Buf­falo Bills put faith in ex-Ea­gle McDer­mott

La Salle grad­u­ate and for­mer Ea­gles coach set to be head man in Buf­falo

The Reporter (Lansdale, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By John Wawrow

OR­CHARD PARK, N.Y. >> The Buf­falo Bills are put­ting their faith in Sean McDer­mott to fix their un­der-per­form­ing de­fense and re­store rel­e­vance to a fran­chise that hasn’t reached the play­offs since the Mu­sic City Mir­a­cle loss in Jan­uary 2000.

The Bills an­nounced on Wed­nes­day they agreed to hire the Carolina Pan­thers de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor to be their next head coach. The deal was reached shortly after McDer­mott con­ducted his sec­ond in­ter­view with the team in eight days. The 42-year-old has no pre­vi­ous head-coach­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and spent the past six sea­sons over­see­ing the Pan­thers de­fense.

McDer­mott re­places Rex Ryan, who was fired two weeks ago for fail­ing to de­liver on his bold prom­ises to build the Bills into a bully.

McDer­mott be­comes the team’s ninth head coach since the 1999 sea­son, when Buf­falo last made the play­offs un­der Wade Phillips. The Bills sea­son ended with 22-16 loss in an AFC wild card play­off game at Tennessee, where Frank Wy­check’s lat­eral to Kevin Dyson set up a 75yard kick­off re­turn for a touch­down in the fi­nal sec­onds.

The Bills have man­aged just two win­ning records since — 9-7 in both 2004 and 2014 — and ex­tended the NFL’s long­est ac­tive play­off drought to 17 years fol­low­ing a 7-9 fin­ish this sea­son .

McDer­mott has 18 sea­sons of NFL ex­pe­ri­ence, spend­ing his first 12 years with the Philadel­phia Ea­gles. He started as a scout­ing co­or­di­na­tor for two years, then men­tored un­der late de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Jim John­son. He even­tu­ally suc­ceeded John­son in 2009.

In col­lege, McDer­mott played

safety at Wil­liam and Mary, where he spent two years play­ing with cur­rent Steel­ers coach Mike Tom­lin.

He takes over a team in Buf­falo that fea­tured the NFL’s top run­ning at­tack but an un­der­per­form­ing de­fense in two sea­sons un­der Ryan.

The de­fense fin­ished 19th in yards al­lowed two years straight, and was par­tic­u­larly porous against the run. Buf­falo al­lowed 200-plus

yards rush­ing to op­pos­ing run­ning backs three times this sea­son, in­clud­ing twice against Mi­ami’s Jay Ajayi.

Owner Terry Peg­ula grew so dis­sat­is­fied with the de­fen­sive melt­downs, he fired Ryan in the week lead­ing up to Buf­falo’s fi­nal game. Ryan was re­placed by of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor An­thony Lynn, who served as in­terim coach in a sea­son-end­ing loss to the New York Jets.

Lynn was one of three other can­di­dates to in­ter­view for the job be­sides McDer­mott.

Lynn was con­sid­ered an ini­tial front-run­ner to take over on a per­ma­nent ba­sis, be­fore the Bills be­gan lean­ing to­ward McDer­mott, who was the first can­di­date the team in­ter­viewed. The Bills also in­ter­viewed Arizona Car­di­nals of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Harold Good­win and Seat­tle Sea­hawks de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Kris Richard.

Un­der McDer­mott, the Pan­thers en­joyed four straight sea­sons of be­ing ranked in the NFL’s top 10 in fewest yards al­lowed be­fore tak­ing a step back this sea­son.

Carolina fin­ished 21st in yards al­lowed, giv­ing up 500-plus yards three times. The pass de­fense par­tic­u­larly suf­fered a drop-off fol­low­ing the loss of star de­fen­sive back Josh Nor­man, who signed with Washington in free agency. Carolina’s de­fense was also weak­ened once star line­backer Luke Kuechly missed the fi­nal six games with a con­cus­sion.

The Pan­thers still fin­ished sixth against the run and ranked sec­ond with 47 sacks.

In 2015, McDer­mott over­saw a unit that forced an NFL-lead­ing 39 take­aways and ranked sec­ond in yards al­lowed. The Pan­thers team went 15-1 and lost to Den­ver in the Su­per Bowl.

McDer­mott’s hir­ing means Buf­falo will re­vert to a four-line­man, three-line­backer de­fen­sive sys­tem after play­ing un­der Ryan’s 3-4 scheme.

McDer­mott in­her­its a unit that is not bereft of young tal­ent.

In April, Buf­falo used its top three draft picks on de­fen­sive play­ers, in­clud­ing the first two on lineback­ers Shaq Law­son and Reg­gie Ragland. Law­son missed the first six weeks of the sea­son re­cov­er­ing from shoul­der surgery, while Ragland sus­tained a sea­son-end­ing knee in­jury dur­ing train­ing camp.

It’s un­cer­tain whom McDer­mott will hire to over­see Buf­falo’s of­fense.

An­other ma­jor ques­tion is McDer­mott’s plans for quar­ter­back Ty­rod Tay­lor .

The Bills re­struc­tured the quar­ter­back’s con­tract in Au­gust, giv­ing him a five-year ex­ten­sion while re­tain­ing the right to opt out of the deal by March.

Po­ten­tially com­pli­cat­ing mat­ters, Tay­lor had surgery last week to re­pair a sports her­nia. Next sea­son’s por­tion of the con­tract, worth about $30 mil­lion in­clud­ing bonuses, is guar­an­teed if Tay­lor is un­able to pass his phys­i­cal in mid-March, when the deal kicks in.

The Bills also face a po­ten­tially sig­nif­i­cant ros­ter over­haul with 24 play­ers el­i­gi­ble to be­come free agents this off­sea­son. The group in­cludes cor­ner­back Stephon Gil­more, lineback­ers Lorenzo Alexan­der and Zach Brown, and re­ceiver Robert Woods.

CHUCK BUR­TON — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE

The Bills have reached an agree­ment to hire Sean McDer­mott to be their next head coach. The deal was reached Wed­nes­day shortly after the Bills in­ter­viewed McDer­mott for a sec­ond time in eight days.

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