ORCHARD PARK, NY Sean McDermott’s professional coaching world collapsed when he was fired by Andy Reid after the 2010 season in Philadelphia.
He was already struggling to come to grips with being fired from his hometown dream job, and by his mentor, no less, McDermott couldn’t believe his ears when Reid suggested the long-term setback would be beneficial to the then 36 -year-old Eagles defensive coordinator.
Oh, it crushed me early on, McDermott would say in 2017, after getting his first job as a head coach at the Buffalo Bills. It crushed me from the standpoint of, I looked introspectively, just looked at myself and said, what have I done wrong?
A decade later, thanks to the benefit of perspective, McDermott has realized the wisdom behind Reids advice.
Those are moments you experience in your life when you say, ‘You know what? I came out better. And Andy knew that, McDermott said this week in preparing the bills (4-1) to receive the Reid-coached Kansas City Chiefs (4-1) Monday.
The two are now even joking about it.
Yes, we talk about it a little bit here and there, McDermott said with a laugh. But we can do that because he knew. He then said to me, “This is the best for you.” And he was right.
At the age of 46, McDermott oversaw a renaissance in Buffalo.
The Bills have made the playoffs in two of McDermotts’ first three years, including 2017, when they broke a 17-year post-season drought, which was the longest active streak in North America’s four major professional sports.
This year, despite a 42-16 defeat in Tennessee on Tuesday, Buffalo is 4-1 or better in consecutive seasons for the first time since Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kellys last two years in 1995 and 96.
McDermott takes the well-deserved credit for instilling a professional, team-first culture in a franchise that lacked discipline and responsibility, especially under predecessor Rex Ryan, whose rash talk was far behind during his two-year stint.
And McDermott, along with CEO Brandon Beane, has set up a firewall around the team to protect it from internal roster interference. That was not the case under former president Russ Brandon, whose background was in marketing and not football, and led the small market team to make decisions based on both ticket sales and results on the field.
What’s also clear is how much McDermott’s ‘stay-the-course’ approach after a win or loss matches Reid’s, which was clearly the case this week when both teams lost.
McDermott said a day after losing to Tennessee, “(The Titans) were ready and like I said, I didn’t finish my team. That chapters closed. We have learned from it and move on and continue to grow as a football team.
Said Reid a day after a 40-32 loss to Las Vegas, which broke the defending Chiefs’ best 13-game winning streak: we could all have done a better job starting with me, and I take full responsibility for being the head soccer coach. We can learn things from this.
Bill’s associate head coach and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, who also worked under Reid, sees the similarities.
Andy was good at handling situations and presenting those situations to the players where they really understood very clearly the direction we wanted to take as a team, Frazier said. Sean does the same as painting that picture.
Reid was 41 when he took over the Eagles in 1999, the same year McDermott joined the team as Scouting Director after a year as a graduate coach with his alma mater, William & Mary.
Two years later, McDermott got his first coaching job as the head coach’s assistant, before working his way up to replace defensive coordinator Jim Johnson in 2009.
I’m probably not going to get into it, but I’ll tell you he’s and always has been a great coach, Reid said he had to say goodbye to McDermott. It was just one of those things. It’s worked out for him, that’s the most important thing. He will have a long career as a head coach.
McDermott often refers to Reid and experiences he had with the Eagles.
I learned so much from him. To this day, it is simply unbelievable to say that a man is my mentor, my professional mentor, he said.
Getting fired actually brought the two closer together, which is a lesson McDermott is now telling members of his staff.
I hope I would have the same effect on coaches around me, said McDermott, one of five former Reid aides who currently hold NFL head coach jobs. Later in their careers, maybe when I’m done, they can turn around and say, “You know what, I learned a thing or two from Sean.