ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) – Making the playoffs is just something that’s expected for the Bills and they’ve made the postseason so much since Sean McDermott took over that Jordan Poyer had to rethink how many years this is now.
“It’s pretty special, man. Being here since 2017, being with this guy right here [Micah Hyde] and just seeing how everything’s, obvioulsy the job’s not finished, we want to continue to work but to be where we came from and to be leaders on this team and have us go to the playoffs, this is our three out of four years?,” Poyer asked Micah Hyde during their postgame press conference on Sunday.
Member of the media corrected him and said it’s now four out of five years the Bills have made the playoffs.
“Four out of five? Shit, I’m getting old,” Poyer laughed.
But he had to take a minute to think about it because this is the norm now for this franchise and not just something that happens once every 17 years.
“I mean it’s truly special. Guys work hard man and it’s a special group, great teammates, guys come in and work hard so definitely feel like we’ve earned it,” Poyer said.
The Bills beat the Falcons 29-15 on Sunday and because the Ravens also lost to the Rams, Buffalo clinched a playoff berth. Baltimore’s game ended before the Buffalo’s and Hyde didn’t hide the fact that he knew the outcome.
“Yeah,” Hyde laughed when asked if he knew the Ravens lost.
“If I’m being honest, yeah. Just because the trainers, there was a trainer that walked past and said all we got to do is win and we’re in because Baltimore lost so that told the story right there. But going into the game I wasn’t watching the score during the game, none of that.”
And even though they still needed a little help to officially clinch a postseason spot today, it was nothing like the massive amount of things they needed to happen back in 2017 when they broke the playoff drought.
“Nothing’s gonna match 2017,” Hyde said.
That was when the final piece of the puzzle came into place as Andy Dalton hit Tyler Boyd on 4th and 12 for a 49-yard touchdown with 44 seconds left to beat the Ravens (ironically enough) and send the Bills into the playoffs as they all watched in Miami after beating the Dolphins in the regular season finale that year on New Year’s Eve.
“That was crazy, for us to number one win, I don’t know what the percentage of us getting in was and then all being in the locker room with TVs on after the game, our game getting over before their’s and then seeing that 4th and whatever it was to Boyd, touchdown, nothing’s matching that. Yeah, that was amazing,” Hyde explained.
But enough about that season, although we’re not done reflecting because it’s hard not to given how far this franchise has come in such a short amount of time. Since Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane took over in 2017, the Bills have gone from breaking an almost two decade long playoff drought to making the postseason four out of five years these two have been in charge.
And Poyer and Hyde have been here since the beginning of it all.
“It’s remarkable. It’s remarkable to see where we were at when we first got here to where we are now but obviously there’s still a bunch of goals in place for us that we want to accomplish this year and this is just one of them,” Hyde said.
So has left tackle Dion Dawkins who was one of McDermott’s first draft picks in 2017.
“Sean is everything, Sean is our headspear, you know that’s our leaderboard, you know like he’s our leader. It just shows that Sean is Sean and you know he’s a stone cold killer in the face but he knows exactly what he’s doing and he knows what to do, he knows how to fuel his players and he knows how to honestly lead the right way,” Dawkins said after the game.
“When you treat your guys right, your guys rally and that’s exactly what we’re doing. We’re rallying behind a leader that treats his troops right.”
“It means a lot. I’m just one piece of it and I think it says a lot about Terry and Kim and what they give us and the resources they’ve provided us over the years and the partnership I have with Brandon and then the coaches just doing a phenomenal job, a lot of good players through those four or five years now and it’s been a team effort, the fans included,” Sean McDermott said following their win over Atlanta.
McDermott and Beane started this rebuild by making a few unpopular decisions that even had some throwing the work “tank” around by trading, at the time what previous regimes thought of as cornerstone pieces of the franchse, Sammy Watkins and Ronald Darby. They also had to weed out the guys who didn’t fit the culture they wanted to build like Marcell Dareus.
Then there was the daunting task of finding their franchise quarterback which they ultimately did by trading up in 2018 to get Josh Allen. Of course I’m leaving out many steps on the road to maintaining this level of success but I’m not writing a novel here, just giving you the spark notes version.
And for some guys, coming to Buffalo was the first time they ever made the playoffs, like Poyer.
“Ever since Sean and Beane, they took over here they’ve brought the right guys in to set that standard. Guys come into the season understanding what the expectations are on both sides of the football and that is the standard. We want to continue to build off of that,” Poyer said.
“JB [John Butler] was in there telling the young guys ‘hey don’t take this for granted.’ Some of the young guys come in here and have been to the playoffs two years in a row now. This is my fourth year out of my nine years so some of those guys don’t really get to feel the hardships of…it takes a lot to get to the playoffs and so a lot of those guys haven’t felt what not making it is so really just enjoying the moment. Obviously the job’s not finished, we have to handle business next week but definitely feels good.”
Some might roll their eyes at the word “culture” but it is a very real part of success and the turnaround of this franchise is the prime example of it.
“You look at the culture that we’ve got going on here. I think it just kind of shows that the ground work and the foundation that has been set in the last few years is paying off from top down. Kim and Terry what they’ve been able to do, who they’ve hired, who they’ve brought in, you know the GM that we’ve got, the head coach that we’ve got, the comradery that we’ve had the last few years and the coaching staff too I think that all pays dividends,” Josh Allen said in his postgame press conference on Sunday.
“That’s our goal at the start of the year to give yourself a chance to win a Super Bowl and you can’t do that unless you make the playoffs so everything we want’s in front of us. I know a few weeks back it seemed pretty dull but again we’ve got guys in this locker room that just want to help this team win no matter what way they can and you see it pay off on the field and we’ve gotta keep things going.”
The Bills were also able to clinch a playoff spot in front of the home crowd, something they couldn’t do in previous years because they were on the road and last year because fans weren’t allowed in attendance due to Covid-19.
“Anything we can do to these fans, you guys know how much our football team cares about them so not only did we clinch today but we have a greater opportunity next week to win the division. We’re gonna take our 24 hours then get focused on that but it was great to do it here at home,” Harrison Phillips said.
While that’s all well and good, the team has its sights set on something bigger looming.
“I mean it would be better to win the AFC East next week at home in front of Bills Mafia, I’ll tell you that,” Poyer explained.
And they can do that with a win over the Jets in next week’s regular season finale at Highmark Stadium.