Why McDermott preaches ‘love’ in a ‘macho’ sport

Photo of Sean McDermott from buffalonews.com.

Among the many impressive traits Sean McDermott possesses as head coach of the Buffalo Bills, pushing cultural boundaries in the locker room might be one of the most interesting approaches I’ve seen in the NFL to date. Those who know me no doubt roll their eyes every time McDermott mentions the word ‘love’ as an important theme in creating a successful NFL franchise.

My rants on the old Buffalo Bills Message Board (BBMB) about the importance of team chemistry and culture from the early aughts are now left somewhere floating in cyberspace. Most members at that time are now celebrating the fact they will never be recaptured so I could post them all here.

Sean McDermott’s spiritual approach to coaching is a remarkable – and a refreshing counter to teams who solely value physical skills. Throughout all of the Bills tumultuous history, I’ve yearned for a coach who embraced the psychological and spiritual aspects of becoming a team.

Photo of Ron Howard from purpleclover.littlethings.com.

If I didn’t know better, I would have thought ‘Opie’ came straight out of the baby boomer era of hippies. Love and peace. You know, that stuff our generation basically sold off for the love of mostly material things?

Sigh… so how did McDermott become a self-studied psychologist and leader of his flock who preaches love as a vital component to succeeding in a violent sport?

Watching a McDermott interview for me is like Erik Turner from cover1.net getting the all-22 video from the latest game. McDermott is fascinating for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is his very different view of the world. Some of the best laughs I get these days is watching the face of media members when McDermott answers a question about culture.

What did he just say?

Photo of Bills’ GM Brandon Beane from buffalonews.com.

You can be sure Brandon Beane is the partner in the marriage who keeps all the numbers and data crunching going while McDermott looks deep into the eyes of a player to see what his soul is all about. The two are a perfect marriage of left-brain analytics and right-brain psychospiritual babble.

It takes courage to be bold and different, something Sean McDermott was blessed with in abundance, likely from birth. He’s becoming more comfortable communicating with the media and conveying exactly what he wants you to know and nothing more.

However, McDermott also will roll out a point of view about a player straight from left field and leave interviewers not quite sure how to respond. When he talks about a players loving each other, he also proudly expresses his love for each of them on a regular basis. Who does that?

It’s like you can’t give me enough space to babble about how much I love this coach. He speaks my language like no other coach I’ve ever observed in any sport. Sean McDermott is so comfortable with himself he can be brave with his emotions because he is a fearless competitor on every level. I get this man, like… totally.

This season we shall see the beginning of how Sean McDermott’s philosophy of coaching plays out. HIs first two seasons don’t really count because they had to get rid of the players who wouldn’t buy in and fix the salary cap. Now we’re just beginning to see the fruits of his labor of love.

I dig it.

Editor’s warning: More than any particular player or position group, I’ll be analyzing the culture club being created at One Bills Drive by Sean McDermott and his staff all season. You can find me on Twitter @RobynMundyWYO.

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.

8 Replies to “Why McDermott preaches ‘love’ in a ‘macho’ sport”

  1. Totally agree Robyn. I’ve seen it in youth sports as well. It helps connect players to each other and they play for each other rather than just themselves. It’s a greater mission and a driving force. The bench reaction to Wade’s TD is indicative of that group/team ethic. Total enthusiasm for a person who works hard, is one of them and fits the culture, even though he’s at the bottom of the depth chart.

    • Hi Joe!

      I agree with you about love up and down the depth chart. Just watching the reaction the team had to Christian Wade’s touchdown said it all! Thanks for all your support :)

  2. So true Robin, what I notice most when watching the first preseason game was how hard all the units played… Not just the first string but the 2nd string and fringe players seemed to be in position to make plays and they hit a ton… There will be some difficult cuts this year, you were correct in that it took a couple of years to weed out the players that didn’t buy in and get out of cap purgatory…

    • Hi Goose! We really haven’t seen this type of culture since the days of Polian/Levy. Chan Gailey had a pretty good thing going with his players and I think if he had better talent to coach… his teams would have made the playoffs. Thanks, Goose!!!

  3. Robyn, I loved this last post of yours! I am eager to learn more about this ‘culture’ the media keeps referring to that Coach McDermott has been preaching about since he first stepped foot at One Bill’s Drive. No one has been able to really define it. Your recent post is the closest I’ve received to really explain it. No wonder our players jump up and down, rejoicing when a fellow comrade beats the odds and makes an astounding play as if they were still in college. Fans of the Bill’s Mafia eat this up. We love the spirit of the Coach McDermott era!!
    A long-time hardcore Bill’s fan

    • Thanks for reading and the kind words, Kevin. Culture and team chemistry are areas I’ve been very interested in and have been writing about for 20 years. It matters and we’re just starting to see why. Watch what happens with the Raiders this year if you want to see a mess in the making. Antonio Brown is exactly the kind of guy you DON’T want on your team!