Extra Credit: Why Bills’ McDermott is a ‘natural’ psychologist

Photo of Sean McDermott from NewYorkUpstate.com.

After nearly ten months of watching Sean McDermott press conferences, some characteristics of his personality are gradually beginning to reveal the man within. With his persistent ‘coachspeak’, McDermott has been able to keep the media at bay with the precision of a nuclear physicist. The man is a ‘natural’ psychologist.

As part of my training as a psychotherapist, one of the many exercises we did to learn our craft is to watch ‘tape’, just like football players do to study themselves and their opponents. In this case, we observe interviews or events to identify clues which lead us to better understand the subject’s behavioral tendencies.

After literally watching virtually every press conference McDemott has done since being hired by the Bills, I’ve made some interesting observations about him that may explain a lot about why he seems so different than other coaches with respect to the emphasis he places on mental toughness and personal integrity.

Photo of Sean McDermott from zimbio.com.

Bear with me regarding the psychobabble. There’s some very good science behind it, and it may help some to understand one of the more unusual head coaches in the NFL today.

There’s a very well researched personality test many of you reading this have probably taken at one point or another in your life. It’s called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and basically assesses four dimensions of personal preference with respect to how individuals process data and prefer to interact with others.

If you are interested in taking the test yourself, you can do so here.

For those who just want the ‘Cliff Notes’, the four dimensions basically assess the following:


This is the first of the four letters in the type indicator. It basically determines the degree to which an individual becomes “restored” by either being with other people or seeking solitude to recharge their batteries.


This dimension examines individual preference with regard to how we process data. People who prefer to focus on basic information to process data are more “sensory” in nature. Those who tend to immediately interpret data and add meaning to it use a more intuitive approach. This is usually hard-wired in people and happens naturally without conscious awareness.


It’s not hard to figure out who are the ‘thinkers’ and who are the ‘feelers’, they often reveal themselves by their language. Just listen to how a person refers to a subject by saying “I think” or “I don’t feel that way”.

This dimension is often misunderstood because it implies that ‘feeling’ people aren’t ‘thinkers’. Nothing could be further from the truth. Remember, what we are looking at here is HOW a person processes data… do you look for logic and consistency, or do you look at the people involved and special circumstances?


Another poorly named dimension here, because there is a popular misconception that JUDGING = JUDGMENTAL. Nope. This dimension refers to how you like to handle data. Do you prefer efficient decision making? Or, do you prefer to keep as many options open for as long as possible before making decisions? As you might expect, Judgers value efficient decision making and Perceivers want as much time and information as possible before making decisions.

Personality Type

The first letter of each dimension are put together to form 16 different personality sub-types. Each type has been extensively studied and some patterns emerge in how each type varies from one another.

For example, I’ve taken this test numerous times over the years with very consistent results… INTJ. Introverted, Intuitive, Thinker, Judger. Yikes (always say I’m probably only marginally more social than the Unibomber Ted Kaczynski).

But the real interesting part here are the two middle dimensions… Sensory/Intuitive and Thinker/Feeler because they combine in some very predictable ways.

A vast majority of people who are primarily ‘intuitives’ are also much more likely to be ‘feelers’ than ‘thinkers’. The combination of “NT” trait preferences is relatively uncommon, and presents a unique type of personality in the workplace.


Photo of Sean McDermott from NewYorkUpstate.com.

I would bet the farm this process-trusting coach would test out as having the “NT” or intuitive-thinking temperament, which makes up about 10.3% of the population of people who have taken the test.

Why should we give a rat’s petunia what temperament type McDermott is?

Because this coach is not the same kind of cat as his peers. The media can try as they might, but they won’t ever be able to penetrate the shield McDermott uses to guard himself against those seeking to get inside his head. It simply won’t work.

I now understand why the Pegulas dropped the mic when McDermott came along. This is a really unusual man in a really unusual situation. Like the Pegulas, he came along at precisely the right time to be in the right place in Buffalo.

Believe him when he says he’s more interested in mental toughness and the “right character make up” over similarly talented players. Heck, I bet he would take a notch down on physical talent if he found a player with the “right mindset”.

And although it might be tempting to think of him as a “feeler”, I would argue the guy is a data processing machine when it comes to analytics. McDermott knows them, he just places them in a different category of importance than most head coaches.

Photo of Sean McDermott from WGRZ.com and USATODAY.com.

If I’m right, and this coach is what we refer to as an “intuitive-thinker”, then throw out believing you can predict what he will do.

Here’s the bottom line to keep in mind as we evolve through the McDermott era… he doesn’t give a flying fart what anyone thinks, he’s going to go about his business doing exactly what he thinks regardless of appearances.

However, don’t be deceived by his pleasant persona, this is a man of substance who is deliberate in everything he says and does. If something doesn’t seem to make sense to us on the outside, you can be sure there’s a strategic plan in place we don’t know about.

He also seems to enjoy cultivating an “us versus the world” mantra within the locker room and demonstrates this masterfully with how he handles the media. If you look at Tyrod Taylor press conferences (and to some extent LeSean McCoy) you may notice how they smirk at the media when answering any questions deemed critical to the team.

Understanding how this coach processes data and his personal preferences with respect to how he interacts with the outside world helps us understand why it seems like McDermott goes to the beat of his own drummer at times. Expect the unexpected from him.

Editor’s babble: If you made it this far, I applaud you. If you can stomach the babble, you can also follow me on Twitter @RobynMundyWYO, but consider yourselves warned. 

About Robyn Mundy

Robyn Mundy is Editor-in-Chief of the BillsMafia blog at BuffaloFAMbase.com. 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.

4 Replies to “Extra Credit: Why Bills’ McDermott is a ‘natural’ psychologist”

  1. Robyn- thanks for the new article and the Myers-Briggs analysis. I am an ENTJ and can relate to how McDermott is coaching the team. The results of the Myers-Briggs only indicates which way a person leans in their most natural condition, but I have learned that people can get outside their comfort zone when it is required. That is why I think he also can develop the personal relationship with his players even though he is very analytical.

  2. Hi Greg,

    Thanks for you comments here. Yup, of course the type indicators are merely a framework for how we interact with our environment. We often must stretch our natural tendencies in order to accomplish a specific goal.

    I think the biggest takeaway from this regarding McDermott is that as an “NT” or intuitive-thinker, his decisions might not always make sense to the majority of the population because he seems to use inductive reasoning as a theoretical framework when he explains why or how he goes about his “process”. Most people are deductive reasoners and that’s what makes him somewhat unique, and innovative.

    He won’t explain his detailed “process” but he expects people to respect it without questioning his intent. McDermott’s seemingly great capacity for empathy enables him to “feel” what a person is experiencing. His exceptional active listening skills seems to allow him to connect with people on a spiritual level with ease.

    He’s truly a remarkable individual and I especially enjoy watching how he negotiates his way with the media.

    I don’t believe much gets by him & also believe everything he does is with a specific intent. For example, on Friday McDermott appeared at his press conference wearing a cross around his neck on the outside of his shirt.

    Why he did so I can’t determine, but I guarantee it wasn’t an accident. I suspect this man does everything in life with intent.

    Thanks again for your comments! Nice to connect w/a fellow “NTer”… I appreciate the rich discussion you bring to our blog.


  3. Verrrry Interrrrrrresting..

    McD and Marv, it’s too early to evaluate McD but so far he has brought accountability to the table. He is firm, fair and consistent–traits I’ve used in sll my years of management and ownership of 2 businesses.

    I bring up Marv Levi because he had the same type of qualities and could motivate all different personalities.