Following Leslie Frazier’s sudden departure last month, the Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane strongly insinuated that his first choice to take over as defensive coordinator would be Sean McDermott, and on Monday, May 27, the team’s head coach confirmed he’ll assume the role for the 2023 NFL season.
“I’m going to be the play-caller,” McDermott said at the NFL’s annual league meeting, per the Bills website, “but at the same time, have tons of confidence in the guys that we have around me that if I need to toss it to them from time to time, I can do that.”
While McDermott sounds confident he can do the job, The Buffalo News reporter Ryan O’Halloran couldn’t help but point out the big risk situation he’s putting himself in.
“If the Bills win a championship, the head coach will play a bigger role and in his area of expertise,” O’Halloran wrote. “And if the Bills’ defense struggles to create a four-man pass rush and gives up 30 first downs in a playoff loss, the blame will fall squarely on McDermott. As it all should be. Let’s be honest, this call puts McDermott on the pressure cooker if it doesn’t work out.”
McDermott, who served as a defensive coordinator with both the Eagles and Panthers before getting hired as the Bills’ head coach in 2017, admitted it was a hard decision to make as there’s already so much on his plate, but the 49-year-old has a contingency plan in place.
“Even going back to the decision, it allowed me to even think that that was possible because of the staff that I have around me,” McDermott added. “If you don’t have that type of staff, then, I mean, it could go in a lot of different directions. So, we’re just going to take it one day at a time. I mean, that’s where we’re at right now and, look, if we come to a deal and it’s like, ‘Hey, this isn’t working because of the breadth of the job, in addition to the coordinator piece,’ then, I’ll turn it over.”
Overall, O’Halloran believes McDermott taking over the role is the best option. “As each year of quarterback Josh Allen’s career passes, the team’s Lombardi Trophy window closes a little bit more, and why wouldn’t McDermott want to put his ability front and center to change the potential narrative of a team that was just good enough to contend, but not great enough to win it all?”
Andy Reid & Ron Rivera are Confident McDermott Can Handle Both Jobs
While 15 NFL head coaches also work as the team’s offensive player callers, there are about four who run the defensive play calling — Chargers’ Brandon Staley, Saints’ Dennis Allen, and Buccaneers’ Todd Bowles. Andy Reid, who was the Eagles’ head coach when McDermott was their defensive coordinator, and who’s been the offensive play-caller his entire career as an NFL head coach, believes the Bills leader can get it done.
“He’ll be able to do that easily,” Reid told The Buffalo News. “He’s a smart guy, and he’s been around it now (as a head coach). He could have done it before (in his Bills’ tenure).” As for the added stress, “It’s a challenge,” Reid admitted, “but I don’t know how big.”
Commanders head coach Ron Rivera, who was at the helm when McDermott was calling the defensive plays with the Panthers, gave him an even bigger endorsement. Rivera told WGR 550‘s Sal Capaccio on Monday, March 28, “He gets very aggressive, he really does. Sean is a guy that looks at the game and reacts very well. I’ve always thought he made good decisions. I always thought also that he had made good adjustments. But he tends to get aggressive and (lightly laughing) every now and then I’d have to slow him down. But he is. He’s a very aggressive play-caller. He’s dynamic. He looks for the best way to use his guys. That’s the one thing I always appreciated about Sean. Sean was his own guy when it came to that stuff.”
Beane Said McDermott’s Defensive Play-Calling Is Why Buffalo Hired Him
Beane has no doubts that McDermott will thrive in the high-pressure dual role. “The more it’s kind of sunk in, you see his excitement about calling plays. That’s how he got this job, was calling defenses and the successes he had,” Beane said on Monday, per ESPN.
“Obviously, I saw that up close and personal in Carolina. I saw a guy go against some really good quarterbacks and some really good offensive minds, whether it was the head coach or the offensive coordinator calling plays. I think it’ll be good. You know, change always happens in our business, and I see a fresh look on his face, a little bit of excitement to do it. I think our players will be excited to hear that as well.”