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McDermott 'looking to build a culture of winning' with Bills

Sean McDermott had no intention of providing headline material, either with brash statements or specifics of any kind.

The news conference introducing him as the 20th coach of the Buffalo Bills Friday was, in keeping with his firm but understated nature, short of highlights.

McDermott wanted to make it clear that he would leave those to happen on the field. And that it would be a group effort, a far cry from the singular dominance that defined his predecessor, Rex Ryan.

"I understand the expectations that come with a job of this magnitude, and I accept that challenge," he told a crowd of reporters, Bills front-office staff and a few team alumni at the AdPro Sports Training Center. "I'm looking to build a culture of winning and that starts inside these walls, and extends to our community. It's an honor and a privilege to lead this football team and this organization, and ... one we will look to do as a team."

General Manager Doug Whaley was also part of the 30-minute session, although his input was minimal.

After giving a brief introduction, Bills owner Terry Pegula left the podium, without taking questions, to take a seat in the audience next to his wife, Kim. It was a far cry from when Terry sat at a wider head table in 2015 to introduce the Bills' previous full-time coach. Club president Russ Brandon was part of that group; on Friday, he wasn't.

"Our search focused on looking for a head coach who concentrates on long term planning and also short-term decisive decision-making that would help our players in winning more football games," Terry Pegula said. "He also had to be a man who managed, who could manage and enhance the culture and demeanor of our team on the field and act as the face of our organization.

"Sean has been, from Day One in our search, the leading candidate. He has strong passion for the game, and he has been training for this ever since being a young man in Andy Reid’s coaching staff with the Philadelphia Eagles. He has been to two Super Bowls, he has been part of two turnarounds, and he has knowledge and vision of what it takes to win.

"I can’t tell you how" well "he went through his first interview, and never missed a beat. I mean, any question we asked him or any situation we put him in. He is a smart, thorough, decisive, faith-based winner."

Nevertheless, McDermott went out of his way to try to not make it all about him. He even offered a direct message to his players.

"I'm proud to be one of you," McDermott said. "It is an honor to coach you and I look forward to doing this together."


That was another not-so-subtle message, as it applied to how the football operation would function, that came out of the news conference. Although McDermott said Whaley was responsible for the Bills' 53-man roster (a duty that is spelled out in Whaley's contract), Whaley, in one of the few times that he spoke Friday, was quick to point out that it was something he and McDermott would handle as a collaborative effort.

On multiple occasions, McDermott, who is believed to have made his involvement in the roster a part of the negotiations for his five-year contract, said he was "comfortable" with the organizational structure that has both the coach and GM reporting directly to the owners. That was also the case with Ryan, although he wasn't heavily involved in roster matters and that eventually became a point of contention between him and Whaley.

"Listen, I’m confident in Doug," McDermott said. "I’m confident, like I mentioned before, in the Pegulas. If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be sitting here today in front of you. I know what I’m looking for, I know what a winner looks like, I know what it tastes like, and I’ve been around a winner.

"That’s what I plan on bringing here."

McDermott showed some emotion, choking up when he talked about his family and other people in his life for helping him to reach the highest level of his profession.

The closest he came to offering anything newsworthy was:

*Saying that Danny Crossman would be retained as special-teams coordinator, making McDermott the third Bills head coach for which he will work. The Bills later confirmed reports that former Minnesota Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier, who had been defensive backs coach of the Baltimore Ravens, would be the Bills' defensive coordinator, while Juan Castillo, who had been the Ravens' offensive line coach, would be Buffalo's offensive line coach and run game coordinator. The team also announced that Bob Babich is their linebackers coach.

*Being non-committal about the future of quarterback Tyrod Taylor, with whom he said he met briefly about 10 minutes before the news conference. "Really at this point, whether it’s Tyrod’s situation or any other position, let’s not get ahead of ourselves right now in terms of those positions," McDermott said. "I’m going to go through and evaluate every position group, every player the same way I do everything else, in a methodic nature. So with respect to specific players, Tyrod in this case, there will be a time for that."

As the leader of one of the NFL's top defenses for most of the past six seasons he spent as defensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers, McDermott was hired largely to clean up the mess Ryan created on that side of the ball. The Bills' defense fell from fourth in the league in 2014 to 19th the past two years.

Ryan's complex 3-4 scheme proved to be mostly a bad fit for the core players he inherited from the 4-3 alignment Jim Schwartz employed in '14. Although he was careful not to slam Ryan's approach and refused to commit to whether he would stick with the 3-4 or switch to a 4-3, which has been a large part of his coaching pedigree, McDermott sounded confident in his ability to make whatever system he uses work.

"I’m going to put the players in position to be successful," he said. "That’s what a coach does -- a coach adjusts to what he has and I just believe in that."

McDermott's defensive background is rooted in what he learned as a former assistant coach with the Philadelphia Eagles, learning from Jim Johnson, whom he replaced as defensive coordinator after Johnson died of cancer in 2009.

"Jim Johnson is one of the best defensive football coaches ever to coach the game," McDermott said. "At an early age, I was around Coach Johnson and what I would consider the Harvard of defensive football in terms of how to affect the quarterback, how to shape the game plan. When you look at that staff and the guys that have grown and gone on from that staff and from Andy (Reid’s) staff – Ron Rivera, Leslie Frazier, Steve Spagnuolo, John Harbaugh, myself now – I don’t think you’ll find a staff that came from Andy and one defensive coordinator like that around the league."


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