On his fifth coach and after 11 years of missing the playoffs, Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams acknowledged he might have needed a little nudge to return and play another season in Buffalo.
One chat with Sean McDermott was all it took to erase any of Williams’ lingering apprehensions regarding the team’s direction under its new coach.
Rather than rebuild from scratch, McDermott spelled out a win-now vision to the team’s longest-active player and most respected leader.
“He said, ‘Hey, we’re going to go out and win and we need you to help us win,” Williams said Monday. “That kind of sealed the deal.”
McDermott also placed an emphasis on player accountability, something that was occasionally lacking during the previous two years under Rex Ryan, who was fired in the final week of last season.
“I wouldn’t say that I needed to be lured or massaged or anything because I’ve never grown tired of playing,” the 33-year-old Williams added. “To have a guy that I think speaks to a lot of the things that I like, it was really kind of an easy sell.”
Williams spoke after Buffalo joined the Los Angeles Chargers in being the NFL’s first two teams to kick off their voluntary offseason conditioning programs.
The Bills and the Chargers took advantage of getting a head start after both hired new coaches, with former Bills offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn taking over in Los Angeles.
In Buffalo that meant McDermott got an opportunity to begin placing his stamp on a franchise that hasn’t made the playoffs for 17 consecutive seasons — the longest active drought among North America’s four major professional sports.
Though league rules prevented McDermott to be on the field with his players, he did begin delivering his message during team meetings.
He said he kept it simple rather than overwhelm everyone with too many details.
“A wise coach once said to me years ago, when you say a lot, you risk saying nothing,” McDermott said. “And so the other side of it is, say a little, you say a lot. So we took that approach today.”
Though the workouts are voluntary, every Bills player under contract was present with the exception of star running back LeSean McCoy.
McDermott said he had no problem with McCoy’s absence because players aren’t required to attend. And he added he’s encouraged by several conversations he’s already had with McCoy.
At 42, McDermott joined the Bills after spending the past six seasons as the Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator. Before that, he spent 12 years working his way up the ranks as a Philadelphia Eagles assistant under former coach Andy Reid.
McDermott brings with him an attention to detail and an emphasis on “process,” a word he’s used numerous times since being hired in January.
Bills players are buying in.
“Just a confident individual,” quarterback Tyrod Taylor said. “Very detailed and very straightforward. He expects us to be the same way.”
McDermott has already begun making alterations, including removing the pool tables and video-game machines from the locker room. He kept the pingpong table because McDermott said the game helps players develop hand-eye coordination.
He’s also planning to install what he calls a “leadership council” to provide players a voice and also to have team leaders relay his message through the locker room.
Williams, Taylor, center Eric Wood, linebacker Lorenzo Alexander and safety Micah Hyde, Buffalo’s top offseason free-agent addition , are already considered candidates to fill the council.
Hyde said McDermott represents the opportunity to usher in a new era in Buffalo.
“I wasn’t here 17 years ago. I was 9 years old,” Hyde said of Buffalo’s postseason drought. “We’re not looking to the past or the history of the Buffalo Bills. We’re looking to make history.”