Buffalo Bills Head Coach Sean McDermott

Monday, January 1, 2018

Opening Statement: Okay, good morning. Good afternoon, I guess I should say. Happy New Year. Good way to get the year started and we’ll go ahead and open it up to questions.

Q: How much sleep did you get last night?

A: A little bit. I know quite a few members the staff were in early this morning. [It’s] kind of hard to throttle down after an evening like that, but [it was] great to see our fans when we got back into town. An incredible situation when we got back at the airport. Just awesome to see.

Q: Just take us inside the airplane. How much fun was that trip home?

A: Some guys, very few, tried to catch some sleep. In particular, members of the coaching staff because they knew it’d be an early morning. Overall, just great to see from the flight attendants when we got on board, to the players interacting with other staff members and staff members that have been here a long time that have carries this for a while. It’s fun to watch the players just also really kind of relax a little bit and enjoy the moment together and the fellowship that was going into that. When we landed, they said that, the pilot I think came on the intercom and said that the tower said congratulations to the flight control so that was pretty cool, and then to see the fans – incredible experience. I’ve been around a little bit before but nothing like that, nothing like the first half hour after the game in the locker room [with] that type of environment, that type of situation, and then also when we got back – let’s not forget it was minus-six degrees on my dashboard and it wasn’t 8:00 PM. It was 2:00 AM and there’s little kids out there. It was pretty neat.

Q: What is the update on LeSean McCoy, if you have one?

A: He’s going to have a chance. We’ll see. We’re continuing to go through the evaluation, the medical evaluation on that. I got some good news this morning so we’ll just continue to monitor as we go forward.

Q: What was the good news?

A: Just, that was reported that things, you know, the x-rays were negative.

Q: So it would be fair to call it a sprain?

A: I’m not going to get into that.

Q: If you are able to have him, and it goes without saying that he’s been your most important player offensively all season, how big would that be for this team if he was able to go, even if he’s not quite at 100%?

A: Yeah, that would be big. He’s obviously a big part of what we do. That said, I loved what I saw yesterday, which is true of our entire team. You’ve seen 63 guys prepare all season long and I thought that was on display yesterday when [Marcus] Murphy stepped up and did his job, and as well as Mike Tolbert. Our coaches do a great job of preparing not only the guys that are our starters but also the guys that are expected to play after that.

Q: Do you think you have to evaluate whether or not to make a roster move just as a precaution, in the event that LeSean can’t go fully?

A: Yeah, those conversations are ongoing with Brandon [Beane]. We talk a lot about, we’ve already discussed some of that and we’ll continue to discuss other areas as well.

Q: So when x-rays are negative, does that mean there’s just no sign of a break?

A: Yeah, I’m not going to – I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on television.

Q: Can you talk about Marcus Murphy?

A: You know, there’s a young man that’s, I know he returned a kick against Carolina when I was there years ago. He’s been in the league a couple of years and really, he’s earned the right. We talk a lot around here about earning the right to, you fill in the blank [or] you finish the sentence and he has earned the right and he’s done it all the way since the time he came in the building with the way he approached practice [during] his opportunities in practice with the scout team, whether it was on the offensive side [or] on special teams, he was prepared and he executed. I was happy to see that [and] real proud of him.

Q: Regarding fan reaction, the videos that you might have seen on social media. Have you gotten a chance to see it over the course of the last sixteen hours?

A: Yeah. You know, I can’t say I’ve seen it on social media. I’m not on social media, or actively on social media. But I had a chance to see some of it, capture some of the different things that people shared with me and it’s really just a neat thing to be a part of. Whether you’re a head coach or Joe Smith in the community or whatever. It doesn’t matter. It’s just a neat thing to say you were a part of it and you were there when it happened. One of the, to me, things that stand out that brought a tear to my eye a little bit is when they showed the reaction of the different restaurants and get-together places that were going on out there of the different reactions when we got in and then the concourse, the setting in the concourse when our fans who were at the game were watching the Cincinnati game count down there. It was pretty cool to watch.

Q: You’ve talked about having an understanding of what this team means to this community and the Sabres in there as well with that, but did that level of understanding maybe even go up a notch after what you saw last night?

A: Oh, sure. Yeah. Absolutely. I think all the things that we’ve talked about up to this point in time really illustrate that.

Q: Your honest assessment when it was 4th and 12? There’s a great video that [Stephen] Hauschka put up there of you guys watching the play develop. What were you thinking at 4th and 12? Were you prepared to have a moment of just utter disappointment there? It was a pretty longshot there.

