CEO Sean? Bills' coach may take different approach this season


Staff member

Sean McDermott had the humongous Indiana Convention Center hall to himself late Monday afternoon for his annual scouting combine press conference.

The other podiums sat empty, waiting to be occupied Tuesday-Saturday by coaches, executives and prospects. The sets assembled for coverage by Sirius XM, CBS and NBC were empty save for the chairs and cameras. And the media crowd was mostly familiar faces from Western New York.

In a different setting, McDermott may have revealed how he is taking a different leadership approach to this Buffalo Bills season.

Entering his eighth year as an NFL big whistle and still striving for a first Super Bowl berth, McDermott seems keen on concentrating his role on overseeing the coaching staff, which is younger, and the roster, which is expected to be younger.

Kind of like a CEO.

Hands-off, but still hands-on.

Willing to delegate, but still on stop of everything.

I floated the idea of “CEO Sean” to McDermott after his press conference.

McDermott didn’t dismiss it. He doesn’t regret calling the defensive plays last year – it was his scheme and executed by players he helped select. And the Bills finished fourth in sacks (54), third in takeaways (30) and fourth in fewest points allowed (18.3). Last year’s situation, McDermott believed, called for him to be more involved with the defense.

“This past year offered me a tremendous opportunity to, No. 1, roll up my sleeves and be with the defense day-to-day and into the minutiae, which was good,” he said. “I think that was important for us. It allowed me to know our defensive players even better.”

And now for the qualifier …

“But it’s also time for me to do a little bit of, ‘Hey, OK, I have two young coordinators and (special teams coordinator Matthew Smiley) is a little more veteran in his role and age-wise,’ ” McDermott said. “It’s not in anyway because I don’t think I can do the job defensively. But it’s more of, ‘Let me lead from a different position and let me put a big-picture perspective on things and a 10,000-foot view at times.’”

Sounds like a head coach who is giving up the defensive play-calling, doesn’t it?

McDermott said the Bills are still working through who will get those duties, but I would expect him to say at next month’s league meeting in Orlando, Florida, that new defensive coordinator Bobby Babich will be calling the game-day shots.

Babich was a part of a significant turnover on the staff in terms of new people and new roles.

New offensive coordinator Joe Brady is 34 and will be entering his third full season as an NFL play-caller. Babich is 40 and will be a first-time coordinator at any level. Defensive line coach Marcus West is 40 and will be running his own room for the first time. And new cornerbacks coach Jahmile Addae, 39, is in the NFL for the first time.

McDermott didn’t disagree that adding some new eyes and new juice to a staff that includes several coaches who were hired in 2017 can be a good thing.

Maybe there is a coverage Addae used last year at Miami (Fla.) that the Bills could apply when facing the Miami Dolphins. Maybe there is a route combination Brady will introduce that worked so well during LSU’s national title season in 2019.

Only stubborn coaches ignore new ideas and are fine with things becoming stagnant. Those coaches also become ex-coaches. It’s not to say McDermott feels he was falling into a crater of staleness, but it’s clear he is already enjoying the new staff members.

“Continuity is certainly important, but there are some good things that come with newness as well to your point of some new ideas and some of, ‘Hey, look at what we’ve done; it’s been good. Can it be better?’” McDermott said. “You always want to go into those (staff) meetings with an open mind and a growth mindset of getting an outside person’s perspective and some of the new coaches are from college, so that will offer another dimension to us.”

McDermott helped rebuild the Bills from laughingstock to perennial AFC East champion from 2017-22 and rolled the dice on himself last year, taking over the play-calling. And his team won six consecutive games before losing to Kansas City in the playoffs.

Maybe, after years of knock, knock, knocking on the Super Bowl door, CEO Sean can lean on the lessons he’s learned, the coaches he’s observed up close and from afar, and has found the right combination to unlock the door and play for the title next February in New Orleans.

“You try and keep perspective and tried to learn the older I’ve gotten,” CEO Sean said. “You take an objective approach to everything and you turn every stone to make sure that we’re doing things right and putting ourselves in the best position to win the world championship. That’s what we’re here for.”