For years, telling someone to copy the Bills when it comes to building a successful franchise would be similar to telling someone to protect the football like Jameis Winston or oversee a massive playoff lead like the Texans. It'd be irresponsible advice.
But these days, Buffalo has made itself into a rising team, one that's rising thanks to solid hires and a vision they've committed to.
From 2011-2016, the Bills won at least six games each year but only reached nine once. They settled into the NFL's mediocre tier, which was a step up from where they'd been for most of the 2000s, yet far from relevant.
Then, in 2017, they hired Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott to be their next head coach, in hopes that McDermott would bring a more serious attitude to the organization after a few seasons under Rex Ryan. McDermott was paired up with GM Brandon Beane to take things in a new direction.
And so far, it's working well, as the Bills have reached the postseason two out of the three years under McDermott and Beane and just won 10 contests for the first time since 1999.
So, if the Redskins want to model their rebuild after someone, Buffalo is a fit — especially considering how the former is already following in the latter's coach-centric approach.
Ron Rivera has been the Burgundy and Gold's head man for less than a month, but he's already drastically altered so much about Washington's operations. So far, Rivera's contributed to changes on the offensive and defensive coaching staffs, as well as the front office and training staff.
All of those choices, plus the ones Rivera will help make throughout free agency and the draft, will be aimed at turning around the Redskins' culture. That's precisely what McDermott has focused on since taking over the Bills, Bills beat writer Jay Skurski told the Redskins Talk podcast.
"I know it's a buzz word and you can roll your eyes at it, but he does truly believe in it," Skurski said. "It's important to him."
Another box Rivera will look to check in his first couple of seasons will be putting together a roster he believes in. In his introductory press conference in early January, the 58-year-old explained how he wants a depth chart filled with names who are all-in.
That's another aspect of McDermott and Beane's early success with the Bills. According to Skurski, they looked to move on from guys who were more focused on personal achievements, such as Sammy Watkins and LeSean McCoy, and add more selfless ones, like Frank Gore.
"It is definitely a team-first approach with these guys," Skurski said. "There are not a lot of individuals on this team."
"When you look at the Bills roster, basically in every position group, they have a veteran, a guy who is really, really highly respected," he added. "When you look at Sean McDermott's imprint on this roster, that's something that's really, really important to him."
To sum it up: A middling franchise entrusted a defensive-minded coach, slotted him in with an executive who was aligned with the coach's views and then allowed the coach to put together an offense, a defense and a special teams unit he believed in.
Well, the Redskins will need a couple of years to fully follow the Bills, but they've taken the same first few steps. Now, ownership will need to have the patience to see the following moves and possible tough initial record through, but if they pull it off, maybe at some point people will point to the Redskins as a group worth mirroring.
That sounds beyond insane to say today, yes, but the same could've been said about the Bills recently, too. It's the NFL, and fortunes can change fast.
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