No boasts as coach McDermott takes over
La Salle graduate gets his big shot
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. >> Buffalo Bills new coach Sean McDermott ushered in the post-Rex Ryan era by making no bold promises in his vision to restore relevance to a franchise in the midst of a 17-year playoff drought.
McDermott was short and to the point during his inaugural news conference on Friday. The 42-year-old first-time head coach said he’s familiar with the challenges of rebuilding defenses, and is leaning on his 18 years of NFL experience, which include two Super Bowl losses as an assistant.
The first step is reinvigorating a winning culture on a team that has enjoyed just two winning seasons since last reaching the playoffs in 1999.
“I understand the expectations that come with a job of this magnitude,” McDermott said. “I’m hungry. I’m not going to shy away from this challenge.”
The only promise the former Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator made was is a vow to field a competitive team.
That’s a far departure from two years ago, when Ryan boasted of his intention to build the Bills into bullies.
McDermott was hired on Wednesday , a little over two weeks after Ryan was dismissed for falling short in delivering on his vows. That was particularly the case when it came to Ryan’s prized defense, which ranked 19th in yards allowed in each of the past two years.
McDermott spent the past six seasons overseeing the Panthers defense that enjoyed top 10 finishes in four of the past five years. That included 2015, when Carolina went 15-1 and lost the Super Bowl to Denver.
He previously spent 12 seasons in Philadelphia, and was an assistant on the Eagles team that lost the 2005 Super Bowl to New England.
“I’ve gone to two Super Bowls. I know what that looks like and smells like and tastes like,” he said. “I feel extremely confident with my ability to lead this franchise moving forward.”
McDermott becomes the 20th coach in franchise history and 10th since Wade Phillips last led the Bills to the playoffs during the 1999 season. The list includes interim coaches such as Anthony Lynn, the offensive
coordinator who took over after Ryan was fired before Buffalo’s season finale.
McDermott said it was premature to discuss his defensive philosophy or Buffalo’s roster, which features 24 players eligible to become free agents in March. And he specifically provided little insight regarding the status of quarterback Tyrod Taylor, whose future is also uncertain .
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” McDermott said, noting he had a brief initial meeting with the secondyear starter about 10 minutes before the news conference. “There’ll be a time for that.” Not much time, actually. The Bills have until mid-March to determine whether to pay the secondyear starter $30 million or opt out of the five-year contract extension Taylor signed in August.
McDermott is already beginning to assemble his staff and leaning on his former Eagles’ connections.
The Bills reached deals to hire former Minnesota Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier (defensive coordinator), Juan Castillo (offensive line/run game coordinator) and Bob Babich (linebackers coach). McDermott worked with Frazier and Castillo in Philadelphia.
McDermott retained special teams coordinator Danny Crossman.
The focus is on who McDermott will hire to oversee Buffalo’s offense, which has led the NFL in rushing in each of the past two seasons. Lynn was a candidate for Buffalo’s job, but has also interviewed for other openings including the Los Angeles Chargers.
The closest McDermott came to echoing Ryan was by accident.
Ryan opened his news
conference by tapping the microphone and saying: “Is this thing on, because it’s getting ready to be on.”
For McDermott, his microphone wasn’t turned on when attempting to answer his question, and politely asked: “Is this on?”
The comparisons between Ryan and McDermott weren’t lost on Bills owner Terry Pegula in discussing what impressed him about McDermott.
Pegula specifically mentioned how he was seeking a coach “who could manage and enhance the culture and demeanor of our team on the field.”
In two years under Ryan, the Bills were criticized for lacking discipline in attracting personal foul penalties and even getting involved a pre-game on-field shoving match with Patriots players and coaches before Buffalo’s 16-0 win at New England on Oct. 2.
“He is a smart, thorough, decisive, faith-based winner,” Pegula said.
McDermott said he answers directly to Terry and his wife Kim Pegula, while noting general manager Doug Whaley has control over the team’s 53-player roster. Whaley headed the coaching search, though questioned were raised about his authority after he had difficulty explaining his exact role during a 40-minute end-of-season news conference last week.
McDermott said he is fine with the Bills management structure.
“I wouldn’t take this job if I wasn’t comfortable with the situation,” he said.
Whaley said he is taking a team-first approach with McDermott.
“We’re working together to get this franchise to where we know it should be,” Whaley said.
Buffalo Bills NFL football team new head coach Sean McDermott addresses the media during a press conference, Friday in Orchard Park, N.Y.