Hyde. “17 years ago, I was 9-years-old. I don’t know anything about any of that losing or not making it to the playoffs and stuff. We’re not looking into the past and the history of the Buffalo Bills, we’re looking to make history.”
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