Brady places trust in Allen upon taking over play-calling duties

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen, right, talks with then-quarterbacks coach Joe Brady before a preseason game in Orchard Park last August. Now the offensive coordinator, Brady has no intention of re-inventing the wheel after having the interim tag removed from his title during an offseason that featured a seismic shift of Buffalo’s lineup of leaders and playmakers. AP File Photo

ORCHARD PARK — Bills offensive coordinator Joe Brady has no intention of making big changes after having the interim tag removed from his title during an offseason that featured a departure of some of Buffalo’s top playmakers.

For all the subtractions — Stefon Diggs being traded to Houston, No. 2 receiver Gabe Davis and starting center Mitch Morse signing with Jacksonville — Brady takes comfort in having one major fixture in place: quarterback Josh Allen for the four-time defending AFC East champions.

“For us to say, ‘Hey, we’re just going to scrap everything,’ and, ‘everything was broken,’ that wasn’t the case,” Brady said this week, when asked what personal tweaks he has for an offense that’s finished no worse than fifth in the NFL in yards gained each of the past four seasons.

“Look,” he added, pointedly. “At the end of the day, this is Josh Allen’s offense, right?”

No question.

The challenge for Brady, who took over in Week 11 last season after Ken Dorsey was fired, becomes building off the second half of last season when he introduced a more balanced and less Diggs-centric attack, and carry it into this season in which Buffalo returns just one player at the receiver position — Khalil Shakir — who has caught a pass from Allen.

Brady had an answer for that, too, when assessing a retooled receiver group headed by Curtis Samuel and second-round draft pick Keon Coleman, and rounded out by journeymen such as Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Chase Claypool and Mack Hollins.

“It’s not just about one person. No one’s bigger than the offense,” Brady said. “It’s about understanding that, hey, in this offense everyone is going to eat.”

That means trying to make up for losing Diggs and Davis, who combined for 152 catches and 1,929 yards, and caught 15 of Allen’s 29 touchdown passes last season.

Buffalo’s transition from Diggs actually began in the closing weeks of last season, when Brady placed an emphasis on more players getting involved, including the run game. It led to an uptick in production for Shakir, tight end Dalton Kincaid and running back James Cook while, more importantly, translating into Buffalo winning six of its final seven, capped by a season-ending win over Miami to clinch the AFC East.

Shakir is on board, entering his third NFL season, and following a season in which he more than doubled his production over the final seven games in finishing with 39 catches for 611 yards and two TDs.

“When you have a guy like Stef, obviously he’s one of the best receivers in the league. So, yeah, let’s try and give him the ball,” Shakir said. “But there’s a certain point where I think it all works together if we’re spreading the ball around. Because then that gets him open or that gets me open, that gets somebody else open.”

Tight end Dawson Knox appreciated Brady having a collaborative approach with Allen as opposed to forcing an offensive philosophy that might not fit the quarterback’s dual-threat skill set.

“That level of communication that those two guys have is everything,” Knox said. “If Josh doesn’t like something, we shouldn’t run it. But the things that Josh really likes, it should be honed in on, practiced a little extra.”

Similar to some of his players, Brady is getting a second chance. He failed to make it through his second year as Carolina’s offensive coordinator after being fired 12 games into the Panthers’ 2021 season.

Brady then landed in Buffalo to serve as the Bills quarterbacks coach, before replacing Dorsey.

The 34-year-old Brady called the experience of getting fired in Carolina a valuable lesson in making him better prepared. Among his takeaways were building relationships and placing more trust in his players, and realizing he doesn’t have to overthink his role as a play-caller.

“I don’t think you’re trying to out-genius (an opponent). I got let go from my last job for trying to think like that,” Brady said in December following a 31-10 win at Dallas in which Cook’s 179 yards rushing were the most by a Bills player since Fred Jackson had 212 in 2010.

Cook’s accomplishments aside, Brady then turned his attention to Allen, by saying the quarterback makes his job easier — a point he’s not forgotten this year.

“There’s certain things that Josh Allen has been doing for years here, and the last thing I want is for him to have to think out there and make some calls,” he said this week.

“If there are things that I feel from a learning standpoint that would be easier for the guys to learn, we’ll look at that,” Brady said, before referring to Allen by his No. 17. “Other than that, if it’s something that is going to slow 17 down, not changing.”


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