Get used to different priorities involving ‘process’ approach by Sean McDermott

Photo of Sean McDermott from

It didn’t take long for Sean McDermott to indoctrinate the Buffalo Bills and their community of fans to his various mantras utilizing the concept of “process”. We are supposed to “honor the process”, “respect the process” and most of all “trust the process” in order to fully grasp his philosophy as a football coach.

While most marketing slogans and catchy phrases make our eyes roll for the most part, this one by McDermott actually means something more specific and is different with respect to how he is building a team. When McDermott is asked about what “trusting the process”, he often describes it as a strategy for breaking down goals and objectives into specific components and focusing solely on how one moves through achieving them.

However, there’s also another aspect of his approach that McDermott talks about, often separately, that I believe is integral to his early signs of success that his team is becoming more than the sum of its parts. Having spent the better part of my professional career as a psychotherapist, there are some principles McDermott prioritizes that I’ve not observed in many NFL coaches.

Intangibles > Physical skills

ATLANTA, GA – OCTOBER 01: Head coach Sean McDermott of the Buffalo Bills celebrates beating the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on October 1, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

When McDermott talks about getting players with the right “fit” for his scheme, he’s not just talking about the physical skill set of any given player. First and foremost, this coach considers their personality, and possesses the natural instincts of an effective psychologist.

While I’m not certain how much formal training McDermott has in the field of psychology, it’s clear he embraces the study of human behavior and how it effects team chemistry. Many of you who’ve had the unfortunate experience of reading some of my long posts in the past about team chemistry know that I’m fascinated by how these intangible aspects of the game contribute to success or failure on the field of play.

In my experience, the ability to empathize is arguably one of the most important skills for psychotherapists to develop. For some, this comes naturally. McDermott is one of these individuals blessed with the ability to connect on an emotional and behavioral level almost instantly with people. You can see this quality and mannerisms during his press conferences.

Why should this matter one fig to Bills fans?

It matters because McDermott prioritizes… I would even suggest he cherishes… the development of team chemistry at least as much, if not more so than physical skill set. Why should we care?

Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott speaks with the media following a preseason NFL football game Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017, in Orchard Park, N.Y. The Vikings won 17-10. (AP Photo/Rich Barnes)

Here’s why… because McDermott will run any possible addition/subtraction to the Bills roster through his template of team chemistry before he even BOTHERS to consider their physical skill set. It appears he might even choose to add a lesser skilled player to the team over a more physically gifted player that doesn’t fitĀ hisĀ personality prototype.

Most of you know I’ve begged for a coach like this since Marv Levy retired, so it should come as no surprise I’m “all-in” on this coach and his approach. Time will tell if the focus on team chemistry will bear fruit, but early returns so far look very promising.

So for those of you who struggle with the type of players he brings in or how McDermott goes about building his team based on personality and attitude, get used to it. There will be a continual flow of available players this coach will NOT even consider adding to the roster no matter how physically talented they are.

Editor’s babble: Thanks for reading my meanderings. If you’re a glutton for punishment, you can follow me on Twitter @RobynMundyWYO.

About Robyn Mundy

Robyn Mundy is Editor-in-Chief of the BillsMafia blog at She's a retired oncology nurse & psychotherapist who loves to write about her life-long passion for the Buffalo Bills, and occasionally something of clinical or social relevance. Robyn lives with her husband Gary and their dogs in the foothills of the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming. Robyn is also a proud founding sponsor. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynMundyWYO.

3 Replies to “Get used to different priorities involving ‘process’ approach by Sean McDermott”

  1. Bravo Robyn, well said. While my oldest daughter was studying psychology I suggested the idea of a “sports psychologist” to her, a role that would help teams get the most out of their investment in their players. Their mindset is so critical to their success that anything you can do to help improve it is time well spent. So many distractions- “divas”, contract negotiations, off field and legal issues, etc.
    teams that succeed do so because they really are “teams”, where the measure of their efforts is greater than the sum of their individual contributions- true synergy. talent is critical as well but team mindset and player mentality are critical for success as well.
    watching the Bills this year it seems as if they do have team synergy because the talent level measured individually would not equal what they are accomplishing on the field. not many all-pros on this roster.
    it’s also clear that McD understands this- as witnessed by his roster moves, insistence on cultural standards and game management- example calling time outs at critical moments to stall the other teams momentum before a big play (possibly giving the defense a well deserved breather at the same time).
    i am excited about the future of this team because when the talent does start improving, the sky seems the limit.

  2. I have played many sports, but the chemistry in the football locker room is completely different from any other sport. I got to see it with my sons when they played high school football, and they have bonds that continue on in life.

  3. Good morning…

    Very nice article, I remember Polian and Marv insisting on players that fit their bill… The Bills have had too many players that were Me Me Me over the last 10 years or so. Mario Williams , Sammy, Gilmour, McGhee, Whitner etc and now we have Dareus !!

    You still have to have characters on the team but it seems like McD has the touch that Levi had when he controlled the “Bickering Bills”.

    I know it is only 4 games into the new regime but you can see and sense the difference..