Sean McDermott: The Process Is Working

Sean McDermott
ORCHARD PARK, NY - NOVEMBER 25: Head coach Sean McDermott of the Buffalo Bills walks on the field before the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at New Era Field on November 25, 2018 in Orchard Park, New York. Buffalo defeats Jacksonville 24-21. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

With less than a week until rookies begin reporting for training camp, Sean McDermott has a message for Buffalo Bills fans.

This team is on the right path towards becoming a legitimate contender.

He expressed this sentiment in a recent letter he wrote to season ticket holders. In it, he emphasized that this off-season has resulted in significant growth from the standpoint of not just becoming playoff-caliber, but championship-caliber.

Sean McDermott Excited About the Buffalo Bills Path Towards Competitiveness

“I’m excited about the progress we have made this off-season as we worked to execute our plan of building a strong foundation,” McDermott stated. “This foundation combined with true Buffalo toughness and love for one another will be instrumental as we continue to chase our vision of bringing a championship to this city.”

Excitement is certainly an emotion many Bills fans possess heading into the 2019 regular season. Much of it centers around seeing significant development out of quarterback Josh Allen. What Patrick Mahomes pulled off for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2018 certainly set the standard for signal-callers heading into their second NFL season.

In fact, Allen’s pathway to NFL starting quarterback was supposed to be similar to Mahomes. McDermott’s initial intention was to sit him out for the entirety of his rookie season. The idea was for him to learn the ins and outs of the system from the bench. But naming Nathan Peterman the starter turned out to be disastrous which forced the coaching staff’s hand.

Baptism by Fire

And so they decided to throw their rookie quarterback to the wolves. In retrospect, his debut as a starter wasn’t that bad given he threw for 245 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions in Week Two against the Los Angeles Chargers. This despite playing behind a horrid offensive line that resulted in him getting sacked five times.

But then came arguably the high watermark of Allen’s rookie campaign. Despite Buffalo being a massive 16.5-point underdog, Allen led them to one of the most shocking results of 2018, a 27-6 pounding of the Minnesota Vikings. It included one of the first examples of his rushing prowess when he hurdled over Anthony Barr, the footage of which certainly went viral on various forms of social media.

Allen’s ability to get things done on the ground undoubtedly encapsulated his rookie campaign. He became just the third quarterback in NFL history (Michael Vick and Bobby Douglass being the others) to total eight rushing touchdowns while averaging at least 50 rushing yards per game in a single season. It’s something the Bills offense will continue to benefit from as they attempt to implement McDermott’s grand vision in 2019.

Sean McDermott’s Vision Hinges on Allen Becoming a More Dynamic Passer

But it also hid some significant flaws in Allen’s game that Bills fans hope have been rectified come this year’s season opener. Though his arm strength is an unquestioned strong point, Allen’s rookie season showed that he needs a lot of work from the standpoint of accuracy. Per ESPN, Allen’s 52.8 percent completion percentage was the worst in the NFL among quarterbacks who attempted at least 14 passes per start. And he received the fifth-worst passing grade from Pro Football Focus among those with at least 250 pass snaps to their name in 2018.

Which brings us back to McDermott. It’s clear that based on the tone of his message to season ticket holders that he firmly believes Allen’s on track for massive improvement. He’s seen that, during the off-season, Allen has become increasingly comfortable with the intricacies of offensive coordinator Brian Daboll‘s system. During OTAs, he’s developed a rapport with, let’s be honest, a MUCH improved receiving corps from last year. And as training camp and the preseason progresses, the hope is that all this can continue to build on Allen’s road to becoming the franchise quarterback this team’s been in search of for nearly a generation.

Allen Needs Help From His Supporting Cast

Obviously, Allen is one of many pieces in the puzzle associated with Sean McDermott and company realizing their goals. A running back corps that includes wily veterans LeSean McCoy and Frank Gore alongside rookie Devin Singletary, among others, needs to take the pressure off Allen by keeping defenses honest in the passing game. A retooled offensive line must put in work keeping Allen upright. Allen’s new weapons in the passing game have to prove they were worth acquiring. And one of the league’s top defenses that added a potential dark horse defensive rookie of the year candidate in Ed Oliver must continue to do its thing.

All in all, there’s plenty of cause for optimism. The Bills surrounded Allen with plenty of game-changing talent via free agency and the draft. It bolsters a roster that, in many respects, overachieved by winning six games last year given the way the season started. It’s a testament to a coaching staff that exudes confidence in its plan to bring postseason football back to Western New York.

As Sean McDermott put it in this recent letter to those who contribute their hard-earned money to support this team:

“We are committed to building a team that you can be proud of both on and off the field for many years to come.”

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