When the Buffalo Bills hired Sean McDermott as their head coach in 2017, the hopes and expectations were clear — get the team back into the playoffs. They hadn’t been since 1999.
When the 2017 regular season closed, the Bills pulled off the feat. Buffalo secured a win over the division-rival Miami Dolphins in Week 17, and coupled with an incredible last-minute win by Cincinnati over Baltimore, clinched the No. 6 seed at 9-7, ending what was the longest drought in all of American professional sports.
— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) January 1, 2018
In his postgame press conference, McDermott wasted no time in thanking the Lord. “Opening up, really I just want to praise God, number one. It was a heck of a year. He continues to bless us,” he said.
The first question he received from the media was, “Could you have ever imagined this happening in your first season as head coach?”
“You know what? I’m a firm believer in faith and I know God brought me here for a reason,” McDermott said. “He brought this group of men together for a reason, so that’s what I fall back on in times like this.”
McDermott continues to believe God has him and his family in Buffalo for a reason, a stance he reiterated last week on a live video chat with “FCA Sports Talk.” He was asked how his faith plays into how he coaches and leads players.
“I believe that God’s plan prevails, and God had a plan, He ordained this to happen for me to come to Buffalo with my family,” McDermott said. “I mean, fit is important, right? This is a blue jeans, work boots style community, and that’s me, that’s how I grew up. And so God had this plan, and He had it planned since I was born, to bring me here and my family for a reason. I still, at the end of the day, am waiting to see, as we continue to move forward, His plan continue to unfold for us in Buffalo … I just know God’s in control.”
The Bills fell to 6-10 in 2018, but improved to 10-6 last season, returning to the playoffs as the AFC’s No. 5 seed. With Tom Brady no longer with New England, the Bills are widely expected to win the AFC East for the first time since 1995.
That would be a big deal for Buffalo, something McDermott got a sense of soon after arriving in Western New York. He once met some fans who simply asked him to get the team to the playoffs so their children could see why they’ve cheered for this team for so long.
“Man, these people are really counting on me,” McDermott said to himself. “I take that to heart. I take that as a responsibility, because not only is it my livelihood and trying to make ends meet for my family — which we’re very grateful and blessed for what we have — but to me it is a partnership. It is a union between the head coach, in this case, and the fanbase, and I take that to heart. I take it seriously.”
He says his faith in Christ helps him handle that responsibility.
“The way my faith has helped is through the preparation, which is so important and I’m so passionate about that, and around my responsibility and my accountability … to our fanbase. There’s a lot of pressure that comes from that. So to balance that all out and not tie myself so closely to every little result, and particularly the ones that don’t go the way we want them to go, my faith has been a huge balancing mechanism for me and my family,” he said.
To stay strong in his faith, McDermott wakes up early for some quiet time with the Lord before his morning workouts. He also has two fellowship groups he works with, noting that he needs to take care of himself if he’s going to lead others well.
Getting outdoors to fish or go on runs are other ways McDermott says he connects with God.
“There are so many beautiful places around Buffalo to get outside and experience nature and God’s hand really on our lives and everywhere around us, with the woods we have here and the lakes and streams. So yeah, it does allow me alone time more than anything, to just be with my thoughts. Sometimes I love it when I’m having some quiet time or I’m thinking about what God has done in my life, and then the wind will blow — like it normally blows in Buffalo. But I just feel sometimes like that’s God saying, ‘Hey, I’m hearing you Sean. I’m thankful that you decided to have a conversation with Me too.'”
In leading the Bills, McDermott says he aims to “live out the right sermon,” meaning he wants his actions and example to be God’s message to those around him. He recognizes the platform for Christ he’s been given and doesn’t want to waste it.
“I just always try to yield to His plan, and know that I’m going to do the best job that I can but bigger than wins and losses is the platform that I have,” McDermott said. “That in and of itself is a responsibility, because the last thing I want God to say is, ‘Sean, you squandered one of the biggest platforms.’ So when I got this job, I made a commitment that I wouldn’t do that. So listen, I want to win more than anyone — at least in my mind more than anyone — but I think being able to use this platform the right way is just as, if not more, important.”
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