Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott expressed remorse on Thursday while addressing comments he made about 9/11 during a team meeting in 2019.
"My intent in the meeting that day was to discuss the importance of communication and being on the same page with the team," he told reporters. "I regretted mentioning 9/11 in my message that day and I immediately apologized to the team. Not only was 9/11 a horrific event in our country's history, but a day that I lost a good family friend."
His comments surfaced in the second feature of a three-part series titled "The McDermott Problem," by journalist Ty Dunne. The story was released Thursday on Dunne's platform Go Long.
McDermott didn't refute any aspect of Dunne's story, which says the coach encouraged athletes to view the al-Qaeda militants who crashed two hijacked US passenger jets into the twin towers of the World Trade Center as examples of team players.
Here is an excerpt of the story:
"At St. John Fisher College in Pittsford, N.Y., McDermott's morning address began innocently enough," Dunne wrote. "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. 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."
Dunne included quotes from a group of unnamed team personnel regarding the unfortunate speech.
"I don't know why he's that awkward but his social skills are lacking," an anonymous player told Dunne. "He was trying to bring the team together. It was a horrible, horrible reference. He missed the mark."
Multiple subjects cited in the story expressed an understanding of McDermott's intentions. The coach always aims to "empower and grow the Buffalo Bills franchise," a former player said.
On Thursday, McDermott said he would speak with the Bills separately about his previous comments surrounding the "horrific event." At the conclusion of his statement of regret, McDermott declined to answer a follow-up question about the 2019 address.
"I'm not here to discuss the article that's out there and the things that are mentioned — other than this right here," McDermott said. "Because this right here is very, very important to me and something I take very seriously."
But the 9/11 speech wasn't the only example in Dunne's story. McDermott reportedly gave a bizarre speech about a woman who intentionally drove into the Niagara River, building up details about attempts to rescue her before saying that she died.
"The complete absence of a point had some players biting their tongues, trying their hardest not to laugh," Dunne wrote regarding the Niagara Falls speech.
It's unclear how McDermott currently leads his team meetings. With the Bills off to a 6-6 start, one can only hope he has developed different motivational tactics as they aim to make up ground in the playoff race.