When The Rebuild Goes Wrong

By: Rajan Nanavati

When you’ve got a house with bad walls, bad floors, and bad windows, all built on top of a bad foundation, it doesn’t make any sense to install any new fancy hardwood floors. What you should be doing is taking a wrecking ball to the whole thing, and literally rebuilding from the ground up.


That’s what everyone assumed was taking place when Sean McDermott became head coach and Brandon Beane became General Manager of the Buffalo Bills. The franchise was decrepit since the turn of the century, with zero playoff appearances, and 10 different head coaches in less than two decades prior to McDermott’s arrival. Instead of re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, McDermott and Beane knew that they had to destroy the current ship, lest they end up driving it into an iceberg in the same way as their predecessors.

But a year after shocking the majority of the NFL world by leading the current group of lovable losers to their first playoff appearance since 1999, the question has to be asked: it’s one thing to tear down a construction that’s been falling apart and decaying for god knows how long, but it’s an entirely different problem when you short-circuit the reconstruction and end up with something that’s almost as faulty as the first one.

Nobody in Buffalo would ever admit this, but you could almost say the Bills made the playoffs “by accident” last year, and in some ways, it might’ve been more of a curse than a blessing. When you establish expectations, the worst thing you can possibly do is not meet those expectations, no matter how lofty – if not unrealistic – they might be. Having tasted a postseason appearance after the 2017 season, McDermott and Beane were supposed to have this team floating around the .500 mark at worst, instead of toiling among the flotsam of the NFL while they rebuilt the team the right way.


Irrespective of the fact that drafting Josh Allen in the first round of the draft signaled that this team was several years away from competing, that they had the worst group of wide receivers in the NFL as Allen’s supporting cast, or that their starting running back faced serious legal questions (and the specter of hitting the dreaded wall at 30 years old), people had the expectations that Buffalo shouldn’t be among the truly terrible teams in the NFL.

But now, instead of valuing a coach who’s preaching culture and team-building over quick and cheap wins, we’re wondering if McDermott has lost the team after Buffalo has been outscored 91-31 over the last four weeks, and is trotting out one of the worst offenses in recorded history.

Instead of acknowledging Buffalo has 10 picks in the 2019 NFL Draft, and has hit on two studs in the first rounds of the past two drafts (Tre’Davious White in 2017 and Tremaine Edmunds in 2018), we’re questioning whether this team has the right infrastructure in place to compete. Instead of acknowledging that it’s going to take time – or lots and lots of time, rather – for McDermott and Beane to bring in the guys who can turn this moribund franchise into a true contender, we’re openly questioning if they’ve lost the locker room.


Nobody is questioning that Buffalo has a bad football team at the moment. The problem is, when you start questioning bringing up questions about “why isn’t McDermot winning?,” you’re making the same mistakes that led to this team failing to make the playoffs in almost 20 years.

As the saying goes: those who don’t learn from their mistakes are bound to repeat them.