Not just the 76ers: Sean McDermott has Bills focused on 'the process'

First came "trust the process," the mantra of the Philadelphia 76ers' epic tear-down-and-rebuild project that has seen the franchise select at or near the top of the NBA draft in each of the past four years.

Now there is "respect the process," one of several mottoes first-year coach Sean McDermott has plastered on the walls of the Buffalo Bills' facility as the organization tries to end a 17-year playoff drought -- just probably not as soon as this season.

McDermott has resisted using the term "rebuilding" to describe the Bills' situation since he was hired in January, but "process" has flowed freely. He used it seven times during his introductory news conference, and an examination of transcripts provided by the team after McDermott's news conferences showed that, as of Sunday, he has used the word exactly 100 times as Bills coach -- almost double the instances he has used "win" (55 times) or "winning" (15 times).

To McDermott, a laser-focused ex-high school wrestling champion, "the process" seems to apply to every context. There was the process in the offseason of whether to keep or release Tyrod Taylor, the pre-draft process, the minicamp process, the training camp process, the process of signing Anquan Boldin, the process of Boldin retiring, the process of players recovering from injuries, even "the process of what's going on in this country" after this month's protests in Charlottesville, Virginia.

But the overriding theme behind McDermott's use of the word -- he even winked at reporters once after saying it -- is that there will be a process to the Bills' clawing their way out of mediocrity and back to a level of NFL respectability. The Bills might never plummet to the depths reached by the 76ers, whose 10-72 finish during the 2015-16 season helped to secure the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft, but McDermott and first-year general manager Brandon Beane are clearly playing the long game as they stockpile 2017 draft assets.

There probably will be some pain in the short term. "Respect the process" is not a phrase guaranteed to comfort every Bills fan put off by recent developments around the team, just as "trust the process" gets used sarcastically by 76ers fans unconvinced NBA success will soon come to Philadelphia.

In Buffalo, unsettling news has dominated the past three weeks. Trades of Sammy Watkins and Ronald Darby, an almost immediate injury to newcomer Jordan Matthews, the abrupt retirement of Boldin and a cringeworthy preseason stat line from Taylor -- a 48 percent completion rate, 3.4 yards per attempt, two interceptions and a 27.9 quarterback rating -- were the start. Then Taylor suffered a concussion Saturday night, only hours after defensive tackle Marcell Dareus was sent home from the game for violating a team rule.

The string of bad news had McDermott reaching for his familiar refrain Sunday.

"This is life in the NFL," he said. "'Respect the process' is a way of life, just like 'playoff caliber' is a way of life. It’s a mindset. I think our players embrace that, I really believe that. This is what happens in an NFL training camp, in particular, in the first year you get roster moves, you’re always looking at the roster and changing things. At times, you’re looking at the bottom third to improve the roster at all, every day. These are the moves that happened.

"We’re building a foundation, you’ve heard me say it before, we’re building a team. We’re not accumulating talent, we’re building a football team that will be built to win in the short term and long term, and you’ve heard me sat that before. First sustain success, and when you do that you’re looking at evaluating not only the player but the person. And building cornerstones for this organization of leadership and people that do things the right way."

McDermott is a Philadelphia native who worked for the Eagles from 1998 through 2010, but it is unclear if the 76ers' process has influenced McDermott's habitual use of the word. Asked in March by WKBW about 76ers center Joel Embiid and his moniker, "The Process," McDermott gave an uncertain smile and said, "I am a process guy and I am a fan of his as well, so I respect greatness."

Yes, McDermott is a process guy. Eventually, he would like to be known as a winning head coach in the NFL.

In the meantime, McDermott's most frequent six-word phrase of his news conferences applies.

A lot of work to do.