ORCHARD PARK,N.Y. (WIVB)-Bills Head Coach Sean McDermott talked to the media Wednesday as his team prepares for Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
Coach McDermott discussed the teams injuries, facing one of the league’s highest scoring offenses with quarterback Matt Ryan and receiver Julio Jones, his connection to Falcons Head Coach Dan Quinn, and if there will be another anthem protest this Sunday.
Here is a transcript of his remarks:
Opening Statement: Couple things this morning before we get started. Injury wise, injury updates, the following players will not practice starting with Cordy Glenn still with the foot and ankle. Kyle Williams will not practice, as well as Lorenzo Alexander due to scheduled rest days. Marcell Dareus will be limited in practice, and Jerel Worthy is out of the concussion protocol at this time. Finally, congratulations to Stephen Hauschka, the AFC special teams player of the week, for a tremendous effort in last week’s game against Denver.
Q: Could you go into a little bit more detail on the Dareus situation? Obviously, he is making some progress. Is there a good chance he is going to play Sunday or do you have no idea?
A: We are day-to-day right now. He put in a lot of time over the weekend and the last two days here, those being Monday and Tuesday. We feel like we are headed in the right direction but right now it remains day-to-day.
Q: Physically, it is one thing with him. Are you convinced that mentally and emotionally he is on board here?
A: I am. Like I said the other day, we have to continue to improve. That is true of our football team, we have to take that growth mindset approach to growing every day. That starts with myself and goes right through the entire team and Marcell being one of those guys. We have a lot of work to do, anxious to get back on the practice field today. This is a big challenge for us going down into their stadium and a new stadium. We look forward to that challenge. This is a team led by a very good football coach and Dan Quinn, with a dynamic offense and a defense that is playing extremely fast, and a special teams unit that is doing the same. This will be a big challenge for us, and one we look forward to.
Q: You have history with Dan Quinn. Obviously, it goes way back to his first year as a coach, a [defensive] line coach at William and Mary, you were a safety there. Start with those recollections and broaden that out, if you could, to the relationship you guys have developed through the years.
A: When I was a player at William and Mary, Dan was a graduate assistant coach and what happens in college is every year, or every two years, sometimes every three, you get a new flock of graduate assistants that come in even though the head coach remains the same. Dan was one of those coaches that just had it. He had a great way with players. Having that great way with players, he still had a tough minded approach to the game, which being a defensive player and then defensive coach, and head coach now, I really appreciated. He was close enough with the players but not too close in terms of the relationships he was able to form. He had something, even then when I was in college and it’s been fun to watch his career. I pulled out a program over the summer as I was moving and going through boxes. There was a program, a game program, from William and Mary versus VMI, Virginia Military Institute, and on that cover was Dan Quinn and Mike Tomlin on the same staff. It was pretty neat to see and to remember those days.
Q: You competed against each other obviously at the NFL level as well, and as a stepping on point to what you said, have you taken some of his qualities maybe into the mix of your development as a coach and b, what has it been like to face him coordinator to coach or coordinator to coordinator?
A: He has been a tremendous help me to, he really has. Like a number of other coaches around the league and coaches in other sports as well, he has been open using his first couple of years to helping me in my first year, whether it has been just dealing with what happens in your first year, what to expect. I know going as far as they went last year with the Super Bowl run that they were on, and the experiences that came from that experience and sharing some of those valuable lessons he learned along the way. I know his wife has worked with my wife in sharing some of those things that happened on the other end of things, with respect to the wives building community, building family. That has been very valuable and much appreciated on my part.
Q: This is a trend this year because you’re playing the NFC South, so you have some familiarities with teams. Once again, you have Atlanta, you know how good this offense is, specifically Julio Jones. Would it be fair to say that it was a good thing that you saw Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders last week to get you going and ready for a guy like Julio, who nobody can cover, how do you go about trying to stop that guy?
A: Certainly, he’s a tremendous football player, tremendous athlete. The weapons that they have on this offense, starting with the quarterback, with Matt Ryan and what he’s done over the course of his career. Being in the NFC South like I was, I had a chance to go up against, or coach against Matt, I should say, and watch his career really take off. That’s been fun to watch, a young player develop, certainly an elite quarterback. Then, with Julio the same way. Watching him come into the league, had some production early in his career, had a few injuries here and there, and then to really take off the last year or two, been very impressed by that. Now, with the weapons of [Devonta] Freeman, [Mohamed] Sanu, [Tevin] Coleman, all these guys, with [Taylor] Gabriel now, they have multiple weapons to defend. What we have to do is start at ground zero and make sure we are who we are, and that means a fundamentally sound defense in everything we do. We have to play extremely sound defense, team defense, and make sure we’re communicating. I don’t know if you’re ever going to take a player of that caliber away, but you have to know they’re going to make some plays and we have to make plays on our end as well. We look forward to it and it’ll be a big week from a standpoint of us spending time in the film room, knowing what they do best, and earning the right to win.
Q: Matt had a lot of success against your defense last season in both games, against the Panthers, what did you learn from that and how much can you apply that to this current defense now?
A: Matt’s had a lot of success over the course of his career. We’ve had some games where we had the upper hand, if you go back and look at those also. And we had some last year where he had the upper hand. I think it’s been a good battle over the years. He’s a highly competitive guy, as are we and our football team, and we would expect the same. They had an impressive performance last year in all that they did as a team, and what they did in their Super Bowl run. Like I said before, we have a big challenge in front of us, it’s one we look forward to.
