Executive of the year: Brandon Beane
When Brandon Beane became the General Manager of the Bills in 2017, the team had not been to the playoffs since 1999 and had not hosted a playoff game since 1996.
The playoff drought ended in Beane’s first season and they made it back to the playoffs in 2019, which set the stage for a big jump in 2020. The Bills went 13-3 to end the Patriots’ run of AFC East titles and they will host the Colts in a playoff game on Saturday.
Beane’s work over his entire tenure helped position the Bills for this kind of success and his biggest move of the 2020 offseason pushed them over the top. The Bills traded their 2020 first-round pick and three other draft choices to Minnesota in exchange for wide receiver Stefon Diggs in a swing for the fences that paid off handsomely.
Diggs led the NFL with 127 catches -- sixth-best in NFL history -- and 1,535 yards. His connection with quarterback Josh Allen transformed an offense that underwhelmed for much of the 2019 season into a unit that looked unstoppable for long stretches of the season.
It was a trade that some questioned at the time it was made, but turned out to be exactly what the Bills needed to continue Allen’s development. The 2018 first-round pick broke out with Diggs and Cole Beasley -- a 2019 signing -- as his top targets and the work Beane has done to build the offense around Allen should be a blueprint for other teams developing young quarterbacks.
The Diggs trade was the jewel in Beane’s crown, but he made other moves that paid dividends. He has gained a reputation for looking to his former employers in Carolina for players and three former Panthers made sizable contributions after signing as free agents. Daryl Williams started at right tackle, defensive end Mario Addison had five sacks, and linebacker A.J. Klein played an integral role on defense.
Fourth-round wideout Gabriel Davis scored seven touchdowns, sixth-round pick Tyler Bass won the kicking job, and third-rounder Zack Moss was a productive complement to Devin Singletary in the backfield. The Bills also signed cornerback Tre’Davious White and left tackle Dion Dawkins to long-term deals that will keep them in Buffalo.
It’s an impressive body of work and it made Beane our choice for the NFL’s top executive of 2020.