Bills HC Sean McDermott not yet sure who will call defensive plays in 2024 NFL season

The Buffalo Bills have a new defensive coordinator, but he may not call plays for the team.
Jan 21, 2024; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott reacts against
Jan 21, 2024; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott reacts against / Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Buffalo Bills again have a defensive coordinator, promoting Bobby Babich to the previously vacant post in late January to prevent him from being poached by one of several circling teams.

And though Babich’s new title would generally imply that he’ll be calling defensive plays for Buffalo, head coach Sean McDermott has not yet decided who will bear that responsibility come the regular season. McDermott, who took over play-calling duties after long-tenured coordinator Leslie Frazier stepped away from the organization following the conclusion of the 2022 campaign, told reporters ahead of Tuesday’s OTA practice that he’ll have a better answer as to who will serve as Buffalo’s defensive play-caller later this summer.

“Not there [on a decision],” McDermott said. It’s probably a more fair question, at this point, when we’re in the middle of training camp, probably. I won’t make a decision before then, if I do I’ll let you know.”

McDermott initially rose to league prominence as a defensive play-caller, serving as the defensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers from 2011–2016. His inheritance of play-calling duties in the 2023 season served as his first time calling plays on a consistent basis since his stint in Carolina; Buffalo’s defense finished ninth in total defense and fourth in points against last year. 

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The veteran coach isn’t opposed to the idea of ultimately transferring play-calling duties to Babich, but it will be a slow process given the fact that the 40-year-old coordinator has never called plays at the professional level; he’ll have the opportunity to do so in intervals throughout the summer.

“There’s going to be intentionality on my part to make sure that, whether it’s practice or preseason games, that Bobby is given that opportunity,” McDermott said. “It’s just a matter of when and for how long that we do that. Being a former play-caller myself, former being six years before I got here and then last year again, you’re always having to knock off some of the rust, you’re always having to get yourself polished and ready to go because you’ve got to be able to process quickly.

“Down and distance, situation, time on the clock, time outs, what you’ve already set up. There’s a lot that happens fast, and so getting yourself to the right call quickly is important. You have to kind of knock some of the rust off.”

Babich was Buffalo’s linebackers coach prior to being promoted to defensive coordinator, a post he was moved to ahead of the 2022 season. He had previously served as the safeties coach after joining the organization as an assistant defensive backs coach in 2017. 

Kyle Silagyi