Panthers' McDermott has a lot on line vs. team that let him go

jperson@charlotteobserver.comNovember 23, 2012 

PANTHERS0816_09

Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott jogs to the team's final training camp practice at Wofford College on Wednesday, August 15, 2012. Jeff Siner - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

JEFF SINER — jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

The Philadelphia Eagles’ game notes this week feature two sentences on Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott under the “Notable Connections” heading.

The Eagles used five lines to describe McDermott’s history with the team, which somehow seems insufficient for a Philadelphia-area native who ate, breathed and lived the “Iggles” – in the Philly vernacular – for most of his life.

The Eagles-Panthers matchup on “Monday Night Football” might not move the meter in middle America. But it’s a special game for McDermott, whether he admits it or not.

“He hasn’t let anybody see it,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “(But) this is a chance for him to show what he’s capable of.”

In other words, to show Eagles coach Andy Reid he let the wrong guy go.

McDermott spent his entire 12-year professional coaching career with the Eagles before Reid fired him as Philadelphia’s defensive coordinator after the 2010 season. The Eagles had a one-and-done playoff appearance in 2010, but their 377 points allowed were the team’s most since 1974.

Reid tried to keep McDermott’s firing quiet until he found a job, which didn’t take long. A few days after being let go, McDermott accepted an offer from Rivera after talking with former Panthers coach John Fox about the Broncos’ defensive coordinator position.

In a move that was panned nationally, Reid decided to replace McDermott with offensive line coach Juan Castillo, who was fired last month after a Week 5 loss to Detroit.

McDermott said he holds no grudges against Reid, who brought McDermott on in an administrative role and promoted him up the organizational ladder. McDermott, who coached the Eagles’ secondary and linebackers at different times, succeeded the popular Jim Johnson as coordinator after Johnson died of cancer in 2009.

“Andy’s a heck of a coach. He’s got a great staff. They do a great job, all the way from the head coach to the trainers,” McDermott said this week. “What I’m focused on, and what we have to be focused on, is Philadelphia. It’s not Sean McDermott versus the Philadelphia Eagles. It’s the Carolina Panthers versus the Philadelphia Eagles.”

McDermott, 38, grew up in suburban Philadelphia and was at the old Veterans Stadium in 1995 when the Eagles beat Detroit 58-37 in a wild-card playoff game.

“I think Philadelphia scored every way possible – on special teams, offense and defense. It was a great game,” McDermott said. “I was in the crowd that night. It was a great environment.”

After an all-conference career as a safety at William & Mary, McDermott returned to Philly to work for his hometown team. He was on Reid’s staff as the Eagles went to five NFC championship games and made the Super Bowl following the 2004 season.

“When I was up there we won a lot of games. … I learned a lot from Andy Reid, just like I learned a lot from Ron Rivera,” McDermott said. “It will be an exciting environment. ‘Monday Night Football’ in Philadelphia is always exciting. The fans will be out early, as they always are. I know what that’s about. I grew up in that town.”

McDermott’s family still lives in Philadelphia. His brother, Tim, is the Eagles’ chief marketing officer.

But McDermott said he’s not that familiar with the Eagles’ defensive personnel because of player turnover.

Reid, in his 14th season as Philadelphia’s coach, has come under fire with the Eagles (3-7) in the midst of a six-game losing streak. While McDermott still talks to Reid occasionally, the Panthers (2-8) have their own problems.

Like Reid, Rivera also could be on his way out.

“Both of those men are fine football coaches. In this profession, sometimes things fall your way. Sometimes they don’t,” McDermott said. “Look, they’re struggling and we’re struggling. Right now I’m most focused on us and how we’ve got to improve our situation.”

The Panthers’ defense is improved over last year, when injuries forced McDermott to adjust his scheme. Carolina is in the middle of the pack in most of the NFL’s defensive rankings this season.

But the Panthers have allowed three game-winning drives, including squandering an 11-point, fourth-quarter lead last week in a 27-21 overtime loss to Tampa Bay.

“What Sean has done and what our defensive coaches have done is really solid,” Rivera said. “We’ve had a chance to win eight of the 10 games we’ve played. So maybe there is some criticism we could take, but throw in what we’ve accomplished – kudos to those guys.”

Reid said he sees Johnson’s influence on McDermott, who picks his spots to blitz.

“Jim didn’t blitz a lot, but when he did it was at crucial times,” said Reid, adding the Panthers’ physical defensive line play also is reminiscent of the Eagles under Johnson.

McDermott said there is mutual respect between him and his former boss.

“I know he’s supporting us, just like we support him,” McDermott said. “That’s kind of the brotherhood of this profession.”

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