Buffalo Bills vs Kansas City Chiefs: Joe Schoen hired by Giants to be new GM

Sal Maiorana
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
Josh Allen and the Bills hope to leapfrog the Chiefs Sunday night in the AFC divisional playoff showdown.

For the third time in a calendar year, the Buffalo Bills will be playing at Arrowhead Stadium when they meet the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday night in an AFC divisional round playoff game.

Buffalo’s 2020 season came to an end with a 38-24 AFC Championship Game loss which sent the Chiefs to Super Bowl 55. Earlier this season, the Bills exacted a measure of revenge with a 38-20 flogging of Kansas City in a Sunday Night Football showdown.

Now, the rubber match goes down at 6:40 p.m. and an easy argument can be made that it’s the juiciest of the four playoff games on the schedule this weekend.

Saturday the Bengals are at No. 1 AFC seed Tennessee, and the surging 49ers play at the NFC’s top-seed, Green Bay. And then Sunday afternoon, Tom Brady and the defending champion Buccaneers host the Rams. Good games, sure, but they don’t carry the weight of a Josh Allen vs. Patrick Mahomes showdown which is why this game is slotted in as the last game of the weekend.

“They’re the defending AFC champs and it’s tough to play them anywhere, let alone at their place,” Bills coach Sean McDermott said. “So we we’ve got to put in a good week of practice and get ourselves ready to go perform at our best.”

All week long I’ll be updating what’s happening at One Bills Drive right here, so bookmark the page and visit often:

It’s official: Giants hiring Bills assistant GM Joe Schoen

The Bills’ well-oiled front office is losing one of its integral members as the Giants announced Friday that they are hiring Schoen - Brandon Beane’s right-hand man for five years - to be their new general manager, replacing the retired Dave Gettleman.

“Now, the work begins,” Schoen told reporters in New York. “My immediate focus is to hire a head coach, with who I will work in lockstep with to create a collaborative environment for our football operations. We will cast a wide net, it can be former head coaches, first-time head coaches but, more importantly, it has to be a person who possesses the ability to lead an organization and the ability to motivate and develop players.”

Naturally, speculation has immediately landed on Buffalo’s coordinators, Brian Daboll and Leslie Frazier, as favorite. Daboll, in particular because the Giants’ supposed franchise quarterback, Daniel Jones, needs immense help in order for him to ever live up to being the No. 6 overall draft pick in 2019.

But there was also a report that Schoen has already reached out to former Dolphins head coach Brian Flores who is a candidate for several head coaching vacancies.

Schoen was considered the frontrunner for the position and Giants co-owner John Mara said Schoen “impressed us with his ability to communicate a progressive and comprehensive vision for our team. His philosophy and collaborative approach to building a roster and coaching staff align with what we were looking for in a general manager.”

As for replacing Schoen in Buffalo, Beane has some internal options with Brian Gaine, who is in his second stint with the team after briefly serving as GM in Houston. Also, personnel men Malik Boyd and Terrance Gray could move up.

Mario Addison makes improvement

There was good news on the injury front for the Bills as defensive end Mario Addison was listed as a full participant in practice Friday and was not give a designation for the game, meaning he's healthy and ready to go.

Addison injured his shoulder last week against the Patriots and Sean McDermott, as he often is when it comes to injuries, didn’t delve too deeply into whether Addison would be able to play before practice started.

“We’ll just see today,” he said. “I don’t know really what capacity he’ll be in today until I get out there and watch him to be honest with you. I think he’s progressing but it’s hard to really tell. This will be his first day out there for the most part in a full-speed practice for us so that’s the best I can say right now.”

Clearly, Addison showed enough that you can expect him to play. Everyone else appears ready to go, too, as the Bills’ uncommon health for this time of year continues.

For the Chiefs, cornerback Rashad Fenton and running back Darrel Williams are both listed as questionable.

Nothing new on injury front, but a Chief is arrested

The Bills conducted a walk-through on Thursday so nothing changed on the injury list. Again, the only player listed was defensive end Mario Addison who was limited due to a shoulder injury.

