When head coaches Sean McDermott and Andy Reid are asked about one another, they both have nothing but good things to say. Reid, the fifth-winningest head coach in NFL history, had McDermott on his staff in a multitude of roles from 1999 through 2010. McDermott’s coaching career begin when he became a scouting administrative coordinator, then assistant to the head coach, defensive assistant and quality control coach, defensive backs coach, secondary coach, linebackers coach, and finally getting to defensive coordinator for the 2009 season.
Former Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Ike Reese said Reid and McDermott were inseparable.
“We used to call Sean Little Red. Andy was Big Red and Sean was Little Red. He was glued to Andy’s hip.”
I caught up with former #Eagles LB @Ike58Reese on how much Sean McDermott grew working for Andy Reid in Philly & some funny stories were shared too— Heather Prusak (@haprusak) January 21, 2021
"We used to call him Little Red. Andy was Big Red and Sean was Little Red. He was glued to Andy's hip."@news4buffalo pic.twitter.com/lyisqSF6LO
As close as they were, it didn’t stop Reid from firing McDermott after the 2010 season—but even then, there were no hard feelings. McDermott talked about the firing in 2020.
“He did that because he knew it was the best thing for me. He knew the situation in Philadelphia, and I respect him for it. Andy always had my best interests in mind. I don’t think it was one of the things that he wanted to do, but he knew he had to. At the end of the day, I think God had a plan for my career.’’
Now, a dozen years later as head coach of the Buffalo Bills, McDermott finds himself in a position most in his place would dream of in 2022. With a roster full of stars, he looks to find success against his former boss in their battle Sunday afternoon on the Kansas City Chiefs’ home turf. If the Bills can come away with a win, McDermott will even the score at three wins apiece.
Each coach has instilled a winning culture in their organization, despite their different styles. Reid, an offensive genius, and McDermott, a defensive wiz, (even with his 13-second blunder in last year’s playoff loss to Reid’s Chiefs), set their teams up to win with their smart decision-making, roster decisions, and game-management decisions. After coaching together for so long, I wanted to dive into some tendencies of both to see how it compares with their game-management tactics.
Pass vs. Run
Buffalo and Kanas City throw the ball much more than they pass, which doesn’t come as a surprise with quarterbacks Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes behind center. Both would qualify as generational players at their position, and have taken the league by storm with their cannon arms. Buffalo passes the ball on 65.05% of their snaps, ranking fourth overall in the NFL. Kansas City is noticeably lower at 15th overall, throwing the ball 60.74%.
Buffalo’s higher number could partly be due to the general ineffectiveness of their running backs as runners. Some critics say Buffalo may need a more robust run game for long-term success, taking some pressure off Allen and the passing game. Kanas City boasts former first-round pick Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who has been more effective than Devin Singletary through five games, thus allowing KC’s offense to remain more balanced. Neither team likes to rush the ball in early-down scenarios, as they both rank in the top 10 in passing rate on first down. This aggressive approach plays to the strength of their rosters, and is why they have success sustaining drives.
Going for it on fourth down has become much less of a surprise in the NFL now, compared to even just a few years ago. Football Scoop did a study in 2020 showing how much things have changed regarding the rate from 2010-2020.
The chart showed a big jump from the 2016-2018 season lines up with Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen entering the league.
Through five games this season, Buffalo ranks 10th in the league on fourth-down attempts with seven, converting five of them. This number might even be higher, except the Bills are the best third-down team in the league, moving the chains on over 55% of third downs.
Kanas City has four fourth-down attempts, converting half of them. They also are strong on third down, converting over 52% of them. In a head-to-head matchup, Buffalo’s defense will need to be better on third down, and not have a repeat performance of their last meeting when they allowed over 40 points.
NFL referees don’t have an easy job. It seems week after week, fans are complaining about poor calls. Having smart, disciplined players on the roster helps avoid flags from officials, and that is a direct reflection of the head coach. This year, Buffalo is the eighth-least penalized team, finishing six spots higher than KC. Throughout this rivalry, we have seen calls and non-calls impact the game.
Neither team can afford to take a bad penalty when the outcome of the game could come down to a razor-thin margin. Turnovers are game-changing plays, and having one negated due to a penalty is gut-wrenching. Buffalo has the slight edge so far this season being called for less penalities than KC. Kansas City will deploy rookie corners against wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis. As such, we could see our fair share of holding or pass interference penalties in the Bills’ favor.
With all eyes on this nationally televised game, McDermott will finally have the chance to avenge one of the worst losses this franchise has ever felt. McDermott knows to be successful in this league you have to learn from your mistakes and put the losses behind you.
“You learn from things like that, and you move forward and you’re not afraid to learn from things and correct things and adjust and evolve. When you go through things like that, it doesn’t define you, but it refines you if you handle it the right way. It makes things that we do better, because you do a lot of research, you do a lot of soul-searching.”
I expect the Bills to silence any critics, follow their head coach’s lead in refining and building better and, ultimately, take home a decisive win on Sunday. Buffalo’s top-ranked defense will slow down Kansas City enough for them to leave Arrowhead with a win, 33-21.