Buffalo Bills Head Coach Sean McDermott Introductory Press Conference

Friday, January 13, 2017

Opening Statements

Terry Pegula: Welcome, thank you for coming out today as we announce the arrival of our new coach. As you know I had Doug Whaley conduct an extensive search for our next head coach, and so we arrive at today. Doug (Whaley) worked with Jim Monos and our football department and they both did a great job. We interviewed four different candidates and discussed many other candidates. Our search focused on looking for a head coach who concentrates on long term planning and also short-term decisive decision making that would help our players in winning more football games. He also had to be a man who managed, who could manage and enhance the culture and demeanor of our team on the field and act as the face of our organization. Sean (McDermott) has been from day one in our search the leading candidate. He has strong passion for the game, and he has been training for this ever since being a young man in Andy Reid’s coaching staff with the Philadelphia Eagles. He has been to two Super Bowls, he has been part of two turnarounds and he has knowledge and vision of what it takes to win. I can’t tell you how he went through his first interview and never missed a beat. I mean any question we asked him or any situation we put him in. He is a smart, thorough, decisive, faith based winner. So I introduce you to Sean McDermott.

Sean McDermott: Good afternoon. So many people to thank when you get to a position like this. I want start off with the good Lord above and the blessings he has provided for me and my family for the last 42 years. I wouldn’t be here without my family, who are here today, and my parents who couldn’t be here, as well as my brother and his family. I would like to also thank the entire Panthers organization, the coaches, the many coaches I have worked with over the years, namely Ron Rivera in Carolina and Andy Reid in Kansas City. All of the players I have had the honor to coach at times putting their bodies on the line and playing hurt and how much I appreciate that. Ownership, the entire Richardson family led by Jerry Richardson in Carolina as well as Jeffery Lurie with the Philadelphia Eagles. President of the Carolina Panthers Danny Morrison, and General Manager Dave Gettleman. Also I would like to thank Terry and Kim Pegula for having the confidence in me to give me this opportunity, as well as the entire search firm and search committee of Doug Whaley and Jim Monos, and everyone in attendance today. We as a family look forward to this opportunity in making Buffalo our home. To the fans we as a family look forward to being part of this great city and this passionate fan base. This is our type of town; we look forward to making Buffalo our home. The first people I want to address is the players, our players some of whom are here today. I am proud to be one of you, it is an honor to coach you and I look forward to doing this together. I understand the expectations that come with the job of this magnitude and I accept that challenge. I am looking to build a culture of winning and that starts insides these walls and extends to our community. It is an honor and privilege to lead this football team and this organization, and as I mentioned before, one we will look to do as a team. With that I will take your questions.

Q: What gives you the confidence you are capable of turning around this franchise where others have failed?

SM: John, that is a great question, like a lot of the guys I have trained myself to become a head coach really since I was born. I come from a football family. So conversations about sports, football, and life were part of dinner conversations at the table ever since I was young. Getting in the NFL at an early age around the likes of Andy Reid and the many head coaches that have come from Andy’s tree, Ron Rivera being one of them. In my diligent nature of taking note after note and learned every step along the way, I have been apart of building a defense from the ground up brick by brick, step by step and I had help in that process as well. Within that I have gone to two Super Bowls. I know what that looks like, smells like and taste likes. So I feel extremely confident with my ability to lead this franchise moving forward.

Q: Media members have taken shots at this organization lately, but you took this job. What is your perception of Doug Whaley, Jim Monos, the Pegulas, and this organization?

SM: Yeah, you know Sal when I looked at this job I had done my research and you will get to know me soon enough here, I am a pretty meticulous and thorough guy. In my opinion this was the best job on the market. Some people may not agree with it, but it is important how I feel. I say it was the best job on the market for a couple reasons namely the ownership of Terry and Kim (Pegula). I have seen what great ownership looks like and we have two great owners in Terry and Kim who are willing to give anything to this football team and this organization, and the city of Buffalo. Secondly when you talk about a fan base I have been up here and I have played here before and I have seen those fans, capacity crowd hanging over that railing screaming while we were trying to do something on the other sideline and that is what I want to be apart of. That is what it is all about and I look forward to creating and recreating that again in our stadium. So that is what I focused on.