For the Chiefs, the same two players who did not practice Wednesday were again out on Thursday. Cornerback Rashad Fenton is battling a back injury, and running back Derrel Williams has a toe issue.

One other player did not practice, linebacker Willie Gay, who was arrested Wednesday night by police in Overland Park, Kansas and charged with misdemeanor criminal property damage of less than $1,000. 

He is accused of damaging a vacuum cleaner, wall and door frame during a confrontation with a woman; the case is being classified as a domestic violence offense.

Gay, who has started 11 of the 12 games he played in the regular season, was credited with 48 tackles, a half sack and two interceptions. Last week against the Steelers in the wild-card game he had two tackles and forced a fumble.

Reports indicate that Gay is still in custody and will be in court at 3:30 p.m. Eastern time.

Last year in the days before the Super Bowl, Andy Reid’s son and one of his assistant coaches, Brit Reid, was charged with a felony for driving under the influence that seriously injured two children. He no longer works for the team.

Reid did not speak to reporters Thursday, but defensive coordinator Steve Spagnulo did. However, he would not comment on the situation beyond saying, “I’m going to leave that up to Andy. I’m sure he’ll address it. But if this happened in a game and it was an injury, we’d just operate that way. But we’ll see what happens.

“All I can say about Willie is I love working with him. He’s been terrific. I think you know he’s had a baby; I talk to him about that a lot. I just hope it works out best for everybody.’’

Some don't believe it, but Bills get plenty of respect

For some reason, there are some people in the fan base and even the media who don’t think the Bills get their proper respect nationally. I’m not sure why that’s a thing because the Bills get plenty of respect because honestly, how could they not after the last two seasons?

Josh Allen doesn’t care one way or the other because it’s simply not important to him.

“At the end of the day we’re playing for each other and all that outside stuff doesn’t really matter,” he said. “We know the type of team we are, we know who the type of guys we have in our locker room are and again, I wouldn’t trade any of our guys for anybody.”

The lack of respect thing has long been a Buffalo staple of fandom, driven mostly by the fact that Buffalo is a small market team that doesn’t derive the same coverage as the legacy NFL franchises do. But if you were to ask other NFL teams what they think of the Bills, I think there would be a massive amount of respect that you’d hear.

For instance, here’s what Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes said.

“Yeah I mean you expect a really good football team that’s going to play really hard,” he said earlier this week. “We’re expecting a fight, we’re expecting a battle. They have a great offense, great defense, great special teams and we played them in the AFC Championship last year and we know that it’s going to be another fight for us if we want to try to move on to the AFC Championship Game this year.”

Weather in Kansas City won’t be a factor

Bad weather has been an issue for the Bills in probably half of their games this season, and it was certainly lousy the last time they played at Arrowhead Stadium on Oct. 10.

That was the night a biblical rain storm blew through Kansas City and because of the accompanying lightning, the game had to be delayed for an hour after halftime. That night, the Bills were able to overcome it better than the Chiefs and won 38-20.

However, if the long-range forecast holds up, it looks like the conditions will be pretty good. There is no expected precipitation, and the temperature will start in the mid-40s and then lip into the high 20s as the night goes on. Wind is also supposed to be light, in the 5-10 mph range.

For January, that’s a gift for two pass-oriented teams like the Bills and Chiefs.

Another remarkably clean Bills injury report; Chiefs also in good shape

Just like last week when they played New England in the wild-card round, the Bills will go into Sunday night’s divisional matchup in Kansas City with an uncannily clean injury report.

The only player listed following Wednesday’s practice inside the fieldhouse at One Bills Drive was defensive end Mario Addison who participated on a limited basis due to the shoulder injury he suffered against the Patriots.

That’s it. He was the only player on the report which is somewhat amazing for the middle of January.

The Chiefs are also in pretty good health. They had two players who sat out practice Wednesday - running back Darrel Williams with a toe injury and cornerback Rashad Fenton with a back injury.

