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Working as an NFL head coach can be a pretty thankless gig. When something goes wrong, you’re usually the one taking the blame; when things work out, though, the credit often goes to the players. Despite that harsh reality, Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott has been getting plenty of praise this season.

After a seeming eternity of struggles, the Buffalo Bills are back to the AFC Championship thanks in large part to Sean McDermott’s leadership. The coach, however, wasn’t always a big-name NFL boss; in fact, he started his coaching career as Andy Reid’s “butler.”

Sean McDermott’s coaching career lead him to the Buffalo Bills

During his time with the Buffalo Bills, Sean McDermott has led the team back to the top of the AFC East. His NFL coaching career, however, started a bit further south in the NFC East.

After spending a season at William and Mary as a graduate assistant, McDermott joined the Philadelphia Eagles organization. He got his foot in the door as scouting administrative coordinator and, after a year on the job, became an assistant to the head coach. Before long, he worked his way up the defensive ladder, eventually becoming the Eagles defensive coordinator in 2009.

After a tough 2010 season, though, McDermott lost his job. He promptly landed on his feet, though, and joined the Carolina Panthers as Ron Rivera’s defensive coordinator. In 2017, though, he got the chance to run the show himself.

McDermott, of course, joined the Buffalo Bills. During his first season as the franchise’s head coach, he guided the team into the playoffs. While 2018 was a bit of a struggle, things have only gone up since; the Bills made the postseason in 2019 and 2020, finally won a game, and, regardless of what happens this year, seem to have a bright future ahead of them.

Starting out as Andy Reid’s ‘butler’

As mentioned above, Sean McDermott’s first NFL coaching job came in 2001, when he served as an assistant to the Philadelphia Eagles head coach. That coach, of course, was Andy Reid and, according to a former Eagle, McDermott had to handle plenty of grunt work.

“He was basically Coach Reid’s butler, you know what I mean?” former Eagles defensive back Sheldon Brown told Matthew Fairburn of The Athletic. “He was carrying the bags for [Reid’s wife] Tammy and stuff on flights, when we get off the plane to the elevator to hotel.”

McDermott wasn’t just carrying bags and doing grunt work, though.

“Former Eagles remember ‘Little Red’ following ‘Big Red’ everywhere he went,” Fairburn continued. The young coach was also known to carry—and then quickly fill up—a notebook, jotting down lessons from Reid and other members of the staff. Based on his success in Buffalo, it’s safe to assume he learned a thing or two during those early days in Philadelphia.

Andy Reid had some high praise for Sean McDermott ahead of the AFC Championship

Almost two decades after Sean McDermott was tasked with carrying Andy Reid’s luggage, the two men will meet under much different circumstances. On Sunday, January 24, the coaches will square off in the AFC Championship.

Ahead of the game, Reid made it clear that he still thinks highly of McDermott; even with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line, the Chiefs head coach had nothing but praise for his former butler.

“Look forward to the challenge of playing the Bills. Good football team, well coached. Sean’s done a tremendous job there. He’s got really good coordinators, head-coach caliber coordinators there. They’re just a very good football team,” Reid explained, according to Nick Wojton of Bills Wire. “It’s tremendous. [McDermott] deserves to be Coach of the Year … He’s really done a nice job with that whole program.”

Regardless of what happens in the AFC Championship or at the NFL Awards, though, Sean McDermott has certainly proven himself to be a talented head coach. Not bad for a former Philadelphia Eagles “butler.”


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