Isn’t it crazy that the Buffalo Bills are viewed as a Super Bowl contender? They won a playoff game for the first time in 25 years, they won their division after two decades of being dominated by the New England Patriots and were only one win away from going to the Super Bowl. All of those events took place last season. However, it wasn’t long ago that the Bills weren’t a contender. They were a mediocre franchise that didn’t make the postseason for 17 consecutive years. So how did the Bills go from being a team that couldn’t make the postseason to being one of the best teams in football? I’m about to tell you.
Changing the Culture
In order to be a powerhouse in the NFL, you need to have good management. Let’s go back to 2017. After firing Rex Ryan, the Bills hired Sean McDermott as their next head coach. McDermott was the defensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers before Buffalo hired him. Buffalo needed a culture change and McDermott was the perfect coach. He is loved by his players and is a passionate coach who has no time for nonsense. Buffalo wasn’t done however as they would hire Brandon Beane as the new general manager. Beane was the assistant general manager with Carolina, so him and McDermott had some chemistry already. Little did Bills fans, including me, know what great hires they were.
Bringing in Cornerstones of the Franchise
The next step for the Bills was bringing in more talent. They say defense wins championships and Buffalo needed to improve their defense. That’s when Beane signed safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer. I knew Hyde was a good safety with the Green Bay Packers but as for Poyer, I didn’t know who he was. I thought he would be some depth guy that would be fighting for a spot on the roster, boy was I wrong.
Poyer and Hyde both came to Buffalo through free agency and the Bills needed more secondary help. The NFL Draft was next and after trading down with the Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo selected cornerback Tre’Davious White. Buffalo had their secondary set, made a few more moves and then it was time to play football.
Getting the Franchise Quarterback
Tyrod Taylor didn’t come back the following season after breaking the 17 year playoff drought, so the Bills needed a quarterback. Buffalo did not have a franchise quarterback since Jim Kelly. The 2018 NFL Draft was taking place and there were some very good prospects. The names included Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Lamar Jackson, Josh Rosen and Josh Allen. Mayfield went to Cleveland 1st overall, Darnold went 3rd to the Jets. With the Bills being a playoff team, they weren’t in the top ten in the draft order. That’s until they traded up to 7th overall. Everyone knew they were going to take a quarterback, the question was who. The answer was Josh Allen, who was described as the quarterback who has a big arm but wasn’t accurate with his throwing. Looking back on it, those doubters, including me, were wrong. Allen has progressed and I’ll get into that next.
Building Around Allen
The Bills had their quarterback, now they needed to get him some help. During Allen’s rookie year, he had Kelvin Benjamin, Robert Foster and Zay Jones. Buffalo missed the playoffs and the following offseason is when the franchise really got things going. They added two very useful wide receivers in Cole Beasley and John Brown. Beasley was a great slot receiver with the Dallas Cowboys and Brown is a very fast player who came from Baltimore. Allen had a pretty good regular season and then the playoffs occurred and I’ll talk about that next.
Scars Make You Stronger
Unfortunately for Buffalo, there was another heartbreaking moment that happened. In 2019, the Bills made the playoffs for the second time in three years and traveled to Houston for a wild card battle against the Texans. It started out great for the Bills, they were up 16-0 and then the second half happened. It was Allen’s first playoff game in the NFL and it showed. He crumbled under pressure and the team collapsed as well. Buffalo would lose in overtime 22-19 and it left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. It ended badly but the tide was starting to turn.
Going into the 2020 season, the Bills didn’t have a proven number one wide receiver. Brown and Beasley are good players but none of them are considered to be a true number one wide receiver. Brandon Beane made a deal that stunned the NFL world. He was able to land Stefon Diggs from the Minnesota Vikings, who’s remembered from the Minneapolis Miracle. Diggs time in Minnesota came to an abrupt end. It was full of drama and he was labeled as a diva. Remember when everyone thought Diggs would want out of Buffalo because Allen was his quarterback? Yeah they look stupid. Diggs made Allen an MVP candidate and he was one of the reasons why Buffalo finished second in the AFC.
So here we are. The 2021 NFL season is a few months away and the Bills are considered to be a Super Bowl contender. How did they do that? They brought in good management, a franchise quarterback, weapons for Allen, a tough loss that made them better going forward and landing one of the best receivers in football. I know I left some moments out such as breaking the 17 year playoff drought and a Hail Mary that changed their season around, but these are the main reasons why the Bills are a great team. I can’t wait for next season and don’t be surprised that the team who lost four straight Super Bowls will finally win that coveted Lombardi Trophy.
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-Zach Jezioro (@ZachJezioro_13 on Twitter)