By Frank Wolf
On Wednesday afternoon the Buffalo Bills announced that Sean McDermott has agreed to become the team’s new Head Coach. The 42-year old Omaha, NE native spent the past six seasons with the Carolina Panthers working as their defensive coordinator. He was hired to be a part of Ron Rivera’s staff on January 17, 2011, just two days after being fired from the same job he held with the Philadelphia Eagles.
McDermott will be tabbed with fixing a Bills defense that’s been in decline since Jim Schwartz left the team at the end of the 2014 season. The Panthers have fielded one of the most consistent defensive units in the NFL under McDermott’s watch. Carolina ranked in the top 10 for four consecutive seasons in total defense, while the Bills went from 4th best in 2014, 19th in 2015 and 14th in 2016.
The Bills enjoyed great success three seasons ago while running a 4-3 scheme. When Rex Ryan took over the team as head coach after Doug Marrone left, he switched to a 3-4. It is believed McDermott will run the 4-3, which is what he has been running since his time with the Eagles.
McDermott might seem young (turns 43 in March) but the game has been gravitating towards younger head coaches for some time. Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach was 35 when he was given the job back in 2007.
McDermott got his big break back in 1999 when then head coach of the Eagles Andy Reid hired him to work in the scouting department (an administrative job). Part of his duties included picking up prospective free agents from the airport and shuttling practice squad players to and from the grocery store. It wasn’t a glamorous job but it was his foot in the door.
Eventually, McDermott’s work ethic caught the eye of Reid and slowly but shortly found his way working under the watchful eye of the late defensive coordinator Jim Johnson. McDermott took over for Johnson who had to leave for medical reasons after the 2009 season.
McDermott called the shots for 2 seasons in Philly as coordinator and the defense ranked 12th best in yards per game in back-to-back seasons. He was with the Eagles during their four-consecutive trips to the NFC Championship game and the 2004 Super Bowl.
Under Rivera in Carolina his defense helped lead the Panthers to the Super Bowl in 2015-16. McDermott’s defense ranked 2nd that season in yards allowed.
It is possible fellow Panthers defensive coach Steve Wilks could follow McDermott to Buffalo as well as former San Diego head coach Mike McCoy who was relieved of his duties early last week.
In an interview with Panthers staff writer Max Henson Rivera praised his former assistant “I think he’s deserving, I really do,” Rivera said. “If you go back and look at the things he’s accomplished, his resume should speak for itself.” The Panthers defense took extensive hits that plagued performance this past year. Josh Norman, all-pro defensive back was lost to free agency and Luke Keuchly suffered two concussions during the season that kept him out for 6 games. He missed three in 2015 as well for a concussion.
McDermott will be introduced Friday as the 20th coach in Bills franchise history. He is the 8th coach (not counting interim) Buffalo has hired since their last playoff appearance (Wade Phillips 1999).
Bills GM Doug Whaley was excited about the hire “Sean’s intelligence, leadership qualities and vision for our team impressed us throughout the interview process. I am excited to begin working with Coach McDermott and his staff” (credit Bills.com).