Three others were listed on the injury report, but all three - wide receiver Tyreek Hill (heel), running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire (shoulder) and cornerback L’Jarius Snead (knee) - all participated fully.

What has turned Singletary around late in the year?

The answer to that question is multiple. The offensive line has finally found its groove since Ryan Bates joined the starting group, and Singletary has done a better job of hitting the holes quicker and going north-south rather than east-west.

But McDermott pointed to another factor: He’s getting more carries.

We’ve all heard from any number of running backs through the year who say getting into a rhythm is important to their success and to do that, they need carries. Just like wide receivers want targets, running backs want touches.

With the exception of the second half of his 2019 rookie season when he was the clear No. 1 back ahead of aging Frank Gore, Singletary has never had as much work as he’s had down the stretch in 2021.

In the last five games counting Saturday’s playoff victory over New England, Singletary has carried the ball 92 times. The closest five-game stretch he’s had with the Bills was 88 carries in Weeks 11-15 in 2019. After that, it was 62 carries in Weeks 2-6 in 2020 when he was sharing the load with Zack Moss.

“I think he’s gotten into a good rhythm,” McDermott said. “When you get the touches, you’re able to build up some lather there and a rhythm. And having the continuity we’ve had of late with the offensive line has helped as well. So I guess just the overall symmetry of the offense, pass to run, run to pass, and then the execution of that has been good to see.”

In the last five games, Singletary has topped 80 yards in four, and he also has seven touchdowns.

“Really it comes down to (Brian) Daboll,” Singletary said of the offensive coordinator. “Coach Daboll is dialing it up and the guys up front … it’s a great group, great unit. They’re getting a lot of push and not only the guys up front; the receivers are getting in on it, the tight ends are getting in on it. So all that helps, man. All that plays a part. That’s really what it comes down to.”

Interview season heating up for Bills

Brian Daboll's days as the Bills offensive coordinator could be numbered as he's in line for head coaching positions.

It is now almost a certainty that the organizational stability the Bills have enjoyed for almost the entire five-year tenure of Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane is about to take a hit. Perhaps several.

Assistant GM Joe Schoen appears to be a prime candidate to become the Giants’ GM as he had a second interview Tuesday, this time in person. And there is talk in New York that if Schoen gets the job, he’d be very interested in bringing Daboll with him to be head coach.

Makes sense, but Daboll has already interviewed with the Dolphins and Bears (Schoen also met with the Bears about their GM vacancy) and unlike last season when the Chargers and Jets decided to pass on Daboll, it seems highly likely he’ll be getting one of these jobs - be it the Giants, Dolphins, Bears or another - especially if the Bills are eliminated from the playoffs Sunday and Daboll becomes immediately available.

As is his way, Daboll said very little about his situation when he spoke to reporters Monday. “I think (the Bills organization) do a good job here of allotting the time that you can use to speak to another club, but you quickly turn the page,” he said. “This has been a few years that we’ve talked about this. And it’s pretty easy to get your focus where you need to get your focus, which is strictly on the Kansas City Chiefs.”

Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier has also interviewed with the Dolphins and he’ll speak with the Bears Friday. As the architect of the NFL’s No. 1 defense, he certainly has a chance to land a job, even though he’s now 62 years old.

“For me, it’s all about the games that we have and that’s how I approached last week leading up to our New England game, just making sure I stayed locked in on what we had to get done against that particular team,” Frazier said. “I’m not the type of person that can divide my mind and switch gears, so I had to stay locked in and then after the game I started looking at some things, that was when I got home, it was about 1 o’clock in the morning.

“So I went through some things at that point and just did the best that I could. But I couldn’t neglect what I had to do in preparation for our ball game. It won’t be any different this week. I have to really stay locked in on what we have to get done. It’s hard to look at another team for me personally and stay focused on what I have to get done. So, for me, it’s all about this opponent and then you shift gears once that time comes. But, for me, it’s been locking in on the Kansas City Chiefs.”

Sal Maiorana can be reached at maiorana@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @salmaiorana.