McDermott places high value on intangibles, players ‘wired the right way’

Photo of Sean McDermott from

It’s rare for a Sean McDermott press conference to be revealing in any significant way. He’s nearly perfected his role as the master of blandness with aplomb.

So I wasn’t expecting much when McDermott dropped this little bomb during his press conference before Saturday’s morning practice.

When asked how challenging it is to get everyone on the same page with respect to the competition at quarterback and wide receiver positions, McDermott spit out a gigantic clue about how much he values the importance of a player’s mindset.

“Competition brings out the best in us, or it should if we’re wired the right way“.


I nearly fell out of my chair. As ridiculous as all the ‘wyobabble’ seems at times, occasionally a big fat pearl of wisdom will drop in your lap when you least expect it.

As innocuous as this quote may seem, it provides a window into how detailed McDermott is with respect to the mental mindset and emotional make up of players he wants on his team.

Some have made note in the past about how McDermott got more productivity after jettisoning physically gifted players like Ronald Darby, Sammy Watkins, Marcell Dareus, Reggie Ragland, among others.

Photo of Marcell Dareus from

No doubt they are talented players, but obviously they did not tick the right boxes on McDermott’s personality checklist. It’s really quite remarkable how much he prioritizes finding players who are “wired right”.

So exactly what is the most important trait to be “wired right”? McDermott seems to value outstanding mental discipline more than any specific physical trait.

As obvious as the concept of mental discipline may seem to some, it’s likely McDermott’s definition is different. Even Mr. Pegula mentions McDermott’s experience as a high school state wrestling champion is what makes him uniquely qualified to assess a player’s mental fitness for duty in the NFL.

Wrestling is like a physical manifestation of the game of chess. It’s a game of matching wits at least as much as it is a game of physical skill and dominance. No wonder McDermott loves DT Harrison Phillips. Just watching Phillips during his first three training camp practices, it’s easy to see the mental connection they share.

However, it also means that if a player isn’t “wired the right way” as defined by McDermott, he may find himself on the outside looking in. Even at this early juncture, there are a couple of players who might be sitting “on the bubble” because their mindset doesn’t necessarily mesh with McDermott’s.

Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images.

For example, I don’t think it’s a coincidence Shaq Lawson finds himself second on the depth chart at his position at this moment. When McDermott acknowledges openly in a press conference that a player needs to “step it up”, you know there’s a good chance they are on the short list for deportation.

McDermott also suggested Zay Jones was falling behind after being placed on the non-football injury list. It likely didn’t sit well with McDermott that Jones surgery was necessary as a result of a personal conduct issue during the off season. It will be interesting to see how both players navigate their way back into their coach’s good graces, if that’s possible.

One thing is certain. McDermott has a clear vision for the masterpiece he is trying to create. I wouldn’t bet against him. The winds of change are starting to pick up some steam in Buffalo, BiillsMafia. Huzzah.

Editor’s babble: You can find me on Twitter @RobynMundyWYO.

*Views expressed are solely the author’s and may or may not represent the opinion of the owners of the website.

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.

2 Replies to “McDermott places high value on intangibles, players ‘wired the right way’”

  1. I happen to agree with that philosophy. If you row the boat in different directions, no matter how talented you are, you’re not going in the right direction.

  2. Good morning….

    Could McDermott have used those talented players you mentioned —of course he could have.. He had to change the culture of the locker room and set boundaries. he wants his type of players and not the ME FIRST players… We will see how long Dareus lasts in Jax making that type of money, Watkins is talented but is he worth $18 million a year as he has been on 3 teams in 4 years (he is the new Donte Stallworth who had a couple of good seasons and parlayed that into big bucs bouncing from team to team), Darby another talented player who also has been indirectly involved with the rape case & now the groping case of Jameis Wintson and finally Ragland he was jettisoned quickly before he even had a chance to take the field for the Bills.

    The building blocks are being put in for the foundation of the team for now and in the future… The monkey is off their back to make the playoffs now is the time to build off of that. There is no doubt the team is still in the learning process an could take a step backwards as the most important position on the filed is QB and the Bills are in the transition phase…

    They will have to win with a strong running attack and with an improved defense. Something we’ve grown use to hearing over the last 10 years or so.