Sean McDermott is the new coach of the Buffalo Bills

Panthers' McDermott has spent 18 years working up coaching ranks; Bills again tab defensive specialist

By ARTHUR ARKUSH – aarkush@profootballweekly.com
Published: Updated:
Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott walks across the field before an NFL football game against the Washington Redskins in Landover, Md., Monday, Dec. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott walks across the field before an NFL football game against the Washington Redskins in Landover, Md., Monday, Dec. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) — Alex Brandon

Sean McDermott was a 24-year old scouting coordinator with the Eagles in 1999, the Bills' last playoff appearance.

Seventeen seasons later, Buffalo is still trying to return to the postseason and McDermott, in his first head-coaching stop, is the man tasked with ending the NFL's longest playoff drought.

McDermott, the ex-Panthers' defensive coordinator, has agreed to become the Bills' coach, the Buffalo News' Vic Carucci reports. Wednesday, McDermott, one of four Bills' candidates to interview for the opening created by Rex Ryan's firing in Week 17, had a second interview with the Pegula family Wednesday, according to Carucci, to seal the deal.

McDermott, 42, has coordinated the Panthers defense since 2011, overseeing a unit that helped win three consecutive division titles and one conference championship en route to four top-10 defensive finishes. McDermott, who cut his teeth under former Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson in Philadelphia, was promoted from Eagles linebackers coach to defensive coordinator in 2009 upon Johnson's passing.

Like Ryan, McDermott has a reputation for leading aggressive defenses with a knack for harassing quarterbacks. Unlike Ryan, McDermott goes about his business quietly, mostly letting his unit's success speak for him.

The Bills under Ryan disappointed immensely with a 15-17 mark and the NFL's 15th and 16th scoring defenses, after finishing fourth in 2014, Doug Marrone's final season and the Bills' last winning campaign. Buffalo's run 'D' in particular deteriorated in 2016, one year after the Bills finished 31st in sacks despite that being Ryan's calling card when he inherited a star-laden squad that led the NFL in that area. McDermott's Panthers finished third in sack percentage and sixth in rushing yards allowed per game in 2016.

Buffalo's offseason began embarrassingly, as GM Doug Whaley, in his season-ending press conference, indicated he didn't sign off on the hiring or firing of Ryan. That hasn't helped the perception of the Bills' opening, which has included three interviews besides McDermott: interim coach Anthony Lynn, Cardinals offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin and Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard.

For McDermott, who's spent 18 seasons waiting for this moment, he'll enter a muddled power structure with Whaley seemingly ceding control to the Pegulas, president Russ Brandon and perhaps even McDermott. He also joins a club with a major question at quarterback, where Tyrod Taylor has reportedly fallen out of favor and could hit free agency despite faring relatively well in two years as the starter, and too many underperforming defensive players.

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