ORCHARD PARK — Sean McDermott was interested in discussing coaching moves, including his own status.
During his end-of-season press conference, McDermott declined to answer whether Joe Brady would return become the full-time offensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills or if he would continue to call the defensive plays next season. Both McDermott and general manger Brandon Beane did, however, offer praise Brady’s work taking over with seven games left in the regular season after his predecessor Ken Dorsey was fired.
The Bills averaged 377.9 yards and 27.1 points per game in nine contests — including two postseason games — under Brady, both slight increases during the first 10 games under Dorsey. More importantly, the Bills went 7-2 with Brady calling the plays.
But the Bills have stopped short of removing the interim tag from Brady, despite strong support from players, including quarterback Josh Allen.
“I thought Joe did a really nice job coming in and building great communication, collaboration, a vibe with Josh,” McDermott said. “And then I think you saw the results of that through the course of I believe it was six games and so I thought he did a very nice job in that regard.”
McDermott didn’t say directly whether the Bills would interview outside candidates for the job, but regardless of who the Bills hire, they will also need a quarterbacks coach after Brady was elevated from that position.
“I thought Joe did a really good job,” Beane said. “… Like anything, if (assistant GM) Brian Gaine comes over and takes over as GM, he may like some of the things I do, but he may want to do a twist on a few things. Mid-season, that’s kind of hard to do. … And so to do that midstream, I think Joe did a really good job and deserves serious consideration for this job.”
There are likely to be some changes for whoever calls the plays, as Brady put his own spin on the offense implemented by Dorsey, lacking the time install his own system while taking over in the middle of the season. Although most NFL offenses share similarities, Brady learned under current Broncos coach Sean Payton while they were in New Orleans and may want to install some of those principles as the full-time play-caller.
“I think got back to some simpler concepts,” Allen said. “Did simple better with him. And I think, again, didn’t have his entire touch and his entire flair on this system. So I know if that’s the route that we went, there’d be a little bit of change in terms of systematically what we would be doing, which I’m hoping for, and having some good talks with him.”
Brady especially excelled in the running game, with the Bills averaging 156.4 yards per game, almost 40 yards per game more than Dorsey and Allen’s yards rushing went from 24 per game to 47. But that also came at the expense of the passing game, which declined 27 yards per game.
Allen also averaged just 4.8 yards per attempt against the Chiefs in the playoffs, his lowest total since 2021, as the Bills struggled all season to find throws downfield. Their top deep threat, Gabe Davis, also went without a catch four times under Brady, although Khalil Shakir emerged as a consistent threat with Stefon Diggs declining in production.
Diggs, whom Beane still believes is a No. 1 receiver, averaged just 48.9 yards and caught three touchdowns over the last 13 games, including the playoffs. The short passing game and ball-control offense against the Chiefs was the latest example that has brought people to believe McDermott prefers a run-first offense.
“You throw to win and that has been my philosophy since Day One pretty much here,” McDermott said. “Especially since Josh has grown into a player and the quarterback that he has, really starting in ’19 after Josh’s first season. So that has been my philosophy since that year in particular, and I believe in that. Now I do believe though that you’ve got to be able to control the line of scrimmage and run when you need to run. And I like the way that we’ve been able to blend that in particular this season.”
McDermott had less to say about his future as the defensive play-caller, although Beane had no reservations about him continuing to do both jobs.
After Leslie Frazier decided to step away following last season after six years as the defensive coordinator — Beane said his contract will expire in the coming weeks — McDermott decided to call the plays for the first time since being a defensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers in 2016.
The Bills ranked fourth in scoring defense (18.3 points per game) and ninth in total yards (307.2) this season, although the back end of the season was smoother than the first. The Bills gave up 474 yards to the Jacksonville Jaguars and surrendered three game-tying or go-ahead drives in the final two minutes.
Buffalo buckled down in the final five regular-season games, allowing 276.6 yards and 16.8 points per game. They also allowed only two 300-yard passers during the season, but were battered by injuries and gave up 7.7 yards per play against the Chiefs in the playoffs.
The Bills have also given up 441 yards per game in their last four playoff losses, all of which occurred with the team using McDermott’s scheme, even if Frazier called the plays in the first three.
“If he feels he needs to put someone else to call the plays, we would do that,” Beane said. “If he is like, ‘Man, yes, I can do this. I want to do it again,’ then we would go that because there was nothing that left me saying he couldn’t wear both hats.”
Defensive backs coach John Butler called the defensive plays during the final preseason game against the Chicago Bears, while senior defensive assistant Al Holcomb was previously a defensive coordinator in Arizona and Carolina and defensive line coach Eric Washington was also a defensive coordinator in Carolina for two seasons.
Linebackers coach Bobby Babich may get a shot as a defesnive coordinator after NFL Network reported the New York Giants requested an interview. Babich has been with the Bills since 2017, first as an assistant defensive backs coach, then as safeties coach before taking over for his father, Bob Babich Sr., as linebackers coach last season.
“Bobby is a good coach,” McDermott said. “He’s developed players, and I think when you evaluate a coach, it’s are you taking what you have and making it better? And I think it doesn’t need to get any more complex than that. And Bobby’s done that.”