Once an intern for the Eagles in the mid-1990s, Philadelphia native and Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott will return Thursday night to Lincoln Financial Field for the first time as an NFL head coach.
Just don't expect McDermott to get too reflective about the occasion. As the Bills broke training camp Tuesday at St. John Fisher College, the first-year coach had little time to stop and reminisce about his beginnings with his hometown team.
"You guys are getting to know me well enough now that I’m more focused on our team," he said. "I want us to go out and perform the way I expect us to perform. Maybe after the game I’ll have a chance to catch up with some family and friends and that will be nice too."
Among McDermott's family attending Thursday night's game will be his parents, Rich and Avis, as well as his brother, Tim, a former marketing executive for the Eagles and the current chief business officer of Major League Soccer's Philadelphia Union.
Since being fired as Eagles defensive coordinator after the 2010 season, McDermott has made three return trips to Philadelphia, all during his tenure as the Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator -- twice in the regular season (2012 and 2014) and once in the preseason (2013).
"I guess if it were the first time that I was going back to Philadelphia as a coach, it would be a little bit different," McDermott said Tuesday of the Bills' preseason trip this week.
Raised in the Philadelphia suburb of Lansdale, Pennsylvania, McDermott attended North Penn High School for two years before moving to La Salle College High School, where he graduated in 1993. At La Salle, McDermott was a two-time national prep school champion wrestler and a captain in football as a defensive back.
McDermott began working for the Eagles as an intern while he played football at William & Mary. He joined the Eagles full-time late in the 1998 season as a scouting administrative coordinator and later served as Andy Reid's office assistant after his hiring in 1999.
Reid promoted McDermott up the coaching ladder until he replaced Jim Johnson in 2009. McDermott's defenses ranked 12th in yards allowed in both 2009 and 2010, but McDermott was fired after the 2010 season.
"It crushed me early on," McDermott said in June. "I feel like that period of my career, that period of my life, had I not gone through that, I don’t know if I would be here now. What I mean by that is, my whole career had been going [upward] every year. You guys see the résumé. Every year was going [upward]. What I learned from that is, the game is more than just X’s and O’s. It’s more than just scheme."
McDermott was replaced as defensive coordinator by Eagles offensive line coach Juan Castillo, who rejoined McDermott in Buffalo this season as the Bills offensive line coach. Meanwhile, McDermott was offered a job by then-Broncos coach John Fox before Panthers coach Ron Rivera called him.
"Andy really did me a favor, and I didn’t understand it at the time," McDermott said of being fired. "When he called me in, he said, 'Hey, you grew up here. You replaced a legend. I’m not sure it’s ever going to be enough.' Just overall that’s what happens. I was 33, 34 years old. He said, ‘This will help your career.’
"I can’t thank Andy enough for it. It sounds a little weird, but it’s brought Andy and I closer. After that, I think Andy was on to Kansas City. He and I have caught up about it in the time between then and now. I think we’ve both had some laughs about it. He remains one of the biggest mentors in my professional career at this point."