Q: It would seem the quickest path to making this team better with your past is making this defense better as fast as possible, how do you envision that with your scheme being different than what this team has run the past two years?

SM: Well when you look at it Vic, from what I’ve have seen there are players on this roster, and that is what I am brought here to do. It is part of what I am brought here to do is to evaluate the roster but also put the players in position to be successful. When I looked at this football team and personnel was part of the criteria in evaluating this football team, like I said there are players on this roster and I look forward to working with them.

Q: Rex Ryan sat up here two years ago and made promises, do you have promises to make, or do you want to keep expectations more modest?

SM: I am not in to making promises and I think you will find that out about me soon enough as well. The promises I will make are we are going to be competitive, we are going to compete everyday. What I intend to do, it starts today; it started yesterday when I accepted the job the day before. We are going to compete on a daily basis. I am going to build this culture along with the people in this building to develop a daily standard of winning in the way we do things. We have to earn the right to win in this league and I have learned that. So I just believe in the process. We are going to win going through the process, and when that time comes we will take the field, but we have a lot of work to do between now and then. 

Q: To what degree do you have control and influence on the 53-man roster? Doug, I’d be interested in your response too.
SM: Doug has control of the 53. We’ve talked and going through the process with the Pegula’s, I am very comfortable with the situation and I wouldn’t take this job if I wasn’t comfortable with the situation. Terry and Kim made sure of that and I appreciate that. We’ve had extensive conversations throughout the interview process and they’ve gone to great lengths to make sure that I’m comfortable with things and Doug has as well. I wouldn’t take this job if I wasn’t comfortable.

DW: To add to that, this is a team effort. I mean we’re working together to get this franchise to where we know it should be and it starts at the top. The Pegula’s mantra is we’re working together, we’re not working for them, and that perpetuates through every level of this organization.

Q: Quarterback is a huge issue for this team. We don’t know what Tyrod Taylor’s status is for this team but if he is not back, you’ve got a second-year player who’s played one quarter in the NFL. What were you looking for when you talked to the Pegula’s and Whaley in the quarterback situation? How do you plan to address a pretty big need for this team?
SM: Sal, when you look at it, obviously the quarterback play in this league is critical. I know– I actually just met Tyrod 10 minutes ago before we came down here, had a nice conversation. Really at this point, whether it’s Tyrod’s situation or any other position, let’s not get ahead of ourselves right now in terms of those positions. I’m going to go through and evaluate every position group, every player the same way I do everything else, in a methodic nature. So with respect to specific players, Tyrod in this case, there will be a time for that. Right now, it’s about this organization and ‘we’ and getting this thing looking the way it needs to look.

Q: In terms of the defense, Rex primarily ran a 3-4 base front. What are your plans? I know in the past you’ve run more of a four-man front. What do you plan to do with this defense?
SM: Whether we’ll be a 4-3 or a 3-4, I come from a 4-3 background. I’ve worked with a 3-4 as well. Again, strategically right now I’m not going to say we’re going to be– I don’t want to get into that right now. I’m going to put the players in position to be successful. That’s what a coach does, a coach adjusts to what he has and I just believe in that.

Q: You’ve been a coordinator and called plays. As a head coach, what is your plan going forward in terms of calling defenses and still taking all the responsibility of a head coach?
SM: That’s a great question. I‘m going to be involved in all three phases of this football team, offense, defense and special teams. When you’re a defensive coordinator, you spend a heck of a lot of time looking at the offensive side of the ball so I feel comfortable in my background of the offensive side of the ball and then my special teams background being around John Harbaugh for years in Philadelphia, Dave Toub, some of the great special teams coaches over the years, Bruce DeHaven. And so I’m going to be involved aggressively in all three phases. Defensively, whether or not I’ll call the plays, we haven’t decided on anything like that yet just from a management standpoint. That will come at the right time.

Q: In terms of your offensive coordinator, where are you at in that search and can you shed some light on what you’re looking for there and how much input they might have on Tyrod’s future?
SM: The offensive coordinator position is an extremely important one and just like the rest of the staff, that’s an active situation right now. As soon as I was offered the job, I went to work on beginning to put this staff together. I believe in quality staff and hiring guys that are great teachers, great motivators that care tremendously about these players and again, will put them in position to be successful. And so I’m going to build it around that with guys with great energy, tremendous teachers. So there’s a number of candidates out there right now we’re talking to and I’m going to continue to talk to as soon as I’m done with this press conference here. So what I can tell you is it is official that we’ve retained Danny Crossman as our special teams coach at this time.

