Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott issued an apology after it became public that he referenced the 9/11 terrorist attacks as a successful example of teamwork.
The incident, covered in a piece on the coach in writer Tyler Dunne’s “Go Long” Substack, occurred in 2019. According to several players speaking with the writer, McDermott told the players to replicate the teamwork of the hijackers that allowed them to pull off the attack. At a Thursday press conference, the Bills coach apologized for his remarks, adding that a close family friend had been killed in the attacks.
“My intent in the meeting that day was to discuss the importance of communication and being on the same page with the team. I regretted mentioning 9/11 in my message that day, and I immediately apologized to the team,” he said. “Not only was 9/11 a horrific event in our country’s history, but a day that I lost a good family friend.”
He later added that he lost multiple family friends in the tragedy.
The 9/11 speech was revealed by Dunne in the second part of a three-part series examining problems with the team that had occurred under McDermott. A theme of the piece was accusations from players that he was lacking in social skills.
“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,” Dunne wrote. “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.”
An anonymous player cited the incident as one of McDermott’s awkwardest while he was coach.
“I don’t know why he’s that awkward, but his social skills are lacking,” he said. “Maybe he’s just wound up thinking about ball. You’ve got to talk to the team every day. That’s one where maybe he heard it on a podcast. Next episode! That’s not the one to lead with. He was trying to bring the team together. It was a horrible, horrible reference. He missed the mark.”
The Bills coach quickly became the subject of widespread mockery on social media, with many viral posts on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, poking fun at the incident.