The Buffalo Bills have agreed to hire Sean McDermott as their next head coach to replace Rex Ryan, who was fired before the team’s Week 16 game. Interim head coach Anthony Lynn was a favorite to replace Ryan before Lynn moved on to other head-coaching interviews.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 11, 2017
McDermott, 42, has coordinated the defense of the Carolina Panthers the past six seasons and led one of the best units in the NFL in 2015 when the 15-1 Panthers made it all the way to Super Bowl 50 before losing to the Denver Broncos. He previously cut his teeth on Andy Reid’s coaching staff with the Philadelphia Eagles as a defensive assistant, including as coordinator for two years.
Reid’s staff has produced a huge coaching tree in the NFL with Ron Rivera in Carolina, Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh and current Eagles head coach Doug Pederson.
The Bills met with four candidates for the job — Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin, Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard, Lynn and McDermott. They reportedly were very impressed with McDermott and had a second interview with Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula, along with management, on Wednesday in Boca Raton, Fla.
McDermott becomes the 20th head coach in Bills history. The team has not made the playoffs since the 1999 season, and the 17-year drought is the longest active streak in the league and tied for the fifth-longest drought in league history. Each of the previous eight Bills coaches (including interim coaches) left with losing records and no playoff appearances.
A college teammate of Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, McDermott has worked his way through the NFL ranks and had a lot of success on the defensive side of the ball. As a play-caller, McDermott loves to bring pressure and is unafraid to blitz and use myriad looks — of course, that was the kind of creativity and bravado Ryan was billed to have. McDermott, however, is not nearly the bombastic personality Ryan is and likely will keep a far lower profile. The new coach also is expected to stick with his roots of running a 4-3 base defense and get away from the Ryan 3-4 fronts.
The Bills have some ready-make talent to work with, but the quarterback position is uncertain. The team appears ready to move on from Tyrod Taylor, and there is no clear indication that either EJ Manuel or Cardale Jones are ready to replace him and be effective as a 16-game starter.
During the interview process, word leaked that the Bills were using more roster control for the next head coach as a way to make the job more attractive to candidates.
Also, McDermott will have to work with a front office that appeared a bit foolish with the benching of Taylor, how it handled Ryan’s firing and the postseason media conference with general manager Doug Whaley that raised more questions than it actually answered. With roster concerns and a lack of accountability in the organization, McDermott’s challenge is considerable for a first-year head coach.
With a rabid fan base and a rich history, plus some standout players on both sides of the ball, the Bills’ job has its perks. Win there and you can join local royalty among residents who eat, drink and sleep football. But with an aging stadium, an uneven roster, questions about the front office and a tougher market to attract marquee free agents — plus having to contend with the New England Patriots every season — the challenges are just as clear.
The Panthers are expected to offer the defensive coordinator vacancy to Panthers secondary coach Steve Wilks, but he also could be in play for coordinator jobs elsewhere.
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