Driven, disciplined, dedicated. All of them are words that have been used to describe Bills new head coach Sean McDermott. There were others too as he was introduced as the 20th head coach in team history Friday, by owner Terry Pegula. Words like thorough, smart, decisive and faith-based winner. It all sounds great, but McDermott knows as well as anyone that results are what count in the NFL.
Every new challenge undertaken by McDermott in his NFL career has been met with his unrelenting drive and passion for the game. More often than not the result has been resounding success. That success can be traced to McDermott's ability to connect with players and instill a collective desire to follow his example.
In making his first public appearance as Bills head coach however, the scope of the challenge was not lost on McDermott.
"I understand the expectations that come with the job of this magnitude and I accept that challenge," he said. "I am looking to build a culture of winning and that starts insides these walls and extends to our community. It is an honor and privilege to lead this football team and this organization, and (it will be) one we will look to do as a team."
McDermott's plan for a team as its head coach is what made him Buffalo's leading candidate from the beginning.
"The main focus we wanted was a coach that had core values, but also looked at a long term vision," Bills GM Doug Whaley told Buffalobills.com. "We're not looking to just make the playoffs. We were looking for a coach who agreed with us in building a foundation for a team that could consistently win championships."
On Friday McDermott touched on his plan to instill a winning culture in the building, guided by practicing what he preaches. He knows mutual trust between coaches and players is a foundational block in that process. The Bills new head coach understands that not every player on the roster is going to be wired like him. Not everyone is going to naturally have their foot pushing the pedal to the floor every day.
"Part of being a good coach is not only caring for players and adjusting scheme-wise, but it's also being a little bit of a sports psychologist," McDermott said. "That's part of being a leader. It's no different than being a position coach and you walk in the position room and you've got four, five, 10 different personalities and each guy might be going through something different. That's part of understanding what they're going through and caring for the players while also motivating them."
What has motivated players under McDermott before has been his ability to develop them and make them better. Team wide player development has been a missing component that has been a factor in the Bills struggle to find consistent success. McDermott has an exemplary track record of improving the play of the men who line up for him.
"If you get a guy who can teach a guy how to be a better player, not only is he going to develop. Players want to believe that you're in it for them to become better players," Whaley said. "When they're better players they're going to play longer and get paid better."
Washington CB Josh Norman is probably one of the best and most recent examples of players who saw their game flourish under McDermott. He began his NFL career under McDermott in Carolina as a fifth-round pick out of Coastal Carolina. Four seasons later he was a first team All-Pro and is now the highest paid cornerback in the league.
That's why it's McDermott's intention to assemble a coaching staff of teachers. Men who can make Buffalo's roster even better on the field. He knows once players see the path he lays out to perform better and execute consistently they'll buy in to the disciplined approach that McDermott subscribes to himself.
"I believe in doing things a certain way and it starts with myself," said McDermott. "As a leader, if you don't hold yourself accountable, then it all breaks down from there. I'm ready to do things that I believe in in building that culture, and doing things the right way.
"We'll have an identity on the field in all three phases and it starts with doing things the right way, playing hard all the time – smart, disciplined and tough football – a product that these fans will be proud of on a weekly basis."
Buffalo's front office and McDermott realize it's a process that will take time. He's the eighth man hired as a new head coach for the Bills this century. All the change has made it hard for the team to gain traction in becoming a consistent winner. That's why the more desirable plan for Doug Whaley and the Pegulas is long term in nature, rather than something cooked up to happen overnight.
"It's going to start with the core values," said Whaley. "Instilling the core values in our players and in this building. It starts from the inside out. It's not going to be a quick fix. He knows that and we know that. But anything that's going to be sustainable for a long time is going to be hard to do. But the work ethic from ownership down is going to permeate this building and the locker room. These guys will know that there is a standard that we're setting and everybody from owners down to the players and everybody on the administrative staff, we have to strive to live up to that standard every day we walk into this building."
And McDermott is the man prepared to carry out that plan.
"It's a process that starts with the culture that I want to build here of how we do things," said McDermott. "The daily standard of winning if you will. How you win and earning the right to win. That's important to me."