Rookie coach McDermott's voice gains prominence with Bills
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Don't underestimate the impact Bills rookie coach Sean McDermott has already made on Terry Pegula.
When Buffalo's multi-franchise owner outlined concerns of discipline, structure and character he found lacking in his NHL's Sabres following last week's front-office house-cleaning, they're similar to the troubles Pegula believes he addressed in hiring McDermott.
''Character,'' was one of the first words Pegula used in assessing what led him to hire McDermott in January . And it's readily apparent how much trust Pegula has placed in the 42-year-old coach with a detail-oriented, methodical approach.
McDermott's influence has grown steadily in the three months since taking over what was considered an undisciplined, loosely run team under Rex Ryan.
With Bills president Russ Brandon and general manager Doug Whaley relegated to behind-the-scenes roles, McDermott is the one responsible for discussing all team-related topics including the draft, a job traditionally reserved for the GM and his scouting staff.
And McDermott's voice will carry into the draft room, where he'll have a significant say in Buffalo making its seven selections, starting with the No. 10 pick on Thursday.
In dismissing suggestions Whaley's power has been diminished, McDermott said the GM maintains control of the 53-player roster and added the two will collaborate equally on draft decisions.
''Doug has great familiarity with the players because he's been looking at these players for a long time, so I'm trusting Doug on that,'' McDermott said. ''At the end of the day, it's a decision that Doug and I will make together.''
The Bills have various needs, with the most pressing at receiver, linebacker and cornerback.
McDermott's rise to prominence coincides with several changes in direction for a franchise in the midst of a 17-year playoff drought - the longest active streak in North America's four major pro sports.
The decision to retain Tyrod Taylor for a third season came after the front office advised Pegula to consider cutting ties with the starting quarterback midway through last season.
The Bills have a new top spokesman, with Derek Boyko replacing Scott Berchtold, who held the job in Buffalo since 1991. The switch came six weeks after Whaley struggled during a season-ending news conference in which the GM had difficulty explaining his role and said he was unaware Ryan's job was in jeopardy.
Though Whaley was responsible for overseeing the Bills coaching search, Pegula steered the decision toward McDermott after the Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator made a strong impression with the owner during his first interview.
Whaley's job security is in question in preparing to oversee his fourth draft since replacing Buddy Nix in May 2013, and eighth since being hired as an assistant GM. It's a stretch during which the Bills have had a spotty drafting record.
Of the 35 players Buffalo drafted from 2010 to 2013, only defensive tackle Marcell Dareus and left tackle Cordy Glenn remain on the roster.
In 2014, Whaley made a bold gamble by trading Buffalo's 2015 first-round pick to move up five spots and select receiver Sammy Watkins fourth overall. Watkins has shown glimpses of his star potential when not hampered by a variety of injuries, including a broken left foot that limited to him playing just eight games last season.
Watkins' selection, however, was considered a high price to pay in a draft class that produced a bounty of receivers including Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jr., Kelvin Benjamin, Jordan Matthews, and Jarvis Landry.
Last year, Buffalo selected linebacker Shaq Lawson 19th despite knowing he'd likely require surgery to repair an injury to his right shoulder. Lawson had surgery after aggravating the injury in early May, and eventually missed the first six games.
McDermott isn't into making big splashes for the mere sake of creating a buzz.
''I think if you go out into the parking lot and you look at my car and the type of car I drive, I think you'd see that I'm not into flash. I drive a pickup truck,'' McDermott said. ''We're going to do the right thing for this organization. If it's a flashy guy, it's a flashy guy for the right reasons. If it's not, so be it.''
For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL