The McDermott Problem, Part III: Let Josh be Josh
“He wants to run through your face and establish the fact that he’s the biggest alpha male dog quarterback in the history of pro football." Buffalo needs to do what's right for its QB. Time's ticking.
Miss Part II? Catch up here.
There are two distinct versions of Josh Allen this 2023 season. One is fun. One takes off on the run — “The crowd loves it!” Al Michaels professes — and holds the football over the goal line while staring down a Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback. All at full speed.
This version gets a Cincinnati Bengals safety to leave his feet with a pump fake, points, laughs and runs in for a TD. Flag ‘n fine, be damned. Meanwhile, Sean McDermott, spits on the turf and purses his lips. Fifteen yards lost on a kickoff likely means more to the Buffalo Bills head coach than any momentum gained by his backyard quarterback rediscovering himself.
This version, at rain-slopped Philadelphia, rams through Reed Blankenship at the goal line, chucks the ball against the backstop and — flanked by teammates — swaggers right into the teeth of those trash-talking Eagles fans as if welcoming a dark-alley fight. The TD launched a tour de force for the quarterback: 420 total yards, four touchdowns.
“No. 17 is just a different bird,” said one friend and former pro teammate. “He’s wired different. He’s not like most of these quarterbacks. He wants to make dick jokes and run into people.”
If Buffalonians could create the quarterback they’ve always desired in a lab, it’s exactly this.
But then, there’s the other Allen. The pale, stupefied, knockoff version who trudges to the sideline after an interception vs. Denver with McDermott screaming in his ear.
Unlike his boss, Allen does not come remotely close to assigning blame. Doesn’t embarrass receivers on national TV. Doesn’t snipe into earholes on the sidelines. Doesn’t kindly remind the public what McDermott said back in March when, in truth, it’s fully within his rights to alert your attention to these trainwreck comments. When, in reality, this is everything a former Bills assistant coach meant when he said this team is forced to “overcome the head coach.” Everything a former teammate meant by McDermott serving as a drop of “poison.”
A smart coach does everything in his power to accentuate the first version of Allen.
Realize you’ve been gifted a Marvel character at the most important position in sports and let him fly.
Then, there’s McDermott sitting down with NFL Network last March. He made it abundantly clear that Allen needed to siphon these sorts of plays out of his game.
“I don’t think that that’s a healthy way to play quarterback in this league,” said McDermott, in a video posted by the team. “It’s really undefeated that things are going to happen when you play that style, that brand of football. So, we’ve got to get that adjusted. It’s never going to go completely away but it has to get to where it’s workable. I don’t want to take his personality away from him as far as that goes. His signature. But there needs to be an adjustment in that style of play.”
Manually warping the “style” of your most valuable commodity should’ve slotted in as the 2,789th item on the Bills’ offseason agenda. But this was no surprise.
This is a head coach with a low Quarterback IQ.
Start with the player who helped him become a head coach: Cam Newton. When the former No. 1 overall pick shapeshifted into molten lava on NFL defenses throughout the 2015 season — an MVP season, a 15-1 season — McDermott was the Carolina Panthers’ defensive coordinator. One of many individuals to directly benefit from Newton throwing for 3,837 yards, rushing for 636 and scoring 45 touchdowns in leading Carolina to the Super Bowl. In 2016, the Panthers went 6-10. In 2017, McDermott was named the 20th coach in Bills history.
This did not stop McDermott from bashing Newton in staff meetings.
One of the Bills assistants Go Long spoke to for this series said that McDermott’s “frame of reference” as a coach was watching Newton — in his mind — “ruin” the Panthers. “He used to come into offensive staff meetings,” this source said, “and just motherf--k Cam Newton.” Aside from the objective lunacy, this created… awkwardness. Before becoming the Bills’ quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator, Ken Dorsey served as Newton’s coach from ‘13 to ‘17. Dorsey was the coach most responsible for Newton’s rise, thus Dorsey understandably wondered if McDermott knew he was sitting in the same room.