A first-time NFL head coach in 2017, Sean McDermott instilled his process into the locker room at One Bills Drive, returned the Buffalo Bills to respectability, and helped guide Buffalo back to the playoffs for the first time in 17 years after the Bills posted a 9-7 record.
Not too shabby of a debut for McDermott, whose team had been plagued by a culture of losing and terrible personnel decisions for most of the 17 playoff-less seasons in Western New York.
The Bills raced out to a 5-2 start, weathered the lows of a three-game slide where they were outscored 135-55 during losses to the New York Jets, New Orleans Saints, and Los Angeles Chargers, then rebounded to win three of their final four games to secure the No. 6 seed in the AFC playoffs. While the Bills dropped a 10-3 decision to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the Wild Card round, there were plenty of positives from McDermott’s first season as a head coach.
Patrick Daugherty, a writer with the website RotoWorld, has been compiling rankings of the 32 NFL head coaches for several years now. His rankings take into effect a coach’s on-field successes as well as projecting where they’ve been and where they’re going as a head coach.
So where does McDermott rank? McDermott checks in as the No. 21 coach on Daugherty’s rankings, ahead of only four returning head coaches: Todd Bowles (New York Jets), Vance Joseph (Denver Broncos), Dirk Koetter (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), and Hue Jackson (Cleveland Browns). The seven new head coaches for 2018 were not ranked.
McDermott’s ranking seems low, especially considering the names ahead of him: No. 14 Kyle Shanahan (went 6-10 in first season coaching San Francisco), No. 17 Adam Gase (career .500 record in two seasons coaching the Miami Dolphins), No. 18 Marvin Lewis (STILL hasn’t won a playoff game with the Cincinnati Bengals, though Andy Dalton’s miraculous touchdown pass to Tyler Boyd did cement Buffalo’s return to the playoffs), No. 19 Jay Gruden (sub-.500 record in three seasons with the Washington Redskins), and No. 20 Anthony Lynn (9-7 in first season with the Los Angeles Chargers).
For the record, the top 10 are: No. 1 Bill Belichick (New England Patriots), No. 2 Pete Carroll (Seattle Seahawks), No. 3 Andy Reid (Kansas City Chiefs), No. 4 Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers), No. 5. Doug Pederson (Philadelphia Eagles), No. 6 John Harbaugh (Baltimore Ravens), No. 7 Ron Rivera (Carolina Panthers), No. 8 Mike Zimmer (Minnesota Vikings), No. 9 Sean McVay (Los Angeles Rams), and No. 10 Mike McCarthy (Green Bay Packers).
Here’s what Daugherty had to say about his ranking for McDermott:
“For his opening act as head coach, McDermott snapped the longest playoff drought in North American sports. Not too shabby, but context is needed. McDermott’s 9-7 squad claimed the AFC’s No. 6 seed with a -57 point differential, the 12th worst in football, and the worst for a playoff team since the 2011 Broncos. McDermott’s offense scored 302 points, the Bills’ fewest since 2010. His defense surrendered 359, a modest 19-point improvement on 2016. The Bills’ “expected win/loss,” which is based on the Pythagorean theorem, was 6-10. This is the long way of saying McDermott got pretty darn lucky. Granted surprisingly sweeping personnel power, McDermott and his hand-picked GM Brandon Beane also made mistakes in the front office. On the heels of an uneven offseason, the duo sold low on Marcell Dareus and bought inexplicably high on Kelvin Benjamin. Oh yeah, McDermott benched his veteran quarterback for a fifth-round rookie who threw five first half interceptions in a 54-24 loss. It was an eventful year, one with an abundance of “learning experiences.” McDermott learned his lessons the hard way. What he takes away from them will define his future as head coach.”