Q: Terry Pegula said earlier today that you asked about the organizational structure and his answer was “short and sweet.” What was that answer?
SM: Well in regards to reporting structure, I report directly to Terry and Kim, as does Doug.

Q: I spoke to Jimmye Laycock (William & Mary football coach) yesterday and he talked about how emotional you grew when you were told about getting a scholarship. Do you reflect on the past 18 years on how far you’ve come?
SM: That’s not one I expected this afternoon. Coach Laycock is one of my greatest mentors along my career, you can tell what I think about him just by my reaction here. I probably wouldn’t be in this position without him. He runs a heck of a program at William & Mary and the way he runs his program, more than anything, off the field in developing young men. It has given myself, along with the other coaches a great foundation from which to grow. Mike Tomlin and many, many coaches and personnel executives that are in this league coming from that program speaks for itself.

Q: When it comes to quarterbacks, specifically with Tyrod Taylor, how much do you know about him and how much have you been actually able to see what he can do?
SM: Again, just visited with Tyrod for five minutes upstairs, we talked on the phone yesterday and I appreciate his willingness to reach out. Fine young man. I remember going against Tyrod a little bit in the preseason. I’ve watched him in crossover tape so I know the skillset, I know what he brings to the table but again, at this time it is premature to expand any further on that. I’m going to go through and be diligent with this evaluation of the roster along with Doug and doing this the right way.

Q: At this point, you don’t have a feel that Tyrod Taylor is a winning quarterback or if you could win with him. If, after your evaluation, you feel “this is my guy,” are you confident that you could talk to your bosses – Doug and Terry – and say “this is my guy,” do you have confidence that they’ll activate the remainder of his big contract? There are a lot of issues with him, but if you want him, will you get him?
SM: I’m not sure what your question is.

Q: After your evaluation, if you decide that Tyrod Taylor is your guy, are you confident that Doug Whaley will agree with you?
SM: Listen, I’m confident in Doug. I’m confident, like I mentioned before, in the Pegula’s. If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be sitting here today in front of you. I know what I’m looking for, I know what a winner looks like, I know what it tastes like, and I’ve been around a winner. That’s what I plan on bringing here.

Q: Discipline and accountability are two of the things that a lot of players have discussed at the end of the season they felt needed to be improved upon. What’s your approach in holding players accountable and enacting discipline?
SM: As I mentioned in my opening there, it’s about a culture. I think if you talk to the players I’ve been around and the coaches I’ve been around, I think they would tell you that that’s not been a problem in my career. I believe in doing things a certain way and it starts with myself. As a leader, if you don’t hold yourself accountable, then it all breaks down from there. I’m ready to do things that I believe in in building that culture, and doing things the right way. We’ll have an identity on the field in all three phases and it starts with doing things the right way, playing hard all the time – smart, disciplined and tough football – a product that these fans will be proud of on a weekly basis.

Q: Seventeen is a number that you’re going to hear a lot. That’s how long that it’s been since they’ve made the playoffs. The drought – is that something that you embrace or is it something that you’ll say “that was the past and that’s not what we’re about?” That’s something that’s big with the fans around here.
SM: Listen – I know what the rich history of Bills football is. I recognize that. When people look at the seventeen years, I understand that. I get that. But I also draw on the tradition in the many great players that have played here. That’s going to be a big part of us as we move forward. I understand that seventeen years. I understand in working with Bruce DeHaven in Carolina. He shared a lot about that. Like I told you before, in terms of the passionate fan base, I’m from the Northeast so I get it. I understand that it’s part of the draw of coming here – what a passionate fan base is all about. I understand this type of city and town. That’s how I grew up. That’s how I wake up every morning – just like them. I’m hungry. I’m not going to shy away from this challenge. We have to start inside, like I mentioned at the outset, and win inside of the building and it’s got to extend to our community in doing things the right way.

