Bills Head Coach Expected to Take Over Leslie Frazier’s Job: Analyst

Sean McDermott

Getty Bills Head coach Sean McDermott on against the Miami Dolphins during the AFC Wild Card playoff game at Highmark Stadium on January 15, 2023.

The Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane confirmed on Tuesday, February 28 that defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier will be stepping away for the 2023 NFL season, news which came as a major surprise this late in the game, especially since he noted the decision was not health-related.

Most of the league’s top available defensive coordinators have already been snatched up, but Beane strongly insinuated that head coach Sean McDermott could take over Frazier’s role, and The Buffalo News reporter Ryan O’Halloran called that move a no-brainer.

“McDermott doesn’t need to consider his options,” O’Halloran wrote. “He doesn’t need to promote an in-house position coach to handle the role. The Bills’ best option – their only option – occupies the head coach’s office. McDermott should name himself as the new defensive play-caller this season. Period.”

The Athletic‘s Joe Buscaglia agrees. “Reading between the lines of everything said by Beane and McDermott on Tuesday, it seems like the Bills are leaning toward McDermott pulling double duty as the head coach and defensive play caller — at least initially.

“McDermott is often methodical in all his decision-making approaches and doesn’t like to make quick decisions so it’s not an outright certainty just yet. But it does initially make the most sense considering the timing of Frazier’s decision, and how in tune McDermott is with the whole of his players.”

McDermott served as a defensive coordinator with both the Eagles and Panthers before getting hired as the Bills’ head coach in 2017, and Beane exuded confidence that he’d be up to the task. “If Sean decided to take over play-calling, I’ve seen him do it for a long time [with] great success,” Beane said. “He’s gone against some great quarterbacks in his day and offensive gurus that you have to beat. So that would be great if that’s the route he feels is best for us, I’m going to support that. And [I have] full faith he would do a great job if it came to that.”

There are Drawbacks to Having McDermott Managing Both Roles

Sean McDermott

GettyBills head coach Sean McDermott and linebacker Terrel Bernard #43 look on against the Patriots at Gillette Stadium on December 01, 2022.

While 15 NFL head coaches also work as the team’s offensive player callers, there are only five who run the defensive play calling — Chargers’ Brandon Staley, Saints’ Dennis Allen, Buccaneers’ Todd Bowles, and “possibly” the Texans’ Demeco Ryans and Arizona’s Jonathan Gannon, The Buffalo News reported.

O’Halloran believes the transition would be “seamless” if McDermott takes over for Frazier, “save for the in-season presentations to the players in the meeting room and which staff members will assist him in game management (chiefly replay challenges and timeouts),” he wrote.

Buscaglia wrote that the 48-year-old working double duty would come with obvious drawbacks. “First, he made it a point to use an overseer approach early in his head coaching tenure, and the added responsibility and concentration of taking over a critical component of their weekly and gameday operation will jeopardize the time he has for a lot of other elements in leading the team.

“McDermott already spent most of his time throughout the season at the team’s facilities in prior years and admitted to only taking three days off since the Bills’ season ended on Jan. 22. Those added responsibilities would put even more hours and time on his plate, while running the risk of spreading himself too thin.”

While speaking to the media at the NFL Combine on Tuesday, McDermott admitted that he still needs to figure out if there are enough hours in the day to take on Frazier’s job.

“That’s a big part of the consideration there,” McDermott said. “We’ve got a qualified staff in-house already. I just believe in, especially with where we are this time of year, trying to take our time and do this the right way.” The Bills could also look toward senior defensive assistant Al Holcomb, defensive line coach Eric Washington, or linebackers coach Bobby Babich should McDermott decide to stick with head coaching duties.

The Reaction to Frazier’s Departure was Strongly Mixed

While the members of Bills Mafia who called for Frazier to get fired following Buffalo’s crushing 27-10 defeat against the Cincinnati Bengals in the playoffs were thrilled to see Frazier gone, others were sad to one of the most prolific coaches in the NFL leave.

The Bills announced that Frazier, who turns 64 in April, was not retiring and plans to return to coaching in 2024. Whether he returns to Buffalo remains unclear, but at this point, seems highly unlikely.

WROC-TV’s Thad Brown tweeted, “Frazier is and has been a good coach. But even good voices can get stale after six seasons. A fresh perspective could be helpful for the #Bills. End of the day, this is Sean McDermott’s defense. I wouldn’t expect any sort of drastic change with a new coordinator.”

13WHAM’s Dan Fetes tweeted, “Say what you want about how the season ended and the defensive performance against the Bengals… BUT try not to let recency bias cloud your thoughts on Leslie Frazier. He’s led one of the top defenses in the NFL since joining the Bills six years. He’s a helluva coach. Period.”

While noting Frazier was solid, this past season, Buscaglia couldn’t help but point out how “the excellent Bills’ defense didn’t show up in full force over the last three postseasons, contributing to early eliminations and falling short of the Super Bowl.”

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