ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) – Once again it’s mentor versus mentee as Chiefs head coach Andy Reid and Bills head coach Sean McDermott face each other in the AFC Championship game on Sunday.
That’s of course the big coaching connection as the Bills take on the Chiefs this weekend, but there are also some other coaching ties between the two.
There’s a number of successful coaches in the NFL now that have come from Andy Reid’s coaching tree. McDermott is one of them, but there’s also Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier who was with the Eagles and Reid from 1999 to 2002. Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo was also with those teams from 1999 to 2003.
“I would say being around the coaches I was around at that time was special. Those guys have all gone on to do great things, Andy obviously being one of them, but also Jim Johnson, [John] Harbaugh, Spags [Steve Spagnuolo] who’s the defensive coordinator in Kansas City, and many others,” said McDermott on Friday. “Ron Rivera, Leslie Frazier just to name a few so you know I had a great opportunity to learn from those great coaches, especially at the start of my career, and then we went to four NFC Championship games which is hard to do.”
McDermott won the first meeting against Reid back in 2017 during his first year as head coach of the Bills when Buffalo beat Kansas City at Arrowhead Stadium. Then earlier this season in week six the Chiefs won that game at Bills Stadium.
So now it’s not only a chance to gain a win on his mentor but also in a game with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.
“There really are no emotions, this is a game players are gonna play and I’m gonna coach it along with my staff and we’re extremely grateful to be in this situation and have this opportunity, we’ve earned it and that’s what you do. You work hard and do the best job you can and that’s what we plan on doing this week,” McDermott said.
As usual, McDermott is level-headed going into this game but deep down you have to wonder if there is some extra fuel or motivation to beat the guy who fired him as Eagles defensive coordinator.
But that’s also the guy who gave McDermott is start as an NFL coach and talking with former Eagles linebacker Ike Reese, he shared some of his memories of McDermott in his early years.
“I remember Sean you know he came the first year Andy came so they were here ’99 together, and to watch Sean grow from being a scouting department assistant to being Andy’s personal assistant to being a guy who was the defensive assistant that ran the scout team to growing as a positional coach to being the guy who basically had to step in there and fill the shoes once the great Jim Johnson passed away. I mean Sean has known nothing but pressure in this business,” Reese told News 4 Sports’ Heather Prusak in a zoom interview.
“To see the amount of success he’s had when taking on a project like the Buffalo Bills who hadn’t had a lot of success in recent memory. To see what Sean has done up there, man it just makes you feel proud to know that, for me, it’s funny because that was the guy that was holding up the scout team cards telling us to get lined up correctly. And to watch him now and believe me when I say this, I mean this in all respect and love and as a term of endearment but we used to call him Little Red. Andy was Big Red and Sean was Little Red so he was Andy’s assistant and I mean he was glued to Andy’s hip,” Reese added.
“I’ll tell you what, it’s paid off for him I mean when you’ve got an opportunity to be next to a coach like Andy Reid and Jim Johnson and those guys take you under their wing you had better take advantage of it and clearly Sean McDermott made sure he took advantage of it,” Reese explained.
And when asked about being called “Little Red”, McDermott just laughed.
“We had some characters on those teams but sometimes that’s what makes those teams so special and so good, Ike being one of them. Ike was a great, great man, is a great man. He has a great personality, kept everything loose in the locker room, had a special role on our team as a linebacker and a great special teams player,” McDermott said.
“The names that were on those teams with Donovan McNabb, just to name a few, his personality was good for us, Duce Staley, Hugh Douglas, Brian Dawkins, [Jeremiah] Trotter, all those guys, Brian Westbrook, it just was special because what they brought just personality to our team and to our locker room and keeping it loose but focused at the same time.”
Even when running the scout team, McDermott was serious and locked in Reese says.
“From time to time, we could joke around on the scout team and kind of lose focus and then things get a little sloppy and then Andy’s getting upset because we’re not giving him the right look. So Sean was so intense early in his career with holding up these scout team cards that I vividly remember him snapping at all of us in the huddle like ‘SHUT UP AND PAY ATTENTION! LINE UP HERE, LINE UP THERE” and I remember looking at one of the guys like this dude really needs to take a chill pill. Like he’s taking this scout team a little too serious and first of all you look like you’re about 22 years old and you’re over here yelling at all of us,” Reese laughed.
“So he was so intense at a young age, it’s not surprising that he’s a head football coach because he was always mature sort of for his age and he had sort of that seriousness and focus about him that I’m like man you’re so intense, relax a little bit, just relax a little bit.”
McDermott started off as Andy Reid’s assistant then worked his way up to being several positional coaches then eventually took over as defensive coordinator in 2009.
He was fired after the 2010 season but McDermott has said it was the best thing for him. He then went on to become Carolina’s defensive coordinator and is now the head coach of the Bills, who are one win away from making the Super Bowl, a team that hadn’t made the playoffs in 17 years when he took over.