Sean McDermott has been named the next head coach of the Buffalo Bills. Here are five reasons he will be the guy that gets the Bills into the AFC Playoffs.
On Wednesday, the Buffalo Bills became the third team to hire a new head coach this offseason. Hours after the Denver Broncos made Vance Joseph their guy, Buffalo hired Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott to be their next head coach.
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McDermott had been the Panthers defensive coordinator since 2011 and was the defensive coordinator with the Philadelphia Eagles from 2009 to 2012. He has served under head coaches Andy Reid and Ron Rivera and looks to be ready for his first head coaching gig.
Buffalo is known for being the NFL franchise with the longest active playoff drought, going on 19 years. The Bills’ last playoff game was the Music City Miracle game against the Tennessee Titans in the 1999 AFC Playoffs. No need to fear, here are five reasons that McDermott will be guy that lead Buffalo back into the AFC Playoffs.
5. Clearly aligned with Doug Whaley
This is important. While they did not enter the Bills organization at the same time, McDermott wouldn’t have gotten the job or taken the job if he did not believe that he could work with incumbent general manager Doug Whaley.
Whaley has been with the Bills organization since 2010 and Buffalo’s general manager since 2013. The Pegula Family has entrusted Whaley to execute the coaching search and he seems to have found a solid one in McDermott. While he has flown under the radar this season, keep in mind that McDermott was a hot head coaching candidate last season when the Panthers went 15-1 en route to Super Bowl 50.
Though the Bills have hovered around .500 the last few years, Whaley has done a good job in terms of drafting and signing personnel. However, quarterback seems to be the one position that success has evaded him.
McDermott has seen first hand the nature of the enigmatic Cam Newton with the Panthers since 2011 and the entire Donovan McNabb era of Eagles football (1999-2009). The both know defensive personnel, but will have to be even more focused on getting this team a franchise quarterback. For better or worse, McDermott and Whaley are in this together. They will sink or swim together in Orchard Park. It is in their best interest to get Buffalo playoff bound soon.
While McDermott could have been an NFL head coach as early as last season, he probably waited until he knew that he could land an ideal offensive coordinator to aid in his transition as an NFL head coach.
It seems that McDermott will land either of these elite offensive minds as his Bills offensive coordinator: Mike McCoy or Bill Musgrave. McCoy was the head coach of the San Diego Chargers the last four years. Before that, he was John Fox’s offensive coordinator with the Denver Broncos. McCoy also has coaching roots with the Panthers organization, the franchise McDermott is leaving.
Musgrave was most recently Jack Del Rio’s offensive coordinator with the Oakland Raiders. Seven times has Musgrave been an offensive coordinator, working with star quarterbacks like Matt Ryan and Derek Carr. His knowledge of the passing game could unravel the Gordian knot that is throwing the football in Western New York.
Having this kind of eye for offensive coaching talent will only serve McDermott as the next Bills head coach. That side of football has been problematic in Buffalo since Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly retired two decades ago. Getting an elite offensive coordinator like McCoy or Musgrave is paramount to getting the Bills into the playoffs during the McDermott era in Orchard Park.
McDermott’s area of expertise on defense is in the secondary. He played safety for the William & Mary Tribe in college and was an all-conference safety in 1997. Since joining Reid’s Eagles staff as a scouting administrative coordinator in 1999, McDermott has worked with some great players in NFL secondaries.
Some of those players include Brian Dawkins, Troy Vincent, Lito Sheppard, Captain Munnerlyn, Roman Harper, and Josh Norman. While the Panthers defenses of the last several years have leaned heavily on its dominant front-seven, it has allowed McDermott to coach up players like Norman and James Bradberry in his secondary. Norman became an All-Pro with the 2015 Panthers. Bradberry had a strong rookie season despite playing his college ball at a smaller school in Samford University.
McDermott inherits good players on his defense in Buffalo. Whaley drafts well on that side of the ball, so McDermott can get that flex his muscles in player development with better overall talent coming in.
Buffalo is particularly windy. Passing the football gets increasingly difficult in the AFC East as the temperature drops, which means the football can be a little unpredictable once it is thrown. Look for McDermott to coach up his secondary, get it better at ball skills, and be the dominating defensive backfield he never really had in Carolina.
Feb 7, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly (59) reacts after a play during the second quarter against the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50 at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
2. Proven track record of defensive dominance
Until they get the quarterback situation right, the Bills are going to have to win with defense. They’ve got a solid foundation on that side of the ball and a solid running game in tow to complement it. Buffalo is now getting a proven track record of defensive dominance in new head coach McDermott.
Look at the two NFL teams he has worked for in Philadelphia and Carolina. When he was on Reid’s staff in Philadelphia, the Eagles almost always seemed to have a great defense. The Eagles had arguably the best secondary in football during the peak years of the Reid era in Philadelphia, and a lot of that falls on McDermott as the secondary coach.
McDermott joined Rivera’s Panthers staff in 2011 and Carolina has had the most formidable front-seven in the NFC since. Yes, Rivera is a former star linebacker himself, but he and McDermott fed off each other to make this a Panthers defense nobody wanted to face.
Buffalo knows the type of defensive mind it is getting in McDermott. His scheme isn’t gimmicky and it demands excellence out of its players. The Bills have had talent on that side of the ball for some time now. However, excellence was never demanded. If McDermott can keep his defense focused, that might be enough to get Buffalo into the AFC Playoffs.
Oct 2, 2016; Foxborough, MA, USA; Buffalo Bills head coach Rex Ryan looks on during the first half against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
1. He’s not Rex Ryan
While it sounds like somebody who is piling on, the best thing McDermott has going for him is that he is not former Bills head coach Rex Ryan. Are both coaches strong defensive minds? Absolutely, but Buffalo is getting a coach that wants to win games and not the meaningless press conferences.
Perhaps Buffalo doesn’t need a players’ coach in the vein of a Ryan? It certainly seems to serve the Bills going forward to have its head coach to be all about the x’s and o’s. McDermott’s body of work in Philadelphia and Carolina speaks for itself. The guy gets great players to perform at a high level for him every week.
Buffalo will be getting the passion of a Ryan defense without the media circus. When McDermott opens his mouth, it will be about Bills football and nothing else. The Pegula Family would have to love that after the two years of weird when Ryan was in charge.
McDermott isn’t going to fire his elite offensive coordinator after Thursday Night Football in Week 2 like Ryan did to Greg Roman in 2016. Under McDermott, the Bills aren’t going to be as tumultuous as they were under Ryan. Discipline and commit to hard work will eventually get the Bills into the AFC Playoffs. Look for McDermott to be the first Bills head coach since Wade Phillips to get Buffalo into the playoffs. Not saying that he’s the next Marv Levy, but McDermott will be respectable going forward for the Bills.