Head coach Sean McDermott reflects on “process” as Bills prepare to face Patriots


The Buffalo Bills beat the Pittsburgh Steelers at their home field for the first time since 1993, are 10-4 and the future looks bright. This isn’t a team supposed to make the playoffs in two of the first three years of a rebuild, however, here they are. Buffalo captured a wildcard spot with a chance to challenge New England for the AFC crown.

Despite the surprising record, head coach Sean McDermott and his players aren’t acting like they weren’t supposed to reach those heights this early.

“I think that’s part of changing the mindset as we continue to establish a culture here in Buffalo of that being more than norm is expecting to have success,” McDermott said. “If we do things right during the week and respect the process leading up to the game that instead of hoping, wishing to win, that we expect to win. We certainly respect every opponent going into the game but our players, give them a lot of credit, they’ve established that.”

It wouldn’t be possible relying just on talent. The Bills had pretty talented players throughout the 17-year playoff drought, which ended in McDermott’s first year in Buffalo. There’s something different since the head coach took over the reigns of a mediocrity-labeled franchise with an always pessimistic fan base. Playoffs in first year, youth movement in the second one and growth and competitiveness in the third.

“It’s a true team effort,” McDermott says. “Everyone in the building has their hand on this and in this. Our fans have their hands in it, and on this football team and not one of us can survive without the other. It takes a takes a village as they say, and I think the players have done a tremendous job of really embracing that and earning every inch of it.”

Buffalo has established a new identity. The team is led by a stout defense, McDermott’s bread and butter, and relies on them consistently to achieve their goals. The unit is perfectly built for today’s NFL game, exceeding on stopping the pass. After finishing as the second best defense in the NFL a year ago, according Football Outsiders DVOA metric, the Bills are ranked third this year, continuously holding opposing offenses below their averages.

The offense still is a work in progress, with second-year quarterback Josh Allen continuing to grow. All the new pieces added this season (nine new starters) are still building chemistry and adapting to the new schemes. Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll is also still finding the right balance to guide this group as the unit ranks 22nd in the same DVOA metric.

“Listen, we’ve got a lot of work to do still,” the head coach said. “This league is funny, once you think you’ve arrived, you get your butt kicked. With all due respect to the work that has been put in, we just have to continue to grind and continue to work and stay with that humble and hungry approach. It has certainly changed, I could tell you that. It’s probably a better question for people around the building who were here before we got here with all respect to that.”

With two important steps being taken recently — winning tough away games against the Cowboys and the Steelers — this Bills team now has an opportunity to finally show the world they’re for real. Beat the Patriots at Foxborough and the Cinderella story of 2019 will be taken seriously as an AFC contender. That’s the main focus right now, but McDermott never forgets the big picture.

“When we came to Buffalo, one of the things we wanted to do was to challenge and to do it every year,” McDermott said. “And I think that this is an opportunity that our players have earned. We have a great amount of respect for the Patriots. Very well-coached team, disciplined football team, with a lot of talent and so, it’s an opportunity for us to continue to compete and to take another step as a football team.”

Look out NFL, the Bills are coming and, with a well established plan from the franchise’s top to the bottom, they’re here to be relevant for a long stretch. Next Sunday can become just one more step in the right direction.