ORCHARD PARK – Sean McDermott walked in about 20 minutes late for his scheduled press briefing Tuesday morning at One Bills Drive, so naturally, I had to give the Bills coach a dig by asking if he was going to “send himself home.”
He smiled a knowing smile, which was better than him not getting the joke and scowling, or perhaps throwing something at me.
But, all kidding aside, the impetus for that playful exchange is no laughing matter. McDermott having to send Marcell Dareus home because he missed all of the team buses that were transporting the Bills from their hotel to M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore is yet another eye-rolling, head-shaking moment in the checkered career of Buffalo’s talented but perplexing defensive tackle.
Tuesday was the first time McDermott met with reporters since he had spoken to Dareus about what happened Saturday night. He didn’t share too many details of their conversation, only to reiterate what Dareus said Sunday, that he and the Bills are now on the same page moving forward.
Here’s my question: Are we to then assume that Dareus and the Bills weren’t on the same page before Baltimore? Not that I would be surprised by that, given this is Dareus we’re talking about.
“That’s more of a question for Marcell,” McDermott said. “What I’m concerned about is that we’re on the same page, whether it’s before, now, or moving forward. Alignment is a big part, and being on the same page, that communication that builds alignment is what we’re focused on.”
We have reached the point in Dareus’ career where there should be no more chances. Like a down-on-his-luck gambler who keeps asking the casino for additional markers, Dareus continues to dig himself deeper into a hole, and the Bills need to stop enabling him with their patience. Enough is enough, isn’t it?
Jack Eichel of the Sabres might go to the top of the mountain pretty soon, but to date, no one in the history of professional sports in Buffalo has signed a contract with more guaranteed money than the $60 million the Bills wired into Dareus’ bank account in September 2015. And because of that ridiculous contract (seriously, didn’t the Bills learn their lesson with Mario Williams in that you don’t pay defensive linemen like quarterbacks?), the Bills can’t do what they probably should have already done: Get rid of the guy.
His contract affords Dareus the opportunity to act like a knucklehead whenever he wants because he’s the hammer and the Bills are the nail. To cut him right now, the Bills would have to absorb a dead salary cap charge this season of $23.6 million, which, believe it or not, they could technically handle. However, it would leave them almost no wiggle room under the cap to deal with other roster issues that could crop up. They would also have to swallow another $14.2 million dead cap hit in 2018.
General Manager Brandon Beane knows the ramifications, which is why he said “no” when he was asked Saturday if he planned to bite the bullet and cut Dareus, while making no attempt to hide his displeasure with the situation. “Obviously, a guy with his contract status, you would hope that he would be a better leader than that, and hopefully he learns from it and moves on and (will) just be a Buffalo Bill,” Beane said. “We have expectations, we have standards that everybody has to live by, and if you’re not, then you’re not going to be here.”
Since Dareus joined the Bills as the No. 3 overall pick in the 2011 draft, what exactly have they gotten on the field? First and foremost, let’s start with zero playoff appearances. In the six years he’s been here, he hasn’t made a bit of difference to the bottom line as the Bills cumulative record is 42-54. He has been selected for two Pro Bowls in 2014 and 2015. He has accumulated 34 sacks and 292 tackles, forced two fumbles, and recovered two fumbles. Not exactly Hall of Fame, or even Wall of Fame stuff.
What have the Bills gotten from Dareus off the field? Nothing but migraines. He didn’t have any missteps his first two years in the NFL under Chan Gailey, but since Doug Marrone’s arrival, extending through Rex Ryan and now into the early portion of McDermott’s tenure, Dareus has been a one-man circus.
At the end of 2013, he was late for team meetings twice. Marrone benched him for a quarter in a game against Miami as punishment, then the day after the game, he was late again, so in the final game against the Patriots, he was benched for a half. Five months later, in a span of about 30 days in May 2014, he was arrested on a synthetic drug-possession charge back home in Alabama, then he lost control of his car and slammed into a tree outside a restaurant in the Buffalo suburb of Hamburg while he was drag racing with teammate Jerry Hughes.
More substance abuse issues resurfaced while Ryan was in town, and Dareus was suspended by the league for one game at the start of the 2015 season, and then got nailed again and had to sit out the first four games of 2016. In between, he did a 30-day stint in rehab (though it turned out it was at One Bills Drive, not at a rehab facility) and announced that he had been afflicted with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder since he was younger.
McDermott made it a point to say Tuesday that when he took over, everyone on the roster was given a clean slate, though he was aware of Dareus’ past transgressions.
“I’ve been around the league a long time so I know some of the things that went on before we got here,” McDermott said.
Well, Dareus’ slate is clean no longer. If he messes up again, the Bills should suck up the monetary disaster and move on. They aren’t going to the playoffs with Dareus this year, and maybe not next year, either, so what’s the difference?