With two weeks to go until the team’s first game, it remains unclear which coach will be calling defensive plays for the Buffalo Bills in Week 1.
Bills head coach Sean McDermott had previously indicated that he would slide into the role that defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier played prior to his offseason departure, but cast doubt on the role after tapping an assistant coach to fill that role in team’s final preseason game. After Buffalo’s 24-21 win over the Chicago Bears on August 26, McDermott would not say whether it would be him or secondary coach and passing game coordinator John Butler calling the plays on defense to start the season.
Two Coaches in the Mix for the Bills
As Harrison Reno of SI.com’s Bills Central noted, Butler called defensive plays in the preseason finale against the Bears and held the Chicago offense to just 258 total yards in the game. McDermott indicated after the game that the arrangement could stick to start the season.
“We’ll see,” McDermott said in response to a reporter’s question about whether he would call defensive plays in Week 1. “I thought John did a good job today, and it was good to be able to watch some things and see where it goes.”
When asked why he decided to give Butler a crack at calling plays, McDermott hinted that he might be taking over the big picture while allowing Butler to have control over individual plays.
“There’s no real detail to go into,” McDermott said. “I wanted to have my eyes available for watching certain things that I wanted to see, and we had talked about during the week.”
McDermott had previously indicated that he would be taking on a more direct role in the defense, saying in a May 24 appearance on the Pat McAfee Show that he was looking forward to once again getting to coach on a one-on-one-basis.
“I love it, honestly,” McDermott said. “It feels good to be back with the guys. As a head coach, we coach but we don’t coach. A lot of the time is spent on things outside of coaching. It feels really good to be back in the weeds.”
Sean McDermott’s Role Under Scrutiny
The Bills have faced scrutiny since Frazier’s abrupt departure following the end of last season, which was never fully explained by either Frazier or the team.
Former NFL executive Michael Lombardi took aim at McDermott for his role in the defense’s failings, saying in a June 16 appearance on “The Pat McAfee Show” that McDermott shared blame for one of the team’s most notorious defensive collapses, the 2022 playoff loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
“I think they have a lot of things going on,” Lombardi said. “Let’s go back to Leslie Frazier’s departure. Sean McDermott wants to call the defensive plays and Leslie Frazier was in charge of that. Now, let’s even go further back, 13 seconds in Kansas City, McDermott took over the play calls on the drive that resulted in a field goal and that didn’t sit well with Leslie. The next year, he kept calling the defense.
“But this year, McDermott wants to call the defense, and Leslie, for whatever reason, he said, ‘No. Look that was the agreement we had.’ So, he decided to leave and take the sabbatical. So there’s a little bit of undercurrent there… I think there’s some internal combustion happening in that building.”