The Buffalo Bills, in a search for their next head coach, officially kicked off their interviewing process on Wednesday. To start things off, the team announced that they're interviewing Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott for their head coaching vacancy.
McDermott, 42, has spent the last six seasons as the man in charge of the Panthers defense -- a unit that has finished as a top 10 defense in the league in four out of his six years there. In 2015, the Panthers had a remarkable season in which they ranked sixth in both points allowed and yards allowed, along with a league-high 39 turnovers forced.
The Panthers took a step back this past season, ranking 21st in yards allowed and 26th in points allowed, though they still managed to force 27 turnovers. Before heading to the Panthers, McDermott spent 12 seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles working his way up the coaching ladder, before getting promoted to defensive coordinator for the 2009 and 2010 seasons.
McDermott also interviewed to be a head coach following the end of the 2015 regular season as well. The Bills also have a confirmed interview scheduled with Arizona offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin, as well as reported interviews with Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, and Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich. Bills interim head coach Anthony Lynn is also a candidate for the permanent job.
Joe B's Take
While the Panthers defensive performance in the 2016, from a statistical perspective anyway, is uninspiring to look at for fans, the success of Carolina's defense over the duration of McDermott's tenure is the selling point. Having a top 10 defense is a tough accomplishment, but to do it four out of six seasons in the salary cap era shows off a good defensive coach.
A big question that must be asked is this: How would McDermott's scheme fit with what the Bills have on the defensive side of the ball?
The answer: Quite well. The Bills have been a team full of defensive players better suited for a 4-3 defense that has been masquerading as a 3-4 for the past two seasons. The main difference is that McDermott's scheme relies heavily on zone coverages from their cornerbacks -- which is a distinct difference from Rex Ryan's defensive scheme.
That, however, shouldn't be a huge problem for the secondary that the Bills have lined up for 2017, only because they're likely going to have an incredible amount of turnover at both cornerback and safety. Stephon Gilmore is due to be an unrestricted free agent, Aaron Williams is mulling retirement, and we may have seen the last of the aging Corey Graham as well -- which makes up three of the four opening day starters in 2016.
The biggest problem would be in finding a middle linebacker that's as quick and instinctive as Luke Kuechly was for McDermott in Carolina. While Preston Brown would be better suited in a 4-3 defense, he's not nearly as quick as Kuechly and could struggle in the zone-based coverages McDermott employs.
That's only on the defensive side of the ball, which would make McDermott's hiring of an offensive coordinator quite important. All in all, despite a setback of a 2016 season, McDermott is a solid head coaching candidate that would fit the Bills' personnel.
And put this in the 'for what it's worth' category: McDermott and Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin were teammates for two years in college at William & Mary -- and Tomlin was the head coach for three seasons before Doug Whaley departed Pittsburgh for Buffalo. So, at the very least, there is some sort of tie-in back to Whaley's Steelers days.