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Buffalo Bulletin: Sean McDermott To Call Defense



The NFL’s annual owner’s meeting in Arizona brought much to light. The media availability at the event is typically the first time since the opening of free agency that coaches, GMs, and owners all speak to the media, taking questions of all kinds. A particularly big one that fans have been wondering about stems from the sudden and unexpected absence of former Buffalo Bills Defensive Coordinator Leslie Frazier. “Who will be calling the defensive plays in 2023?”, we asked. Sean McDermott had our answer.

“It’s heading towards me, and really at this point, I’m going to be the play caller.”

Sean McDermott to media – NFL owners meeting (March 27th, 2023)

There we have it.

Sean McDermott, Defense, Head Coach Buffalo Bills
Sam Greene/The Enquirer

Our answer, in short, is not unexpected. After Frazier’s surprise announcement came so late in the hiring cycle, it seemed destined to be this way. Worry not, Bills fans; McDermott is the right man for the job.

Sean McDermott: Defensive Coordinator

Sean McDermott, of course, is a ‘defensive-minded’ Head Coach. He played defense in college, and coached defense for his entire career before being hired by the Buffalo Bills back in 2017. But how extensive is that history? Let’s review.

His pro-level coaching journey started on the Philadelphia Eagles, back in 2001, where he spent 12 years in a wide variety of roles, all of which saw success until his final season. It took him two days to find a new job once the Eagles let him go, and he became the Defensive Coordinator of the Carolina Panthers.

Initially lauded (oddly enough) for his creative blitzing, stemming from his tutelage under the legendary Jim Johnson, McDermott quickly rose under Ron Rivera. After six years running the Panthers defense, he came to Buffalo.

Sean McDermott, Carolina Panthers
SB Nation

That’s 22 years of pro coaching experience. Leslie Frazier was often referred to as the veteran coach, and McDermott as the young gun, but does that still hold true? Much like when the Bills realized Josh Allen didn’t need a veteran QB to learn from any more, Sean McDermott doesn’t need a handler either. Would it be nice to retain a DC for preparation and gameday management? Certainly. But it’s not a necessity. McDermott has proven himself able to hold down a defense.

But has he got too much on his plate? Is he capable of running this defense in addition to his Head Coach responsibilities? The answer is out there.

Taking The Reins

You may recall a difficult start to the 2018 NFL season for the Buffalo Bills. They were about to be 0-2, getting eaten alive by the Los Angeles Chargers. The offense, in Josh Allen’s second start, was in shambles, and the defense was somehow worse. In the second half, McDermott took the reins from the floundering Leslie Frazier, and the game changed.

“I just thought we needed a spark, and that’s my background – Coach Frazier does a really good job as well as the defensive staff. I just felt like we needed a spark.”

Sean McDermott, postgame vs L.A.c. – VIA Rochester Democrat & Chronicle (Sept 16, 2018)

In that second half, his defense allowed only 62 total yards, as well as just three points. Frazier had given up 284 yards and four touchdowns on a nearly-identical number of plays. L.A. went from 9.2 yards per play to only 2.6. The offense couldn’t dig them out of the hole, and the game was lost. But, in 2023, that’s not what matters. The point is clear.

The next week, Buffalo marched into Minnesota as 16.5-point underdogs. They held them to only six points, which came in the fourth quarter. McDermott and Frazier’s defense held future Bill Stefon Diggs to only four catches for 17 yards, and had fans streaming for the exits early.

Josh Allen, Minnesota Vikings, Buffalo Bills, Touchdown, Leslie Frazier
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

It was the first win of Josh Allen’s career; A memorable one for many reasons. McDermott gave the play-calling back to Frazier, on a short leash, and Buffalo dominated the Vikings.

The Devil We Know

McDermott is a quality defensive play-caller. He was even-handed and introspective enough to keep Frazier around despite his errors, acknowledging their differences and appreciating his experience, but he doesn’t need him in order to succeed. Losing him may hurt, and there may be struggles, but this team is McDermott’s.

“I’ve got tons of confidence in the guys we have around me that if I need to toss it to them from time to time, I can do that.”

Sean McDermott to media –NFL owners meeting (March 27th, 2023)
Sean McDermott, Defense, Leslie Frazier, Buffalo Bills, Head Coach

There are many instances of our Head Coach taking over from, and conceding power to, Leslie Frazier. They litter the Buffalo Bills defense of the past six seasons, and that’s a good thing. McDermott is not so arrogant to ignore his pitfalls. The staff he’s assembled over his tenure are a combination of both experience and innovation. When hard times come, as they always must, Sean McDermott will know who to turn to. The defense will be fine, or better, with him at the helm.

Like this piece? Check out the previous Buffalo Bulletin on the Odell Beckham Jr sweepstakes, and how things are playing out 5 months later.

The Buffalo Bulletin on Buffalo Fanatics is a weekly editorial by Iestyn Harris. Check back regularly for hot topics, riveting discussion, and, occasionally, some actual insight.

Original Featured Image: Associated Press; Composite By Iestyn Harris