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The fatal flaw of Buffalo Bills HC Sean McDermott

What a kneel reveals about head coach Sean McDermott

Buffalo Bills v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The Buffalo Bills lost in brutal fashion to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday evening, once again gifting the fan base disappointment. In the process, head coach Sean McDermott added yet another in a fairly long list of signature losses to his resume.

The Bills are now 6-6, and talk of the playoffs — while not technically off the table — should be reserved for when they can actually cash that check. Buffalo yet again dropped a one-score game, lowering their record in such contests to 2-6 this season. The modern NFL is defined by parity and featuring close finishes in nearly every game. The league has gone out of its way to provide manufactured excitement, yet in the Bills’ most thrilling games, McDermott always finds a way toward the losing end.

Look, those in the NFL are human, and mistakes are part of what makes us who we are. Players and coaches aren’t ever going to be perfect, and we need to give them a bit of leeway beyond what they’re afforded in most situations. In consideration of McDermott here, he continues making the same sort of mental errors that prevent his teams from taking the next step.

As I see it with McDermott, he coaches hesitant, nervous, scared — whatever you want to label it — in the biggest moments. Against the Eagles, the Bills had a fairly aggressive scheme on both sides of the ball, which allowed them to build a 10-point halftime lead. The team provided what most have hoped to see throughout this season: an offense that scores enough points to allow the defense an opportunity to play with a lead. But far too many forget that in several games to this point of the 2023 season, the offense has given the defense a lead to work off of, often late. As the unit’s done too often through 12 weeks, the defense mailed it in during crunch time. Injuries or not, we know that McDermott’s defense is capable of better than they gave in the fourth quarter and beyond. We’ve seen it. But we’ve also seen worse, and against far less than the Eagle’s product.

So why then, after seeing a kick for the ages travel 59 yards to a successful final “doink,” would Sean McDermott believe the best idea was allowing the game to be decided in overtime? Had he not watched what interim offensive coordinator Joe Brady and the offense did to the Eagles’ vaunted defense? Does he not realize how often Josh Allen has provided go-ahead points near the end of games — and how often his defense has failed him?

Instead of putting the football in Josh Allen’s hands to go out on their terms, McDermott chose a different fate. He chose a 50/50 toss of a coin (with luck prevailing) and the idea that they would win in overtime. But there was never a guarantee the Bills saw the ball again on offense. Again, thankfully the coin flipped their way. In fairness to the team, Joe Brady, along with a huge lift by Josh Allen, dialed up the perfect overtime drive — which unfortunately didn’t end the way it was planned. The Bills should have walked off winners with wide receiver Gabe Davis catching Allen’s final TD throw. At that point it was up to the defense to step up. While we can lament what ended up being called a non-fumble — one that most believed bounced to the Bills who had secured victory — the bigger issue is McDermott’s system once again crumbling when needed most in 2023.

If McDermott believed the offense was going to go down and score a walk-off TD win, why not leverage that belief with 22 seconds and a timeout left in regulation? Why allow far more variables to enter the chat, among the larger of which is the team’s end-game defense?

The Bills had an opportunity to walk off the field winners in regulation, never allowing the Eagles to see the ball again. And McDermott messed up, once again.

Josh Allen deserves better. Sean McDermott needs to look in the mirror and realize he can and must adapt to better-fit the strengths of the Bills’ incredible quarterback. Confidence breeds confidence, and head coach Sean McDermott to this point has come up short trying to instill conviction within his players when they need it most.

The question remains if he’ll figure out what’s necessary before it’s too late.