A: I’ve been around some of that before. I’ve been a part of a 4th and 26 before in the, I think it was a wild card game [2003-04 Divisional Round game between Philadelphia and Green Bay], so never say never. [There was] a lot of praying going on [and we] really just wanted the right thing to happen for our guys and for this city. If that meant we were going to continue to play, great. If it didn’t, we made a lot of progress in a short amount of time. The great part about it is [that] we still have a lot of room to grow and we’re still building. We’re not where we need to be. As good as this moment is and we’re kind of in a 24-hour rule right now for us as a team, but we still have a lot of room to grow.

Q: Sean, the Bills tweeted out a letter that they were going to send to the Bengals thanking them for the win and that they were going to send wings. What input do you have into the amount of wings, type of wings, or things that you would like to give the Bengals?

A: I reached out, I was on the phone with their defensive coordinator shortly after the game, Paul Guenther. He had actually called me to congratulate us which was a class move, and then I thanked him. Since that time, I’ve reached out to a couple of their coaches, Marvin [Lewis] as well as Bill Lazor, their offensive coordinator. [I] wanted to say first: congratulations to them and then also show our appreciation. Help comes in a lot of ways; for us, it came in the last week of the season and for other teams, it comes before the last week of the season. We were thankful to get it, no doubt about it.

Q: So will you send [Andy] Dalton a bottle of wine, half-keg, Mercedes?

A: [laughs] I’ll back whatever we decide to do as an organization here.

Q: What do you make of the – just if you have a chance now or maybe go to the play call where any point over the night to reflect back on the obstacles this team has overcome from the whole anthem protest thing to playing in that snowstorm to the three-game skid and just how far this team has come and what it’s persevered these past 17 weeks?

A: Yeah, every season’s a little bit different. Every season you go through tests and challenges, though – you’ve heard me say that before, right? It’s going to try to pull you apart, it’s going to test you and it’s going to test your mental toughness. I think we saw our test really early on which happens in the first year if you’re making some what is perceived to be tough, difficult decisions. We made some of those, and our players hung right in there. They kept their eyes on the target and they persevered. This is a resilient group of guys. That’s been built over the course of the season. Brandon [Beane] and his staff do a phenomenal job of bringing in those types of players that have that type of DNA and we just continue to move forward. This is a team that’s tested, and we’ve gone through those tests.

Q: Can you finally say ‘I told you so’ about all the tank talk?

A: I’ll let you guys handle that. We’re moving on after today to the first round of the playoffs.

Q: Sean, how important is it to have players, some of these guys here have not played in meaningful games, the last two weeks of the season, they get that experience, they get another week of a playoff experience now in terms of the overall development especially of the younger guys?

A: Yeah, that’s huge. I was asked the question last week, ‘What would it mean?’ It meant another step in our development as a football team, as an organization. The experience that we got within the last week of playing in that type of game, a must-win game. Then also, the experience that we’re getting now going into this week that a lot of our young players or even players that have been around the NFL, this team, what have you, haven’t been in this situation. There is some leadership challenges within that, there is also a mindset challenge that we have to get buckled back in after today and hit the reset button so we can focus on the task at hand. There’s so much experience, and valuable experience that we can learn and take from the last two weeks here. We’ll see how far we go here.

Q: Sean, do you feel pretty good about how the NFL kind of gave you a break with the one o’clock Sunday game as you’re coming off back-to-back road games? You don’t have to play Saturday. When you saw the schedule, did you feel like, ‘that’s nice, that’s good for us’?

A: You take it however it comes out. Certainly, I will take if we had to play Saturday, if we had to play whenever, we’d play whenever. You guys know that about me and about us. It’s from the standpoint of getting back when we did last night or earlier this morning. That certainly helps us out a little bit.

Q: Sean, after the game, it looked like you shook hands or hugged with every player and coach that was walking into the locker room. Is that a weekly thing and whether it is or not, why do you do that after the game?

A: I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s a weekly thing. I think I’ve done it some games. I just do whatever’s on my heart, really, at that moment. These guys, they put it out there. They bleed, they sweat, and they put their heart, mind, and soul into this, into their jobs, and I appreciate that. They play hurt. It’s not an easy lifestyle at times and so I wanted to show them how much I appreciated it.

Q: You touched on the adversity of turning the roster over a little bit in the beginning stages of the season, but there was a stretch during the year where you lost four of five pretty handedly. What was the challenge for you to try and keep the locker room afloat, and keep them afloat with the message that you’ve been trying to convey all season – to not let the dangerous times of the later part of the season seep into it?

