PHOENIX – Sometimes, the most practical decision is also the best move, the most logical route and the best call. Sometimes, over-analysis isn’t necessary when the correct answer is in the mirror.
Sean McDermott serving as the Buffalo Bills’ defensive play-calling head coach, self-announced here early Monday morning, gives the franchise its best chance at a Super Bowl this year.
The Sean McDermott Defense will be called by Sean McDermott.
If the Bills win a championship, the head coach will play a bigger role and in his area of expertise.
And if the Bills’ defense struggles to create a four-man pass rush and gives up 30 first downs in a playoff loss, the blame will fall squarely on McDermott.
As it all should be.
Sean McDermott told reporters Monday at the NFL owners meetings that the current plan is "heading towards me” handling the play-calling.
Let’s be honest, this call puts McDermott on the pressure cooker if it doesn’t work out.
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As each year of quarterback Josh Allen’s career passes, the team’s Lombardi Trophy window closes a little bit more, and why wouldn’t McDermott want to put his ability front and center to change the potential narrative of a team that was just good enough to contend, but not great enough to win it all?
“That’s how he got this job – calling defenses and having success,” General Manager Brandon Beane said.
McDermott called the defense for two years in Philadelphia and six more in Carolina before the Bills hired him as the big whistle in 2017. He installed his scheme with the Bills, but Leslie Frazier called the plays. Frazier moved on last month, and the timing (Feb. 28) meant a shallow pool of candidates.
In Philadelphia, McDermott’s defenses finished 19th and 21st in points allowed. In Carolina, the Panthers improved from 27th to 18th to second in points allowed and after a blip in 2014 (21st), improved to sixth on their way to a Super Bowl loss to Denver.
Back then, McDermott was a subordinate to Andy Reid and Ron Rivera. Now in charge of the Bills’ sideline, he will need to lean on his defensive staff for in-game guidance since he won’t have time to sit on the bench and dissect the previous series on his tablet. The head coach must remain engaged in all situations.
“He’ll be able to do that easily,” Reid told me. “He’s a smart guy, and he’s been around it now (as a head coach). He could have done it before (in his Bills’ tenure).”
But it does put some kind of stress on a head coach, doesn’t it?
“It’s a challenge, but I don’t know how big,” said Reid, who has called the offensive plays for his entire head-coaching career.
Fair enough, but what helps McDermott is his six years with the Bills when he wasn’t calling the plays. He understands the rhythms of the 60 minutes and isn’t a first-year coach also calling the plays, which is akin to drinking water out of a fire hose. There will be a like-riding-a-bike feel for him.
Buffalo Bills Executive Vice President Ron Raccuia told The News on Monday afternoon at the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix that the new stadium is projected to cost $1.54 billion – an increase of $140 million.
The bigger challenge is making this Bills defense playoff tough instead of a playoff pushover. The addition of safety Taylor Rapp opens up the possibility to play more dime personnel (six defensive backs – three corners and safeties apiece in the Bills’ case). Can McDermott draw up better pass-rush packages to create pressure with four? Can he coach up a potential rookie middle linebacker to replace Tremaine Edmunds?
Asked what changes can be expected, McDermott had a twinkle in his eye when he said: “We’ll see.”
This Bills’ defense must be more aggressive instead of sitting back to prevent the big play. They need to blitz more. They need to get in receivers’ grills more. They need to play the run better.
Maybe this is the kind of change McDermott, who will be of at least four head coaches calling the defensive plays, needed entering his seventh season in Buffalo. He delegated for a long while, but now The Boss will be The Defensive Boss.
“I’m excited for us and for him,” Beane said. “The more it’s sunk in, you see his excitement about calling plays. … Change always happens in our business and I see a fresh look on his face.”
McDermott calling the plays is a potential game-changer for the Bills.