Q: Sean, Terry Pegula just identified you as a face of the organization. Besides all of your on-field football responsibilities, do you feel any responsibility to help sell tickets or sponsorships or anything on the corporate side?
SM: You know, when you look at my background, I think it’s a little bit unique in terms of where I came from and the foundation I built early in my career in terms of the business side as well as the personnel side. So I understand that those two sides have to work hand in hand. The members of the organization that are here – we talked this morning. Each and every one of the members of this organization are critical to our success. Those two sides have to work hand in hand and I understand that, and that will be big for us.

Q: This question is for Doug, actually. Last time around, Terry said that he had wanted Rex because he thought the team was two plays away from 11-5 and they were on the cusp of breaking through so he wanted a better head coach. This time, the interviews were exclusively coaches without head coaching experience before. What made that the right direction this time around?
DW: We looked at it this way: to win in this business, it’s about two things. It’s about players and winning. With Coach McDermott, we know that we have a guy that will maximize player development as well as consistently give our ball club a chance to win, and that’s what we were focused on.

Q: This is also for Doug – I thought you suggested in your end-of-season conference that more power over personnel might flow to the head coach than previously. Was that discussed at all and has there been any change, whatsoever, in that power?
DW: We’ll keep our discussions that we had in the interview process private, but the thing I will stress to you [is that] this is a team game and we approach that in management. It is a team approach. We are all in this with one goal, and that’s to improve this franchise and consistently compete for championships. So with that being said, his input is valued and respected. Not only his, but his whole coaching staff.

SM: And you should know, like I said before, I’m very comfortable with the situation. We’ve talked about it, and I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t comfortable. Like I said, I thank the Pegula’s in the process with the communication that ensued during that process was very extensive.

Q: What have you learned – highlights, if you will – of the time you spent with the late great Jim Johnson. How much, also, of an influence has he been on your coaching and your defense. How much do you still implement from what, at the time, was really viewed as an out-of-the-box thinking figure?
SM: Well, Jim Johnson is one of the best defensive football coaches ever to coach the game. At an early age, I was around Coach Johnson and what I would consider the Harvard of defensive football in terms of how to affect the quarterback, how to shape the game plan. When you look at that staff and the guys that have grown and gone on from that staff and from Andy’s staff – Ron Rivera, Leslie Frazier, Steve Spagnuolo, John Harbaugh, myself now – I don’t think you’ll find a staff that came from Andy and one defensive coordinator like that around the league.

Q: You said Danny Crossman has been retained. There were reports about Leslie Frazier and Juan Castillo yesterday. Can you confirm any other hires with assistant coaches, and then, generally, what are you looking when it comes to building a staff and specifically your coordinators?
SM: Danny has been retained at this time. The other guys that we are actively pursuing and working on, those are still out there. Nothing else has been finalized at this time that I can share with you, but we are actively working in that regard at this time. In terms of what I’m looking for in coaches, talked about that earlier in terms of number one: great people. You win with people. I mentioned that this morning when talking with the staff. This is a people-driven business. X’s and O’s are important, you better have X’s and O’s, but I want guys that can care about people, that are going to care about these players, that are going to go about it the right way. As I’ve talked before, I was asked earlier about my background in accountability – that’s huge for me.

Q: Since you broke into the league, you were a very young man when you did. But in 1999, you were in your twenties. The game has changed a lot since that time – from practice rules, medical rules, a lot of analytics now incorporated in the game and things like that. How have you, personally, had to change your coaching philosophy from then until now and also, even going forward, how much do you embrace some of the new ways of thinking with advanced stats and things like that with all of the technology that’s available to coaches?
SM: You know, I was fortunate enough as you’ve already heard me say this afternoon, I was around some great coaches at an early age so doing things the right way is what it really comes down to. Whether it’s off the field or on the field. To my belief, in order to win on the field, you’ve got to win off the field first. From a changing of techniques – you talked about safety and things of that nature – I’ve always believed in safety first. I’ve always believed in doing things the right way. If I was coaching my son playing football, I’d coach it the same way with safety first and I think a part of being a good football coach is mastering fundamentals and techniques and those of you that would ask my players and the coaches I’ve been with – that’s going to be stressed on a daily basis. I’m a big believer in fundamentals and techniques, I’m a big believer in character. So as far as analytics and things of that nature, we’re going to do everything possible to gain a competitive advantage within the boundaries of the core values of this organization and the rules. Analytics is a part of that.

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