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Thoughts on the Buffalo Bills' "McDermott Problem"

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A commentary by Michael Hurley, Sports

BOSTON -- Football is great. But football can also warp minds.

Consider this one.

According to multiple people who shared information with football writer Tyler Dunne, Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott once spoke at a team meeting in 2019 and credited the 9/11 terrorists for being organized and having effective tactics.

"At St. John Fisher College in Pittsford, N.Y., McDermott's morning address began innocently enough," the passage -- shared by Pro Football Talk -- stated. "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." 

It should go without saying, but just in case: Using the terrorists who hijacked airplanes and killed 2,977 innocent victims as a group with aspirational skills is never a good idea. Not under any circumstance should terrorists be used as a paragon of organization and strong tactics, and football coaches should know without being told that football players will not be inspired when they are forced to participate in meetings in which the 9/11 terrorists are praised for being on the same page.

Naturally, once this story began making the rounds on Thursday, it really made the rounds. Sources were checked, double-checked and triple-checked to ensure that the copy came from reliable outlets.

So when McDermott met with the media on Thursday afternoon, he had to address the topic. He did confirm that he delivered the message in question.

"I want to reference the team meeting that has been brought up. My intent in the meeting that day was to discuss the importance of communication and being on the same page with the team," McDermott said at the podium. "I regretted mentioning 9/11 in my message that day, and I immediately apologized 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."

McDermott said he did not want to address any other parts of the story, which focused on the Bills having a "McDermott Problem."

"Yeah to be honest with you, I'm not here to discuss the article that's out there and the things that are mentioned other than this right here, because this right here is very important to me and something I take very seriously," he said. 

Clearly, now in 2023, McDermott knows it was a bad idea to praise the communication and planning skills of the terrorists on 9/11. Back in 2019, he thought it was a worthwhile endeavor in a team meeting.

It's the type of news item that really makes you shake your head and wonder just how lost in football a man can get.

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