American football coach used disturbing 9/11 metaphor to inspire his team
If there was one thing Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott didn't need, it was a team talk scandal. It has been a turbulent year for McDermott, and indeed the Bills franchise as a whole despite coming into the year with big expectations.
Led by Josh Allen, one of the best quarterbacks in the game and the man on the cover of Madden 24, the Bills were many people's favourites to win the AFC East and potentially compete for the top seed in the AFC. Instead, the Bills are fighting for their playoff lives down the stretch, likely needing to win all-but-one of their remaining games to extend their season.
Before the season, defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier was let go after five years in bizarre circumstances. Excuses of a 'break from football' were given, but it felt like an overly-polite firing. Then, after a disappointing start to the season, the Bills, or McDermott more specifically, fired offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey.
Pressure has been building on McDermott, who has not only failed to make the most of his hugely talented team, who almost certainly will not win their division this season, but he has lacked accountability through it all. And that has led to a three-part series of articles from GoLongTD.com, written by Tyler Dunne.
In the latest release, damning details have emerged from a hugely-controversial team talk given by McDermott in 2019 where he used terrorists from the tragic 9/11 attack in New York as an example of strong teamwork. The article read: "At St. John Fisher College in Pittsford, N.Y., McDermott’s morning address began innocently enough. He told the entire team they needed to come together. But then, sources on-hand say, he used a strange model: the terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001.
"He cited the hijackers as a group of people who were all able to get on the same page to orchestrate attacks to perfection. One by one, McDermott started asking specific players in the room questions. ‘What tactics do you think they used to come together?’ A young player tried to methodically answer. ‘What do you think their biggest obstacle was?’ A veteran answered, ‘TSA,’ which mercifully lightened the mood."
Multiple players and coaches who were present on the day have backed up the claims, albeit largely anonymously, but McDermott has since all-but confirmed the team talk in his latest press conference, kicking off the media session with an apology of sorts. "I want to reference the team meeting that has been brought up,” McDermott said.
“My intent in the meeting that day was to discuss the importance of communication and being on the same page with the team. I regretted mentioning 9/11 in my message that day, and I immediately apologised to the team. Not only was 9/11 a horrific event in our country’s history, but a day that I lost a good family friend.”
The 9/11 team talk was not the only thing to cause a stir, either. McDermott is also said to have given a less controversial yet equally bizarre speech regarding a woman's death at Niagara Falls, which is not too far from Buffalo. The article detailed: “In December 2021, locals will recall the news of a woman deliberately driving into the waterway that spills into the falls.
"She drifted down the Niagara River before her vehicle was lodged against a rock about 50 yards from the brink. McDermott studied up and pieced together a speech. The coach explained how members from the Coast Guard did everything they could to save the woman. He built up the drama. Players held on tight for an inspiring apex, and...nothing. He said the woman died. End of story. The complete absence of a point had some players biting their tongues, trying their hardest not to laugh.”
McDermott is likely to receive much more backlash over the 9/11 team talk as another huge Bills game approaches. They have the unenvious task of facing reigning Super Bowl champions, the Kansas City Chiefs, this weekend, knowing they can likely only lose one game at the most between now and the end of the regular season if they want to reach the playoffs. Though, whether they manage it or not, clear signs are emerging that McDermott may not be there come the start of next season.
The articles series paints a picture of McDermott blaming everyone else for his struggles to live up to expectations in Buffalo. It only adds to an existing narrative that was built up after the recent dismissals of both his defensive and offensive coordinators.