The way the past 20 years have gone in western New York, Brandon Beane might be a deep playoff run away from his own statue outside Bills Stadium.
In fans' eyes at least, the Buffalo Bills' general manager can do no wrong. Beane and coach Sean McDermott took over a team that averaged 6.6 wins a season from 2000 through 2016 and stopped the 17-season playoff drought, reaching the postseason in two of their first three years in Buffalo.
On paper, Buffalo might have its most talented roster since the Jim Kelly and Bruce Smith days. Expectations in 2020 aren't quite as high as they were for a team that made it to four consecutive Super Bowls, but they are higher than they've been over the past two decades.
Simply making the playoffs isn't enough anymore.
"The job that we are put here to do is to win a Super Bowl," Bills quarterback Josh Allen said. "I think that's what our minds are set on. At the same time, we're taking it one game at a time. We're worried about the New York Jets [in Week 1] and we can't look forward to Week 2 or Week 3 or Week 17, for that matter, and win an AFC title."
Beane is at the point in the rebuild where he can focus on re-signing and extending his own draft picks and franchise cornerstones. Left tackle Dion Dawkins and cornerback Tre'Davious White signed long-term extensions this offseason, and though both were technically drafted by McDermott a month before Beane arrived in Buffalo, the duo has put themselves in position to double down on the roster decisions they have made over the past few years.
Though Beane believes Buffalo is on the rise, he isn't ready to strike a pose until a few milestones are hit -- starting with dethroning his division's reigning champion, the New England Patriots.
"Time will tell if we're building it right, if we have the right pieces," Beane said. "But I truly believe we're trending up and we're heading in the right direction. The results will speak for themselves, and again, until we win the AFC East, I'm not going to feel like we're on track. That's a big hurdle that we need to do here."
Buffalo lost both matchups against the 12-4 Patriots last season, and the moves Beane made this offseason suggest he's serious about winning the franchise's first division title since 1995. The Bills' trade for wide receiver Stefon Diggs in March was an aggressive move to fill a glaring need for an offensive playmaker, something the team lacked in 2019. And veterans such as pass-rusher Mario Addison and cornerback Josh Norman were brought in to help Buffalo win now.
The Bills return a league-leading 88% of snaps, including a league-high 95% of their offensive snaps. With most of his team's core in place, Beane didn't have to do much to the roster.
Minimal but impactful changes were important given the truncated offseason brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. With roughly a month and a half of offseason practice compared to the usual four months, teams will find a lot out about themselves when they take the field for the first time in Week 1.
"It's all kind of new -- new faces that you see without preseason," Allen said. "No OTA time. The progression of guys, it's going to be fun to see. We've got a lot of guys that can play football, that are real dudes. I'm excited to get on the field and see what they can do for real."
McDermott has insisted the adjusted offseason will not affect the Bills' goals this season; "Playoff Caliber" can be seen on shirts and signs throughout the team's facility in Orchard Park, New York.
Buffalo's mentality suits Diggs, who wanted a new opportunity and was traded from the Minnesota Vikings this offseason. A fifth-round pick out of Maryland in 2015, he said he constantly plays with a chip on his shoulder -- similar to many of his Bills teammates who have been overlooked in one fashion or another.
"It aligns itself, I guess -- this is a good situation for me," Diggs said. "The guys that are around me play with a chip on their shoulder. A lot of the guys are late-round guys -- not too many first-round guys -- who have something to prove each and every day. I think it's jelling well."
Beyond the locker room, Diggs said he appreciates the message Beane has sent about expectations and the way that message has been received throughout the organization.
"It's trickled down 100 percent," he said. "I'm not a guy that goes in with expectations like, 'I want this, I want that' -- you've got to make it happen each and every day, small steps in the right direction."
Success is far from a given, though. Buffalo plays the 10th-toughest schedule in the NFL, according to ESPN's Football Power Index rankings, and gets only two games against division opponents before a four-game stretch that includes three playoff teams from 2019.
Bills players are excited to see what their impressive roster can do, but also realize championships are not won on paper.
"It's fun to see our guys compete because we do have a lot of talent here, but at the same time talent doesn't win football games," Allen said. "The better team that executes on the field wins football games."