The Bills were an elite team in 2020. They were one of the final four (final three if you go by actual kickoff time). They were two wins away from a championship.
They were close. Yet, the Chiefs made it clear the Bills weren’t that close.
“There is still a gap from where we are to where they are,” Sean McDermott said. “There’s not just one answer to solve that problem.”
In his final Zoom chat for the 2020 season on Tuesday, McDermott called AFC Championship week a good learning experience for the team and the organization.
However, it won’t give Buffalo much of a head start for 2021. They have solved the quarterback question in a big way with Josh Allen’s growth in 2020. That’s certainly a big step, but in many ways, next season still begins at square one.
It’s not because of any failing at One Bills Drive. It’s because that’s where every season must begin.
“If you sit here and say all we need to do is this much more (holding fingers close together) to get to the Super Bowl you’re wrong,” McDermott said. “You can carry over a lot of things forward, but every year, you have to start over. You have to rebuild the football team.”
McDermott said there must be improvement all over the organization–from players, coaches and staff. He would not get into specifics other than the Bills need more from the run game next season.
There’s always a concern that experiencing newfound success will get the Bills fat and happy with what they’ve accomplished. McDermott is well aware and knows how to recognize a team resting on its laurels.
“The thing you’ve got to watch for is the ‘disease of me’, as Pat Riley called it, where people think it’s because of them we had success,” McDermott said. “No. It’s because of all of us. That’s the mindset we have to continue to have around here. That’s the mindset that we’ve had.”
McDermott believes continued success is built by keeping the team together. He’s not necessarily referring to retaining all the current parts. It’s more about preventing cancers like “pride, ego and entitlement’ from contaminating the team-first culture he’s built.
“To think, ‘Well, we won 15 games and lost four. We’re perfect’. No, we’re not. You have to take the growth mindset approach. That’s what you do when you’re a winner,” McDermott said. “We can’t change now because we’ve tasted what we tasted. That taste has to make us hungrier for the next step as opposed to making us feel that we’ve arrived.”
2020 is over. Twenty-twenty-square-one has arrived.