A: I think my biggest concern was really for our building at the time, in terms of the first time going through that type of situation, that window of those results that we were getting on the field, and being able to stick with it long enough to come out on the other end of it. That was, really, probably so far, I would say considerable tests, and one that we passed. That goes back to the resiliency of this football team, and really, what this city is all about – the blue-collar approach, the work ethic, the determination – that no matter what people say about us, we’re going to compete like crazy. I think that was one of the, if you’re going to put a landmark moment for this first year, that was probably one of them. To win a game at Kansas City against a quality opponent, well-coached team – it was ironic because that’s one of the great lessons I learned from Andy Reid, was to just stay the course. We went through several situations like that in Philadelphia over the years, and Andy always stayed the course. He adjusted the plan where and when necessary, and we did that. But to go out there and beat a good Kansas City football team was, I think, a landmark moment for us this year.

Q: Is this a week where you start to lean on your veterans even more than you did in the regular season? Guys like Mike Tolbert, Micah Hyde – who have had experience in the playoffs?

A: Yeah, we have some guys that do have some experience, some guys that have gone to different depths in the playoffs. Leadership is always important. I talk a lot about that. That leadership council that I have, some have been to the playoffs, some haven’t. I’m going to rely on all those guys to continue to connect my message, and probably more than anything, lead by example this week.

Q: What did you learn about your quarterback in the last couple of months, with how he responded to go from being on the bench in L.A., to standing there as the starter for the playoffs?

A: Well, I think just like our entire football team, we are a work in progress, in terms of we’re not finished – we continue to grow and learn. I think Tyrod [Taylor] really embodies that. He’s been told that he hasn’t been ‘x’ or he hasn’t been ‘y’, but he goes back out there and – he led this football team. I thought he did a phenomenal job, and he continues to. The quarterback play is so important in this league, right? I thought he played a good, solid game yesterday. There’s a lot we can improve on as a team, and in his case, no different. We’re just going to continue to grow, continue to embrace that mindset. We’ve done that every week so far.

Q: How important was is that he handled it the way that he did, and it didn’t let it – kind of like the rest of the team – when things went bad, he didn’t let it distract him from what he was doing?

A: Yeah, well mental toughness is a good quality to have. I believe it can be developed, going through certain trials and tribulations and what not. I think it’s a great characteristic of a good, strong team – football, basketball, it doesn’t matter, you have to have mental toughness. I think our team has that, and has showed that throughout the season.

Q: Does the playoffs get a little more intense, a little bit faster? I know coaches want to keep everything the same so you don’t have that wavering, but does it ratchet up a little bit throughout the week, and then especially on Sunday, just a little bit faster?

A: In terms of the intensity? Yeah, that’ll be one of the things we try and share with our team, is to stay in our routine, in fact, try and enhance our routine. But really, understand that the speed, the intensity, definitely ratchets up in the playoffs. That’s probably the biggest thing for those that haven’t been around it, that there’s an adjustment there.

Q: Do you recall where you were in your life in 1999, the last time the Bills made the playoffs?

A: 1999. Yeah, first year with the Eagles. Graduated college in ’98, and was with the Eagles in ’99, and saw Andy Reid come in. Ironic, maybe, how those years have paralleled a little bit.

Q: That’s when you figured out you were going to end the drought right there?

A: [Laughs] That’s right.

Q: You started checking it off your list?

A: That’s right.

Q: How do you transition from the high of getting into the playoffs to focusing on another game?

A: Yeah, kind of like what I was eluding to earlier, the 24-hour rule is into effect. I want everyone to enjoy it. It’s been a long time coming, like I mentioned last night and earlier today. I don’t want to move on too fast, but that said, we have to. We have to hit the reset button, get ourselves back to square one, and earning the right to win this weekend.

Q: Kyle Williams played fullback at various times earlier in his career. Have you crafted handing him the ball before last week ever? Walk us through that.

A: Juan Castillo and Rick Dennison came up with a good play design. Kyle was a running back at Ruston High School years ago, right? Kyle is a guy I trust to carry the football. He executed. I don’t know about the whole dance and celebration that he put out there, but you can ask him more about that.

Q: But he had never practiced carrying the ball in practice before this last week?

A: That I can recall.

Q: Do you expect him to have a bigger workload if LeSean can’t play?

A: We’ll see. Better question for him.

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