The winning culture Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane have been building since arriving in 2017 reminds former Bills great Andre Reed of something: His Bills teams that represented the most successful era in team history and produced an NFL-record four straight Super Bowl appearances.
In an interview with Bills Central, the Hall-of-Fame wide receiver described what he particularly likes about the current version of the Bills and how it compares to his super-charged teams of the 1990s, when Reed was in the middle of a career that ended with 951 catches for 13,198 yards, 87 touchdowns and seven Pro-Bowl selections.
"I think the one thing that stands out that this team has that we had in some kind of fashion is, you know, they're playing together," Reed said. "They play together pretty good. And this is on the players and the coach. Sean McDermott is that kind of coach that, it's not that he says `on to the next one,' but when you lose, you've got to fix your mistakes. And whatever you did right, whatever you did wrong, you're better the next week. And I think that's one of the similarities I think they have with us.
"With us, after a bad loss, we had player-only meetings. I don't know if they have those anymore. But we got out what we had to get out. Guys called guys out, you know, `you've got to play better, you've got to do this, you've got to do that, we're letting this season slip away.' And I'm sure after the Jacksonville loss, I think they really got a wakeup call."
Reed's team was constructed a little differently. That squad had sure-fire Hall-of-Famers at defensive end (Bruce Smith) and running back (Thurman Thomas), which this Bills team does not. Quarterback Jim Kelly was much more experienced and accomplished by the time that team team started its run of Super Bowls when he was 30 years old. And he played a different style than Josh Allen, who in less than four full seasons has nearly doubled Kelly's career rushing yardage.
To that end, Reed admitted being concerned about the Bills' running game and hopes they find a workhorse back in next year's NFL Draft.
"I'm not taking anything away from the running backs that they have," Reed said, but they need an every-down back. I like Matt Breida. He's fast and he's kind of a change-of-pace guy, just like [Devin] Singletary is. Zack Moss is more of a between-the-tackles kind of guy. But we need a guy that can be dominant, running the ball as well as catching the ball. And we had that in Thurman Thomas."
That's not to say this Bills team can't go all the way.
"Obviously you've got all the players in key positions on offense that can do that," Reed said. "Their defense has stepped up this year more than in the past four or five years is playing a scheme and playing it right. It's not going to always work for you all the time. But I think they know each other and that guys can make plays when they're there. And that's what they've been doing
"... This is a hard league. It's hard to win every single week. But it's even harder to come back from certain times when you feel you should have won the game and you didn't do what was right. And as long as they have that short memory, they can prosper. And that's what they've been doing. You're going to lose some games here and there."
Reed is particularly fond of the way Allen commands the offense.
"When you pay a guy $250-some million, they expect you to to win a Super Bowl," Reed said. "They expect you to be the franchise guy everybody looks to, and he's passed with flying colors.
" ... You're going to go through some times where you don't make the right throws and things happen. He did that in his first couple years and he never really came out of that. He has definitely come out of that the last two years. And everybody sees that and they want to make plays."
Wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who came to the Bills in a trade with Minnesota before last season, has had a lot to do with it, according to Reed.
"Stefon Diggs is probably the biggest acquisition they've had in the past 10 years there, because they needed a playmaker, an edge receiver to go with the quarterback," he said. "That's that's the way this league works. You need the signal caller and you need to make some plays down the field. And Stefon has done that with flying colors also.
"So I'm really proud of how Josh has handled his his role as the leader of that team."
Reed, who lives in San Diego, will be attending the Bills' next game, a home clash with New England next Monday night.
"It's going to be a tight game," Reed said. "I think it's going to be back and forth a little bit until one or two plays opens it up. It's like two fighters going at it and just feeling each other out. One lands a punch and the game's on."