The Hopeless Optimist

The Rockpile Review – by Shaw66

Photo of Sean McDermott from

I know I’m probably heading for a big crash, but I can’t help it: I think the golden age of the Buffalo Bills is upon us. I think we are about to witness the greatest run of excellence in the history of the franchise, and one of the greatest of all time in the NFL.

Maybe it’s just because I’ve lived a long life and been fortunate to have had a lot of good things happen around me. About the only good thing that hasn’t happened is true greatness for my football team. I was there for the AFL championships and the Super Bowls. Now it’s time to go all the way.

Whatever the reason, I can’t talk myself out of believing the Bills are about to take off. It’s not that I expect the 2019 Bills to be great – someplace in the 9-7 to 7-9 range once again this year; what I expect is that the 2020 Bills will be a solid playoff team and a regular preseason Super Bowl contender after that. It could come a year earlier or a year later, but it’s coming.

“WHAT??!!! You can’t be serious,” readers scream.

I’m serious. I’m serious for the combination of several reasons.

Photo of Sean McDermott (L) and Brandon Beane from

1. The Process

I keep listening to McDermott and Beane, learning about what they are doing. If I understand it, I think it will work to build a team that is a powerhouse for many seasons.

It’s about continuous improvement, getting better at your job. McDermott says it over and over. Get better every day. That’s why they want rookies. They want the benefit of a football player for ten years, getting better year after after year.

Part of the genius of that system is that new guys get pulled up to level of the rest of the team pretty quickly. When the team is playing at a good level, rookies come in and learn quickly to play at the good level. When the team is great, rookies come in and learn to play at the great level. McDermott saw Andy Reid do it, and he’s watched Bill Belichick do it.

Everyone is challenged to get better, game after game, season after season. Players are challenged. Coaches are challenged, too. McDermott is expected to improve. Daboll is expected to improve. Frazier. Everyone. If you aren’t working to improve, you aren’t part of the process.

No player is guaranteed a job, and every player knows that he will sit or worse as soon as someone comes along who does it better. And the players are happy with that, because they understand they are part of a bigger process. If they’ve worked hard and made the team better, they will share in the team’s future success, because they were part of building the platform from which it all took off. I guarantee that when McDermott wins a Super Bowl in Buffalo, Kyle Williams will know that he owns a part of that trophy.

Continuous improvement.

Photo of Sean McDermott from

2. The Coach

My apologies to the lifelong atheists in the crowd, but there’s no way to describe McDermott except in religious terms. He’s organizing a cult, with avid followers who get high on the Word. It’s his personal version of The 300, with everyone doing his job, doing anything, for the benefit of everyone else, with a little of Andy of Mayberry wholesome goodness thrown it.

He practices what he preaches. He’s about doing the right thing all the time, preparing, learning, communicating. He lives in a world where everyone earns what he gets, and everyone understands why they sometimes don’t get what they tried to earn. He expects a Lombardi Trophy and nothing less, and he understands that if he doesn’t get it, someone else better will get the job. And he’s okay with that. He imposes that world on his players, and he expects them to be okay with it, so he must be okay with it, too.

He cares about everyone in his organization, and he wants everyone in the organization to care, too. Was there an element of commercialism in how McDermott and the Bills adopted PanchoBilla in his final weeks? Sure. But there was genuine caring and concern, too, and there was genuine grief at the end.

Is McDermott perfect? No. Does he make mistakes? Plenty. But it’s about continuous improvement, learning and getting better very day. He WILL get better, because he won’t accept less from himself. And don’t forget, he took his first head coaching job at about the same age as Bill Belichick, and Belichick made mistakes for years before he hit his stride. McDermott is growing into greatness.

McDermott does it right, and by doing it right, those around him do it right, too.

Photo/meme of Brandon Beane from

3. The GM

I just love Beane. I love his calculating approach to his job. Analyze, make a decision, evaluate, move on. Analyze, make a decision, evaluate, move one. No wasted motion.

Beane’s the Chief Operating Officer of the cult. His primary job is to keep a fresh supply of qualified devotees on hand for them to study at the feet of the master. He believes in the process, and he believes in McDermott. He believes that if he continues to deliver the right players, McDermott will deliver the Lombardi.

