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Polian 'couldn't be happier' with Bills' choice of McDermott

MOBILE, Ala. -- If NFL teams want help in searching for a new head coach or general manager, the league provides it.

It has a panel of former prominent coaches and club executives, known as the personnel development committee, that vets potential candidates and assembles a list distributed to teams with coach and GM openings.

Earlier this month, after firing Rex Ryan, the Bills received such a list. Sean McDermott's name was on it.

Although Bills owner Terry Pegula was vague in explaining at the news conference introducing McDermott as the Bills' 20th head coach that more candidates were considered beyond the four who were interviewed, it's fair to conclude Pegula and his wife, Kim, consulted the list.

And why not? The committee members include former Bills General Manager and Hall-of-Famer Bill Polian, Hall-of-Fame GM Ron Wolf, Hall-of-Fame coach Tony Dungy, Hall-of-Fame coach John Madden, former GMs Ernie Accorsi, Carl Peterson, Charley Casserly; former player-personnel executives James Harris and Dick Daniels, and former NFL player and long-time assistant coach Jimmy Raye II.

Anthony Lynn, the Bills' former offensive coordinator who was elevated to interim coach for the final game of the season and eventually hired as head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers, was also on the list. He, too, was interviewed by the Bills, along with Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin and Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard.

Neither Goodwin nor Richard was on the list that included former Bills coach Doug Marrone (hired as head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars), Vance Joseph (hired as head coach of the Denver Broncos), and Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who is expected to be hired as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.

Polian said the committee -- which meets four times a year in person or via conference call -- puts each candidate through a thorough vetting process. He said McDermott was overwhelmingly seen as being an excellent hire.

"When you vet a person, you ask yourself, 'What is his pedigree? Where has he worked? What is his level of experience? What is his level of success? For whom has he worked? What are the influences on his career? Is he organized? Does he have the right approach? What's his teaching philosophy?'" said Polian, who was at the Senior Bowl practices this week for ESPN and SiriusXM NFL Radio.

"And then," Polian said, "if he checks all the boxes, as Sean did, you have to say to yourself, as the person who's making the hire, do you think, based on your interaction with him in the interview, that he's ready?' Because there's no way to prove that except from references. In his case, I'm sure the references to the Pegulas were glowing, because they were to everyone that we talked to.

"And then it's only a question of saying, based on my interaction with him, 'Do I think he's ready?' Obviously, the Pegulas thought he was ready and I think they made a wise choice. And as a guy that wants the franchise to succeed, I couldn't be happier about this hire."

Polian considers McDermott a "solid football man." He sees the former defensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers and Philadelphia Eagles as the right person to fix the problems the Bills had with a lack of discipline and accountability in the past two years under Ryan.

"He's got great pedigree, coming from Andy Reid (in Philadelphia) and Ron Rivera (in Carolina)," Polian said. "I've seen his work up close and personal, living in Charlotte, and I can assure Buffalo fans that you're going to see a team that's fundamentally sound and that hustles and does everything the right way. And on top of that, he's a person that recognizes how you have to build a program if you're going to sustain winning over time."

Polian is particularly impressed with two of the hires McDermott made for his coaching staff: defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier and offensive line coach Juan Castillo.

Frazier was an assistant coach with the Indianapolis Colts when Polian was their president. Castillo served a minority coaching internship with the Bills when Polian was GM and fellow Hall-of-Famer Marv Levy was coach.

"He's a terrific coach," Polian said of Frazier. "He's low key, but he's fundamentally sound. He's a really good teacher. He reaches the players, he works with the players. He's a top-flight person and a top-flight coach."

Of Castillo, Polian said, "He came in and he was very impressive, a guy that when he left the program, we all felt, 'Hey, this is a guy that belongs in our league that's definitely an up-and-comer.'"

Polian said he does not anticipate McDermott having any problems working with GM Doug Whaley when it comes to putting together the 53-man roster. Whaley will be in charge of it, but McDermott is expected to have significant input.

"It's always collaborative," Polian said. "And my experience, 98 percent of the time you're going to defer to the coach. The only two exceptions would be if you feel you might lose a very promising young player on waivers or if there were a cap situation. But at least I always tried to eliminate those situations before we ever got to training camp so that would never come up in the cut to 53.

"If you do it correctly, you're talking about those decisions long before you ever get in that room when it's time to send the list (of the final 53) to the league office. You've been discussing that all the way through training camp."

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