NFL

Bills coach Sean McDermott apologizes for referencing 9/11 hijackers in team meeting 4 years ago

McDermott reportedly cited the hijackers while stressing the importance of communication during a team meeting in 2019.

FILE -Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott talks with reporters following an NFL football game against the New York Giants in Orchard Park, N.Y., Sunday Oct. 15, 2023. The Buffalo Bills enter their bye week off at 6-6 and stinging from a series of close calls and last-game collapses. The latest was a 37-34 overtime loss at Philadelphia in which the Bills squandered leads in the final two minutes as well as overtime. (AP Photo/ Jeffrey T. Barnes, File) AP

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — An emotional Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott acknowledged regret on Thursday for crediting the 9/11 hijackers for their coordination during a team meeting four years ago.

McDermott had cited the hijackers while stressing the importance of communication. Upon realizing how his message was being interpreted, McDermott said he called a second team meeting an hour later to apologize to his players. And he planned to do so again with his current team on Thursday, after an article posted on the Substack page of NFL writer Tyler Dunne, citing numerous unnamed sources, revealed what McDermott had said at the meeting during training camp in 2019.

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“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 during an unplanned appearance in the Bills’ media room.

“As I mentioned to the team then that I regretted and apologized for me not going a good enough job of communicating my point, I’m going to do the same with the team today,” he added. “So if there’s anyone new, they understand how important that is to me and my family because it’s an important event, a horrific event in our history.”

McDermott emphasized his point by tapping the podium several times. He paused on several occasions, choosing his words carefully while tears welled in his eyes.

The article cites McDermott as referencing “the hijackers as a group of people who were able to get on the same page to orchestrate attacks to perfection.”

Nearly 3,000 people were killed on Sept. 11, 2001, when hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania. It was the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

McDermott did not dispute what was reported about his comments during the meeting. He first became aware of the report through the team’s vice president of communication, Derek Boyko, and felt it necessary to address the subject right away.

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“When Derek shared this particular piece, I said, ‘Stop right there because this is important to me,’” McDermott said.

The 49-year-old McDermott is in his seventh season in Buffalo, where he is credited for transforming a losing team into a contender. The Bills made the playoffs in his first season, 2017, to snap a 17-year playoff drought, which stood as the NFL’s longest active streak. Buffalo has made the playoffs in each of the past four seasons and is the three-time defending AFC East champion.

With a 68-41 record, he ranks second on the franchise list in victories, trailing only Hall of Famer Marv Levy. McDermott rose up the NFL ranks as a defensive coordinator, first with his hometown Philadelphia Eagles and then with Carolina.

However, McDermott’s performance has come under scrutiny as Buffalo (6-6) has underachieved this season. Offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey was fired last last month, and the team is outside playoff position in the AFC. The Bills play at Kansas City (8-4) on Sunday.

“If anyone misinterpreted or didn’t understand my message, I apologize I didn’t do a good enough job of communicating clearly the intent of my message,” McDermott said, relating what he told his players in 2019. “I felt it was important then, and I still feel like it’s important.”

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McDermott’s apology was the latest off-the-field issue to emerge for his team. Star pass rusher Von Miller was charged last week with felony domestic violence for an alleged assault on the mother of his children.

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