A column by CHUCK POLLOCK
Are you curious why the Bills would extend the contracts of general manager Brandon Beane and coach Sean McDermott for two more years though they were already locked in through the 2025 season?
The defense of the move is obvious.
McDermott ended Buffalo’s 17-year absence from the playoffs and has led the Bills to the playoffs in five of six seasons. His 62-35 regular-season record is one of the NFL’s best over that span, especially being accomplished during several bouts with skin cancer.
Beane has assembled what many feel is one of the best rosters in the National Football League. He joined the Bills at McDermott’s behest in 2018 and promptly made the move of his career, trading up to the seventh overall pick in that year’s draft to take Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen, whom many “experts” tabbed a mistake due to his struggles with passing accuracy.
Instead, he’s squarely in the conversation as one of pro football’s Top 3 QBs.
So what’s not to like?
WELL, let’s start with McDermott and I’ll get more into that next week.
But, for now, let’s start with 4-5.
That’s his playoff record.
From 2000-16 Bills’ fans lamented, “If we could just MAKE the postseason … that’s all we ask.”
Well, that’s not the expectation anymore.
When getting to the playoffs becomes a habit, the next step is success.
McDermott’s teams have lost two wild-card games, two divisional contests and one Conference Championship that will rank as the most hurtful defeat in franchise history.
Two of them, a wild-card loss at Houston when Buffalo blew a 16-0 lead with barely 90 seconds left in the third quarter and the “13 Seconds” nightmare at Kansas City two years ago, can be directly tied to coaching gaffes.
Then, of course, there was the inexplicable 27-10 evisceration by the Bengals at Highmark Stadium in last season’s divisional game when even team members admitted they lacked inspiration.
How is that even possible, on your home field, with a berth in the AFC Championship Game at stake?
On a lesser level, McDermott has made some dubious in-game decisions over his tenure, is a serial waster of timeouts and has a concerning record in winning officiating challenges, 7-of-27.
That doesn’t make him a bad coach, but it does raise the question of whether he’s the one to take the Bills to the cliched “next level.”
THEN THERE’S Beane.
First, the reality.
He pretty much has lifelong job security in Buffalo for one reason, having the wisdom and confidence to draft Allen even as critics derided his choice.
But the fact is, his record as a drafter after his initial inspired selection is pretty much pedestrian.
In Beane’s previous five drafts, of his 38 picks, 20 are still on the roster, but only nine of those, including placekicker Tyler Bass, started last January’s playoff game against Cincinnati.
Of the other 18, five were taken in the all-important first three rounds: linebacker Tremaine Edmunds (first), offensive lineman Cody Ford (second), defensive tackle Harrison Phillips and running backs Zack Moss and Devin Singletary (all third-rounders).
Ford and Moss were traded, the others left as free agents.
Indeed, it could be argued, Beane has done a much better job at wrangling free agents and making trades. Eleven such acquisitions, including punter Sam Martin, started the Bengals’ playoff game.
SO WHY the extensions?
To me, this is a make-or-break season for McDermott especially.
Both still have two years remaining on their current contracts. Would it hurt to see how the coming season plays out before committing through 2027 no matter how much the appeal of having them onboard when the new stadium opens in ’26?
Beane, obviously, isn’t at risk, but McDermott’s situation is different. After last year’s playoff embarrassment against Cincinnati, criticism of him on social media has escalated mostly because of last month’s absurd handling of wide receiver Stefon Diggs, the mystifying situation with defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier “taking a season off” and a national NFL insider verifying that it was he who called the ridiculous open middle-of-the-field defense in that disastrous “13 Seconds” loss.
If Buffalo goes 11-6 this season, wins the division and advances at least to the divisional round, he’s likely safe. But what if it goes 9-8, misses the playoffs and McDermott has a hand in a couple of those defeats?
THE EXTENSION might not save him.
After the 1977 season, Bills owner Ralph Wilson fired beleaguered Jim Ringo as head coach. Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, Chuck Knox had just won his fifth consecutive division title with as many different quarterbacks and had signed a contract extension with the Rams.
Weeks later, Buffalo hired him as coach.
When Knox held his press conference, the pro football reporters from the Buffalo News and Courier-Express were in New Orleans for the Cowboys-Broncos Super Bowl.
Thus, the turnout at the Statler ballroom was smaller than usual.
I was a young punk sports writer and mounted the courage to ask Knox, “Why, if you just signed a contract extension with the Rams, would the Bills think you were available for hire?”
Sitting next to me me was long-time WBEN broadcaster Stan Barron who planted his elbow in my ribs and said, “Great question … let’s see how he answers it.”
Knox of course, resorted to the NFL’s time-honored word salad which presented not a shred of insight.
It turns out, owner Carroll Rosenbloom was tired of Knox’s boring “Ground Chuck” rushing offense and his 3-5 playoff record and actually thought the extension might encourage other teams to pursue him.
THERE’S ALSO this.
Bills owner Terry Pegula has been pretty consistent in his eight plus seasons as Bills owner, firing only coach Rex Ryan and general manager Doug Whaley preceding McDermott and Beane. But since February of 2011, when he bought the Sabres, he’s paid Darcy Regier, Tim Murray and Jason Botterill not to general manage and Lindy Ruff, Ron Rolston, Ted Nolan, Dan Bylsma, Phil Housley and Ralph Krueger not to coach.
In other words, the Bills owner is not averse to terminating contracts before they’re expired if he deems it necessary.
(Chuck Pollock, a Wellsville Sun senior sports columnist, can be reached at email@example.com.)