A year ago, Bills players showed up for the offseason program with a phrase former coach Rex Ryan borrowed from Clemson coach Dabo Swinney: “All In.”
As it turns out, Ryan went “all in” with an eight-high hand.
This year, the Bills are touting among themselves the quality of their cards, with a T-shirt that says “Playoff Caliber.”
“That’s really the day-to-day vision for what we’re trying to get done,” coach Sean McDermott told reporters on Monday. “You’ve got to earn the right. Every team, this time of year . . . talk[s] about winning the Super Bowl. We want to do that as well, don’t get me wrong, but what’s the plan between now and then? That’s our vision on a day-to-day basis, and that standard is to be a playoff-caliber football team, and that means every day. That’s what it gets back to in terms of earning the right to win. How we meet, how we talk, how we workout, how we practice when we do practice, how we play — that’s the standard we’re trying to get to every day.”
The only player not present for the first day of the voluntary program was running back LeSean McCoy. While McDermott was careful not to say anything to suggest that the sessions are mandatory, he pointed out the value of having the players together.
“[C]hemistry – you’ve heard me mention before – is important for any team, and particularly the good teams,” McDermott said. “It’s no different for us. We’re trying to build our chemistry and that means the right people in the right places doing the right things at the right times. That’s a big part of building a good football team and I can only do so much because of the limitations. I’m not really out there to watch the conditioning and the lifting that goes on, but what we have in the meetings I can evaluate and that’s the teacher-pupil part of the equation here and that’s been fun to watch. Guys really letting their personalities show, and that’s important too — that they have enough space to be themselves because they’re here for a reason and their personalities are a part of it.”
Some would say that all that matters is a player’s on-field ability, but ultimately 53 players have to work together, and that takes a blend of personality characteristics with some players serving as leaders and others knowing that it’s their role to follow.
The primary leader is McDermott, and the first challenge for him is to get them to follow him. The bigger challenge is to make them not just “Playoff Caliber” but “Playoff Qualified.”