Beane’s fearless. He’s willing to make a decision and accept the consequences. He doesn’t fret over the mistakes; he just moves on to the next decision.

He’s willing to make the bold move.

Photo of QB Josh Allen from

4. The QB

It’s completely obvious that Beane and McDermott are selecting players the way they said they would: they want players who are intense and non-stop competitors, players what want to improve continuously, players who are driven to work at their craft every day. They want disciples. Others need not apply.

The latest example is Jerry Hughes, who has evolved from an occasionally flashy, occasionally frustrating athlete to superior all-around football player and leader. It didn’t seem possible three years ago.

Hughes’s contract extension says two things – that he’s matured into the kind of player and leader that McDermott wants to win with, and that Hughes can see that the Bills are the kind of organization that make him a better and more successful player. Hughes wants to be part of the success that McDermott and Beane are building; he is a disciple. And he isn’t the only one.

What does that have to do with the quarterback? Just this: the quarterback is the most important player on the field, and therefore the quarterback has to be the lead disciple. In Josh Allen, Beane and McDermott found their guy. He loves to compete. He loves to learn – you can see it and hear it in his interviews. He’s so much more mature, he has so much more understanding of the game than we saw a year ago. He handles his duties in press conferences almost flawlessly, giving thoughtful answers, deftly avoiding difficult issues, rarely being flustered. He desperately wants to do it right, on the field and off, and McDermott thrives on that attitude.

Belichick got his ideal disciple in Brady. McDermott got his in Allen. And, by the way, McDermott also got 6’5”, 240 pounds, speed, mobility and a rocket arm. I think Allen is destined for greatness, because he has all the tools, mental, physical and emotional, and he has the perfect mentor. A match made, if you believe in that sort of stuff, in heaven.

Photo of Kim and Terry Pegula from

5. The Owners

How perfect is it that leading this whole effort is a pair of owners who are true believers in the process? They’ve lived the process, they’ve reaped the financial and personal benefits of doing it right, and now they’ve found a coach and a GM who preach the process.

They’re believers in continuity. They know being great takes time, because it took them time, and they’re willing to give Beane and McDermott time to reach the goal.

They’re the big donors in the cult. When the GM says he needs new facilities to attract and train the kind of disciples who will win football games, the owners say yes. When McDermott says he needs another coach, they back him.

And they’re good people, just like McDermott and Beane and Kyle and Jerry and Josh. It’s like they’re all from Mayberry.

The NFL is a club, and the club members already are proud to have colleagues like Kim and Terry. Colleagues who can be counted on to have one eye on the bottom line and the other on their moral compass. Bills fans can be proud, too.

There it is. Something approaching the perfect combination of ownership, leadership and players committed to a process that will work.

We’ve waited a long time for this. It’s going to be special.

Count me in the cult.


The Rockpile Review is written to share the passion we have for the Buffalo Bills. That passion was born in the Rockpile; its parents were everyday people of western New York who translated their dedication to a full day’s hard work and simple pleasures into love for a pro football team.

Editor’s babble: This is beautiful. And true. I’ve known Mark via the Buffalo Bills Message Board (he was also a moderator) for probably close to 20 years. Mark is not a pie-in-the-sky optimist, he is quick to apply appropriate criticism when necessary. So this endorsement of ‘The Process’ is meaningful. Thanks, Mark. You can’t find Mark on Twitter but you can find him at and the Stadium Wall message board. 

3 Replies to “The Hopeless Optimist”

  1. I loved your every word. Count me in as a member of the cult. I knew Sean McD was special by week 5, 2017. After we got Josh Allen I knew we were super bowl bound.

    • I agree, something special is brewing in buffalo, reminds me of 1988 all over. I’m not quite old enough to Remember the 60’s, but I know what I read. I think Wilson was good but not quite devoted enough and he was the decision of Rob Johnson over flutie. This owner reminds me more of Robert Kraft, except I expect not personally like him, thank God.
      Speaking of Kraft, how is it the owner here in Carolina gets pushed out for some aggregous but no less severe but king of New England just goes on?