It might not have ever mattered what Sean McDermott did in Philadelphia.
He was never going to be Jim Johnson.
That’s essentially the reason the Eagles fired him from his defensive coordinator job, and now with the Panthers, McDermott told Paul Domowitch of the Philadelphia Daily News it might have been the best thing for his career.
“[Getting fired] is always a possibility in this business,” McDermott said of Andy Reid’s decision to replace him after the 2010 season. “He felt like he had to go in a different direction. For me and my career, my hope and my desire is that I’m a better coach for it.
“Hopefully, 10 years from now, being where I’d like to be, accomplishing goals I’d like to accomplish, I hope I look back and say that was a turning point in my career for the better.”
He’s working for a coach now who has witnessed it firsthand, as Ron Rivera was in Chicago when Buddy Ryan left and Vince Tobin took over as defensive coordinator. So Rivera knows how McDermott struggled to replace the legendary Johnson after his death.
“Following somebody who has had a lot of success, the expectations are almost unfair,” Rivera said. “When I was playing for the Bears, Vince Tobin came in and replaced Buddy after he left [to become the Eagles’ head coach]. Vince never got the respect he deserved because it was Buddy this, Buddy that. But when you look at some of the things Vince did, you say, ‘Wow, that’s pretty doggone good.’
“So when I look at Sean’s situation — and Andy and I talked about it — just the expectation level was so great, Andy thought this would be a great opportunity for Sean to come down here and reinvent who he is.”
McDermott now needs to reinvent the Panthers defense. With the injuries that limited him from a personnel standpoint last year, they finished 28th in total defense and 27th in points allowed.
But with the strides they made on offense, the Panthers only need to get from bad to average to make a big jump this season.
If that happens, no one in Charlotte will be talking about how Johnson would have done it better.