ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Brandon Beane’s hiring as the Buffalo Bills general manager means coach Sean McDermott can roll out the wrestling mat.
In an indication of the bond the two established during their previous six seasons with the Carolina Panthers, Beane recounted how his eldest son got into wrestling by working out with McDermott, a two-time national high school champion.
“He had a whole almost WWF setup over there,” Beane said during his inaugural news conference on Friday. “And when he left, I was like, ‘Thanks a lot. There goes my wrestling coach.'”
Not so fast.
Four months later, Beane finds himself reunited with McDermott in Buffalo. The two will head a new front-office hierarchy and begin grappling with how to turn around a franchise in the midst of a 17-season playoff drought — the longest active streak among North America’s four major professional leagues.
Beane expects his familiarity with McDermott will smooth his transition as a first-time, full-time NFL GM.
“I trust Sean and I think Sean trusts me. And I think you’re going to see a heck of a partnership between the two of us,” he said.
Questions over a lack of trust and collaboration in the Bills front office is what led to the team’s latest offseason purge, which began with McDermott taking over for Rex Ryan, who was fired in the final week of last season. Beane replaces Doug Whaley , who was fired along with most of his scouting staff a day after the NFL draft.
The 40-year-old Beane has 19 years of NFL experience, all with the Panthers, including spending the past three years as assistant GM. He worked his way up the team’s executive ranks and was groomed by current GM David Gettlemen and his predecessor Marty Hurney.
Bills owner Terry Pegula credited Beane for the extensive experience he gained in Carolina, where he had a hand in in negotiating contracts, player evaluation and scouting.
“I think the primary thing was his all-around ability,” Pegula said. “He was a GM in everything but title.”
Beane briefly served as the Panthers interim GM over the final 10 games of the 2012 season after Hurney was fired.
McDermott said the past six years in Carolina was “a front-row seat” for how the two can work together.
“It was really a six-year interview,” McDermott said. “It’s how he handles losses, how he handles wins and sustaining success.”
Though they never established a firm plan to one day work together as GM and coach, Beane said the seeds of that possibility happening being sewn while they regularly met in McDermott’s office discussing approaches to address defensive needs.
“I would bounce ideas of him of where we could get players. We were always talking about how to make our defense better,” Beane said. “And now, instead of just talking about the defense with him, I’m going to talk about the whole team with him.”
On paper, Beane said he will have say over the 53-player roster while McDermott will be responsible for the coaching staff .
In reality, Beane said, the two will consult on all team-related decisions.
“Sean’s not a czar. I’m not a czar. Every decision is going to be collaborative. Together,” he said.
Beane’s first priority will be hiring a scouting staff and getting a grasp of the team’s short- and long-term needs. With the draft and free agency out of the way, Beane has time to take a methodical approach when in filling out his football department.
On Friday, he got a first glimpse into the Bills future, when the team opened a three-day rookie camp.
Beane’s hiring completes what has been a hectic month for Pegula’s two Buffalo-based sports franchises. A day earlier, the NHL Sabres hired Jason Botterill to be their new general manager.
The shake-ups led to the once-reclusive Pegula holding his fourth news conference in three weeks.
“There’s a lot going on, what’s for sure, but that’s what you buy into when you’re in the NFL and the NHL,” Pegula said.
He then laughed when asked if he’s getting more comfortable with the media.
“Yeah,” Pegula said. “Maybe 15 years from now we’ll talk again.”