Q: Kyle Williams, on Monday, credited you for bringing unity to the locker room and having players speak before practice or at training camp, and he credited that effect for everybody getting to know each other, you never envisioned what was going to happen last weekend when you instituted this, but how much do you think that helped this team get through this past weekend and the obstacles mentally and physically?
A: I appreciate what Kyle said, and I recognize that. I’m going to take myself out of the equation for a second, if I could, and I’m going to put the focus and attention on how our players handled the situation, in terms of they were able to stay focused. I’ve seen them continue to do that, with respect to the game and the last couple of days. I’m very appreciative of that. I think that it really speaks to a team. Being able to communicate, certainly like I’ve talked about, is important. Being able to communicate on the field is important, and that’s really where our focus needs to be this week as we move forward, and focus on our team and the Atlanta Falcons. I really appreciate that about our guys, they care about one another, they respect one another, and we’re able to communicate about things that are important.
Q: Since you’ve had [Patrick] DiMarco on the team, during the recruiting process or just in the time that he’s been here, did you ever shoot the bull about how he felt losing that Super Bowl game?
A: We’ve touched the subject a little bit, a little bit of common ground. Two years ago I was in a similar position, the game was slightly different, albeit like all games are. Last year, with his experience, there’s a lot we can learn from those experiences, of being in big games and what we learn from those situations. We’ve touched the subject, with respect to that as well, ‘hey, what would you have done differently, in terms of as a team, what was said.’ Those are things we can use for our team moving forward, and add to what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, why we’re doing it, because the best way is to learn from other people’s situations. That’s what we try and do here.
Q: In your career, is there anything that has been close to the disappointment of losing the Super Bowl?
A: That’s a tough question just in terms of, that’s what you work for. It’s what we work for. That’s the biggest game and the championship game for us in this business. Certainly disappointing. I’ve been in two and it’s what you work for. It takes time for that to go away but you try and learn from it, like we do [with] every situation, and try and come out better because of it, and that’s the growth mindset you have to have.
Q: Sean, do you have any connection to [Matt] Ryan, going back to [Philadelphia]? I don’t know if there’s anything back there. His family is obviously pretty common with his father and you’re, you know, just geographically.
A: Not really. Just, like, the respect I talked about earlier. I do know the high school that he attended and know some guys that went there that I was friends with. I’m a little bit older, obviously, so we didn’t cross paths that way. But [he] certainly had a great, tremendous high school career. Then, what he did at [Boston College]. I was fortunate enough to be around a pretty good player from BC the last six years, or five years, in Carolina in Luke Kuechly. Luke would share some stories and I know they have a good relationship as well. It just really starts from, I think, a position of mutual respect, at least on my end, and what he’s been able to do and the type of competitor he is.
Q: You talked about their running game before, how they have a lot of weapons in the running game. Do you see teams, because there is so much emphasis on stopping Matt Ryan, as great as he is, and Julio Jones, as great as he is, that the running game can get lost a little bit in terms of attention, maybe preparation, maybe emphasis, whatever?
A: Right. If this is where you’re going, you’ve got Julio Jones, you’ve got Matt Ryan, and you’ve got these other weapons from a receiving standpoint. But if you ignore the running game, then here comes [Devonta] Freeman [and Tevin] Coleman. That’s what I was mentioning earlier, they’re multi-faceted with plenty of weapons and then their offensive line, with what [Alex] Mack has been able to do the last, I believe it’s been two years there. He does a tremendous job inside for their offensive line as well. Like I said, this is a good offense. The stats speak for themselves year after year. It’s a good football team, a well-coached football team.
Q: This will be the third week in a row where there’s sort of a direct coaching connection with the opponent. Carolina [with your connections], and Denver with Rick [Dennison], and this one with you and Dan Quinn. How much does that end up, since you’ve been through this process now the past two weeks, factor into the preparation of how much is devoted to specific – ‘okay, I know this about these guys because I know these guys well.’
A: At the end of the day, the players are going to play the game. Dan and I certainly have a relationship [and are] certainly close. That said, I’ve never really coached with Coach Quinn. We’re focused on playing the game the best way we know how and I’m sure he would say the same thing for his team. We’re just going out there to continue to improve for our football team and try and get better every day, and that’s really what we’re focused on, is that process that was mentioned earlier – not by me [but by John Wawrow].
Q: Sean, two games probably isn’t a trend here but it has been two games where the running game hasn’t worked, especially with LeSean [McCoy]. How concerning is it that this is a team that’s predicated on running the ball, and how concerning is it after two games of not great running production?
A: Yeah, it’s certainly something we have to continue to work on, like a long list of other things we do. We have to get better. We’ve got to go back to work on it, which is why we practice today in a few minutes here and I look forward to watching us improve. That’s one of the areas that we need to improve on, no doubt about it.
Q: Have any players asked you or spoken to you about continuing large-scale protests this week? Do you see that continuing?
A: You know what, I don’t have a crystal ball and we just, obviously [with] yesterday being the day off and today starting early with our morning meetings, we haven’t gotten around [to talking] at this point other than talking football. That communication will continue, but really our focus right now is on this football team and the Atlanta Falcons.