In McDermott We Trust
by Kevin Sylvester
I’m not trying to kill any enthusiasm, damper anyone’s expectations, or present a precursory “I told you so”, but I want to pump the breaks on Sean McDermott, the new head coach of the Bills. His resume is impressive, his work ethic appears second to none, and he’s saying all of the right things early in training camp. McDermott has been doing that since the day he was hired as head coach (and more) of the Bills. The franchise has done an excellent job of fueling the hype, chronically every move, steady cam’s in tow, putting their excellent creative department to work. I would have backed off a little, okay, a lot. The reason is simple.
McDermott has never been a head coach at any level, according to his bio anyway. That does not mean he’s not qualified, didn’t deserve this chance, or isn’t the right choice. However, it also means that I’m skeptical he can do it all right away, as he’s tasked to do. Rebuild the entire football operation, speak for the team, implement new schemes, and get this team back to the playoffs for the first time in 17 years. We (Paul and I) spoke to Wade Phillips last spring on our podcast (https://soundcloud.com/user-360517598/sylvester-and-peck-onsports-
wade-phillips-son-of-bum), and it was numbing to recall that he is the last Bills coach to lead the franchise to the playoffs. That was forever ago! That discussion is a great listen, but this is about Sean and not Wade.
I understand the trust the Pegulas have in Sean McDermott. After all, you don’t hire someone for an important job without believing they will do great. Of course they trusted Rex Ryan, and bought it hook, line, and stinker (t added for obvious reasons). McDermott is the anti-Rex, but once again, the Pegulas are all in. The owners really had no choice. Ryan was a disaster, the GM who was supposedly heading up the coaching search put the final nail in his Bills’career coffin with one of the worst post season press conferences in Buffalo sports history. Meeting Sean McDermott must have felt like the first time finding the UnDo button on a Mac fixes all mistakes. The reality is, McDermott has two many buttons to click to fix all of Ryan and Whaley’s mistakes.
Sean McDermott started by hiring his friend and former Carolina co-worker Brandon Bean to be the General Manager. The hiring of Bean shocked nobody in the NFL. He hired an impressive support staff, but does he have any power over McDermott as the title would suggest? No. Tell me whatever you’d like, but the 53 man roster belongs to McDermott. Training camp cuts belong to McDermott. A veteran wide receiver addition is McDermott’s say. Accountability belongs to McDermott, including his own. He’s the boss, and has the final say. That’s a lot for a head coach, but not unprecedented.
Bill Belichek holds all the power in New England. Andy Reid also has tremendous influence in Kansas City, as does Pete Carroll in Seattle. A head coach does have to have a lot of say, and with success, comes power. That power should not come before success, and that’s why I think too much trust has been given to McDermott. Chip Kelly was given everything in Philadelphia, and then San Francisco, and it turned out poorly in both places. It seemed like ego had a lot to do with Kelly’s demise in both places. McDermott doesn’t give off that appearance. By all accounts throughout mini-camps, and the early going of training, he’s a detailed task master. The kind of coach that has control of everything, right down to finding the perfect sized dry erase boards and markers, so the X’s and O’s are clear. That worries me a little bit, but overall he’s likeable, a guy you’d root for. I just need to see him coach a game, manage the clock, develop a QB, and get the most out of a player like Marcell Dareus (already down with a tweaked hammy) before I’m all in.