Before diving back into any Bills' offseason stories, we must pause for a minute or two to put in perspective just how far they've come under coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane.
For years, McDermott learned about all things football and non-football from his former boss, Ron Rivera, who coached the Carolina Panthers from 2011 through 2019.
McDermott absorbed everything he could from Rivera for six seasons before being tasked by the Bills to turn their organization around.
Three playoff appearances in his first four seasons, including a trip to the AFC Championship game last month, are pretty good indicators that he has.
So perhaps it was no surprise that his former mentor came to him for help last year, shortly after taking over the broken-down Washington Football team, which was in just about the same shape when Rivera arrived as the Bills were when McDermott was hired in 2017.
According to the Washington Post, Rivera began to pick the brains of McDermott and Beane, who both worked with Rivera in Carolina, to see what he can do better to rebuild Washington's broken-down franchise.
Like McDermott, Rivera guided his new team to the playoffs in his first season on the job. Like Rivera, he knows so much more work remains to build and sustain a winning culture.
“Even though in their first year they went to the playoffs, they knew they still weren’t done,” Rivera said. "They knew they still had more things they have to do. So that’s where we are. We still have more things we have to do.”
Rivera started the process almost from the moment he arrived.
"I asked Brandon and Sean, ‘When you guys came in, what was the idea?’ ” Rivera said. “It all starts with coming in and saying, 'Hey, this is what we want to accomplish, this is what we want to do, this is what we want to be,’ and then finding out who shares that same vision.”
McDermott and Beane needed time to figure out what they had and eventually what they needed in terms of talent and character.
For example, in 2018 they drafted the player they believed would become their franchise quarterback. But after two seasons they knew Josh Allen needed a top-flight receiver like Stefon Diggs for the offense to get to where it needed to be to compete in today's NFL.
They acquired him in a trade with Minnesota last year in a move that could go down as the best they ever made.
Diggs responded with NFL and career highs of 127 receptions and 1,535 receiving yards in 2020 as the Bills became the No. 2 offense in the league despite getting little from their running game or tight ends.
But as with all successful teams, the Bills constantly wrestle with the delicate and necessary balance of young, developing players and accomplished veterans. Too much of one kind of player can stunt or destroy a team's growth.
All coaches are products of their environment, which also is why Washington is likely going down the same path as the Bills.
McDermott learned from Rivera. Rivera is now learning from McDermott. Both learned from the master, Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid, when they were all on the same Philadelphia Eagles staff.
None are bad role models and all now have their hands on some pretty revealing blueprints.