Ex-Bills Coach Points to Sean McDermott on Playoff Collapse

Sean McDermott

Getty Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott looks on during a playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott has not been too keen to give details on what happened during the team’s epic collapse against the Kansas City Chiefs in the playoffs. His former special teams coordinator feels the same way.

Heath Farwell, who left the Bills after last season to become the special teams coordinator in Jacksonville, deferred back to McDermott when asked about how the team fell apart in the last 13 seconds of the fourth quarter of the divisional round. After scoring a touchdown with 13 seconds left, the Bills went off-script from other late-game scenarios during the season and kicked into the endzone. The Chiefs started on their own 25-yard line and raced down the field in two quick plays, getting into range for the game-tying field goal and then winning the game on the first possession in overtime.

Exactly what went wrong in those 13 seconds could remain a mystery.

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Farwell Points to McDermott

Speaking to Mark Gaughan of the Buffalo News this week, Farwell said he’s happy with his new position in Jacksonville and not at all interested in re-litigating what went wrong and who was to blame for the loss to the Chiefs.

McDermott had also put off questions about how the Bills allowed the Chiefs to move down the field so quickly, though some believe he hinted that Farwell’s special teams unit may have been to blame. After the season, McDermott said the collapse came down to “execution” and a breakdown in communication, which some took to mean that he called for a high kick that would have forced the Chiefs to return and waste time but that instruction never made it to Bills kicker Tyler Bass.

When asked about it, Farwell pointed back to McDermott.

“I get that question all the time,” Farwell said with a smile when asked about the final 13 seconds in Kansas City. “To be perfectly honest with you, it’s in the past. I don’t worry about that. Honestly, my answer to that is that’s a question for the Buffalo Bills and Sean McDermott. It’s in the past. I don’t deal with that, to be honest with you.”

While Farwell didn’t seem to be specifically calling out McDermott, he made it clear that he’s looking forward to the next season with the Jaguars and not back to what went wrong with the Bills.

“I had fantastic players, still good friends of mine that I talk to all the time,” he said. “But down here, I’m trying to build something down here special. That’s what it’s about for me. I move on. I honestly don’t think twice about it.”

New Coordinator Moving on as Well

When Farwell left, the Bills promoted assistant special teams coordinator Matthew Smiley into the position. While he was on the field for the collapse against the Chiefs, Smiley took the same stance as Farwell to look forward rather than backward.

As a former U.S. Air Force maintenance officer who was deployed four times, Smiley compared the situation to a chaotic battle where it’s difficult to assign blame.

“We would always work through what we call the ‘fog of war.’ It was that, ‘Wait, whose fault was it? No, no, no. That’s not the right question,’ ” Smiley told the Buffalo News. “ ‘The right question is, what can each individual do better in their specific area?’ That’s what I’m going to make sure that I try to encourage, both from myself and the guys in the room.”

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