Terry Pegula said on Friday that Sean McDermott was the leading candidate for Buffalo's vacant head coaching job from day one.
But for the first-time head coach, it had to be more than just McDermott's ability to coach a defense or his stern coaching style that sold the Bills owners on the 42-year-old.
The Pegulas are entrusting McDermott to get the franchise out of the 17-year playoff drought and are banking on the experiences he's had coaching around the league—specifically with the Carolina Panthers.
"A lot of factors (went into the hire), and I'll start with his coaching tree," general manager Doug Whaley told Buffalobills.com. "Andy Reid is a diligent head coach that has crafted many teams that have performed at a highly successful level. Ron Rivera just took his team to the Super Bowl last year.
"As Sean said, he's seen it, smelled it and tasted it. No one can ever get experience doing a job until they actually do it, but with his methodical approach and his core values in terms of what he expects from himself, his coaches, his players and the entire organization, it struck a chord with us that this is the type of guy who can be the CEO of the team and lead the Bills into the future."
Rivera and McDermott have coached together in Carolina since 2011, and have compiled a 53-42-1 record together in their six years together, culminating in a 15-1 record and a Super Bowl appearance in 2015. They also coached together under Reid in Philadelphia.
Rivera, although disappointed to lose the man he has coached alongside for many years, says that McDermott is as deserving of the job as anyone that he's ever come across in the NFL.
Rivera said that although McDermott was coaching under his leadership, he developed his own identity with the Panthers.
"One of the things that we talked about when Sean came here was becoming his own guy," Rivera said. "Developing his own personality, but more importantly building his own defense. Putting his own stamp and I think that's probably the biggest thing that really separated him as far as the guy that I had when we first got there – the guy that just came from Philadelphia to the guy that left to go to Buffalo to be the head coach."
In his six years in Carolina, McDermott's rush defense ranked in the top 10 in four of those seasons. He also ranked second in the NFL in sacks (261), and third in turnovers forced (169), since he took over in 2011, two categories that the Bills are hoping to become more much more consistent with in 2017.
By all accounts, McDermott's coaching style is going to be a drastic shift from how Rex Ryan led the Bills the last couple of years. Even at his introductory press conference, McDermott harped how important discipline and accountability are to what he is trying to do in Buffalo.
"It's funny because he's going to come across different," Rivera said. "Really stern and strict, I think – but at the end of the day, he's going to come across as somebody that does care. I think that's important for players to understand that the reason he does is because he wants you to be your best. That always goes back to that whole thing [where] if he's yelling at you, that's because he cares about you. He's a very intelligent, young man. Very sharp, very bright, very well-spoken. If there's anything I'd say that he might do, he might overwork. He's really one of those guys that's a grinder."
McDermott leads by example, impressing coaches and his own players at every level with his hard work as he moved from scouting assistant to assistant defensive backs coach to defensive coordinator in a few short years.
"Coach McDermott's attention to detail, his competitive nature, his love for the game and his overall understanding of football is awesome, but I think the person that Sean McDermott is will allow him to be a fantastic head coach," Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly said.
Whaley pointed out that it wasn't just coaching under Rivera that impressed the Bills. McDermott spent the first 12 years in the NFL with the Eagles, coaching under two of the greatest minds in football, Andy Reid and defensive coordinator Jim Johnson.
McDermott certainly got used to being successful in Philadelphia, winning six NFC East titles, appearing in five NFC Championship games, and a trip to Super Bowl XXXIX. McDermott has made the playoffs in 12 of his 18 years coaching in the league.
Those experiences have shown McDermott that a winning culture doesn't come overnight, and that everything that happens on Sundays during the season begins with what is done in the offseason.
"I am going to build this culture along with the people in this building," McDermott said. "I just believe in the process. We are going to win going through the process, and when that time comes we will take the field, but we have a lot of work to do between now and then."
The Bills hope that McDermott can bring those winning ways to many players who have never tasted the playoffs in their NFL careers.
"You have three highly qualified coaches (that he's coached under)," Whaley said. "Three coaches who have winning pedigree. If you look at the situation when he worked under those guys and they were turnaround programs. When we looked at all of that with his long-term vision we thought this was the best candidate for the job."