Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said this week he believed he was ready to become a head coach.
He’s a step closer to getting that chance.
McDermott will interview for the Redskins’ head-coaching vacancy Saturday in Charlotte, two league sources with knowledge of the situation told the Observer on Tuesday.
McDermott, 39, is in his third season with the Panthers after more than a decade in the Philadelphia Eagles’ organization. Under his direction, the Panthers have improved from 28th in the league in total defense in 2011 to No. 2 this season.
Assistant coaches of teams with a first-round playoff bye must wrap up their interviews by the end of the wild-card games this weekend. The Panthers (12-4) have a bye before hosting a divisional-round game Jan. 12.
McDermott, the son of a Division II coach in Pennsylvania, could end up on the radar of one or more of the other five teams looking for a head coach before the week is done.
“When you win, sometimes good things happen and people get opportunities. If that happens, so be it. That’s part of the process,” McDermott said Monday. “But I’m just focused on getting this defense as good as we can get it for the next couple of weeks in this playoff run.”
Washington is looking for a replacement for Mike Shanahan, who was fired Monday – a season after leading the Redskins to the playoffs. Shanahan was 24-40 in four seasons in Washington.
Shanahan’s tenure included three last-place finishes in the NFC East and a messy relationship with quarterback Robert Griffin III. Shanahan benched Griffin with three games remaining this season, and he was blamed by many observers for mishandling Griffin’s 2012 knee injury.
Shanahan’s successor will be the Redskins’ eighth head coach since Daniel Snyder bought the team in 1999. Although general manager Bruce Allen said this week he will have the final say in football decisions, Snyder’s reputation as a meddlesome owner could give some candidates pause.
After hiring an experienced, Super Bowl-winning coach in Shanahan in 2010, the Redskins appear to be looking for an ascending young coach this time.
In addition to McDermott, they have asked to interview Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, according to published reports. Bevell, 43, also is a candidate for the Vikings’ head-coaching post.
McDermott, a teammate of Steelers coach Mike Tomlin at William & Mary, has never been a head coach. After breaking in with Philadelphia as a scouting administrator, McDermott joined Andy Reid’s coaching staff in 2001 and coached several defensive positions while working his way up the ladder.
McDermott took over as defensive coordinator when Jim Johnson died before the 2009 season. The Eagles led the league in takeaways during McDermott’s two seasons as coordinator and finished 12th in total defense in 2010.
But after Philadelphia lost to Green Bay in the wild-card round after the 2010 season, Reid fired him. Within two days, McDermott had interviews set up for the defensive coordinator positions at Denver on John Fox’s new staff and Carolina.
McDermott ended up in Charlotte with Ron Rivera, who had worked with McDermott on Reid’s staff.
The Panthers’ injury-plagued defense struggled during McDermott’s first season, but it became a top-10 unit last season after defensive rookie of the year Luke Kuechly was moved from outside linebacker to middle linebacker.
This year the Panthers finished the regular season second behind Seattle in total defense (giving up 301.2 yards a game) and scoring defense (15.1 points a game). They also were second in rushing defense (86.9 yards a game).
Carolina’s 60 sacks were the most in the league, and tied a team record.
The Panthers have two defensive players going to the Pro Bowl – Kuechly and defensive end Greg Hardy, who tied Kevin Greene’s franchise record (from 1998) with 15 sacks.
McDermott said Monday he was ready to become a head coach when the time is right. That time might be now.
“I’m not going to rush it. I’m a guy that believes in faith and whenever that’s meant to be, that’s going to happen. And so be it,” McDermott said. “Those things happen. They’re a result of good players and good coaches, and I’ve been very fortunate to have both.”
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