Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott realized his long-stated goal of becoming an NFL head coach on Wednesday when he accepted the Buffalo Bills’ coaching offer.
McDermott will succeed Rex Ryan in Buffalo, where the team announced his hiring on Wednesday.
McDermott, passed over for several head coaching jobs in recent years, finalized the deal after a second interview with the Bills in Boca Raton, Fla., where team owner Terry Pegula has a home.
McDermott, 42, will try to breathe life into a Bills organization that hasn’t been to the playoffs since 1999.
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His hiring leaves Panthers head coach Ron Rivera in the market for a defensive coordinator, although Rivera likely will not look long or far for McDermott’s replacement.
Panthers assistant head coach and secondary coach Steve Wilks is expected to be named McDermott’s successor, according to team sources.
Wilks, 47, interviewed for the Los Angeles Rams’ head coaching vacancy last week and also had drawn interest from Washington for its defensive coordinator opening.
McDermott oversaw a top-10 defense in four of his six seasons with Carolina and was the only coordinator to lead a top-10 unit every year from 2012-2015.
McDermott, a former Philadelphia Eagles assistant, arrived in Charlotte with Rivera in 2011. He oversaw a top-10 defense in four of his six seasons, and was the only coordinator to lead a top-10 unit every year from 2012-2015.
Both Rivera and Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid, McDermott’s boss in Philadelphia, have praised McDermott’s head coaching makeup in recent weeks.
McDermott becomes the second Rivera assistant to land a head coaching job. Former Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski lasted only one season as the Cleveland Browns’ coach, in 2013.
McDermott’s hiring also doubles the William & Mary coaching tree in the NFL. McDermott, a walk-on who became an all-conference safety, was a teammate of Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin at the FCS school in Williamsburg, Va.
McDermott interviewed for the Cleveland and Tampa Bay jobs last year that went to Hue Jackson and Dirk Koetter, part of a trend that saw all seven openings go to offensive coaches.
That offensive-minded cycle continued with Jacksonville’s hiring of Doug Marrone this week.
But Wednesday two defensive coaches got top jobs with McDermott going to Buffalo and Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph being hired by Denver.