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4 top Buffalo Bills coaching candidates to replace Sean McDermott in 2024

The Buffalo Bills signed head coach Sean McDermott to a contract extension this summer, seemingly taking him off the NFL coaches hot seat. However, recent developments for Buffalo suggest a change could be on the horizon making it time to evaluate Bills coaching candidates for 2024.

After another ugly playoff showing this past winter, McDermott made the call to part ways with defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. He took control of the defense, taking over a top-heavy unit that relied on a few stars while Ken Dorsey handled the offense.

Related: Buffalo Bills draft picks 2024

  • Sean McDermott coaching record: 67-40 with the Buffalo Bills

Cutting ties with a respected defensive coordinator immediately puts more pressure on a head coach to perform. Then, as Buffalo began to slide this season due to injuries, McDermott amplified the pressure on himself by firing Ken Dorsey despite the team’s success offensively. Buffalo’s head coach has put himself under the microscope and based on the team’s performance over the last 10 months, he could be responsible if a change is made at head coach.

Let’s examine our top Bills coaching candidates to replace McDermott.

Ben Johnson, Detroit Lions offensive coordinator

Syndication: The Providence Journal

No one would blame the Buffalo Bills for keeping McDermott as head coach when offensive coordinator Brian Daboll started receiving head-coaching interest. However, it’s undeniable that the departure of one of the NFL’s top play-callers had a negative impact on Allen. If McDermott is fired, brilliant offensive minds need to be at the top of the Bills coaching candidates list.

  • Jared Goff stats (last 26 games): 99.2 QB rating, 43-12 TD-INT, 66.3% completion rate, 7.6 yards per attempt, 267.1 passing yards per game

Related: Why the Buffalo Bills’ Super Bowl window might be closed

  • Josh Allen stats (last 26 games): 96.6 QB rating, 54-25 TD-INT, 66% completion rate, 7.5 yards per attempt, 264.7 passing yards per game

Ben Johnson is one of the best game planners and in-game strategists on either side of the ball. Last season, the Detroit Lions offense finished fifth in scoring (26.6 PPG), recording the fourth-highest yards per play average (5.9) with the fourth-best red-zone touchdown rate (66.2%). This year, the Lions’ offense has been just as good despite injuries to the offensive line, at running back and wide receiver.

Buffalo obviously struggles at drafting and developing wide receivers, with the absence of a go-to No. 2 target proving to be one of the club’s main issues offensively. Even if that isn’t addressed in 2024, Johnson is the type of coach who can scheme up open looks for wide receivers and make attacking the short and intermediate areas much easier for Allen.

Frank Smith, Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator

NFL: Frankfurt Games-Miami Dolphins Practice
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A few years ago, Mike McDaniel was one of the best-kept coaching secrets in the NFL. Now, he’s one of the best coaches in football with an eye for offense that has created a historically great offense in Miami. One of McDaniel’s first hires could be the next big name in football.

Related: Buffalo Bills’ Sean McDermott addresses firing Ken Dorsey

Profiled in-depth by Jeff Howe of The Athletic, Smith has the resume and recommendations to attract the attention of NFL teams. While he didn’t work with McDaniel in San Francisco, Smith served worked as the Los Angeles Chargers run game coordinator and offensive line coach in 2021. He’s also coached tight ends (2015-’20). In Miami, he’s been instrumental in Tua Tagovailoa’s success over the last two seasons. As McDaniels described, Smith has everything you want in a coach.

“He has a thorough understanding of the game and is a great teacher, which is really what coaching is all about. He also has a unique ability to anticipate problems before they arise, be that on the field or in administrative-type things related to schedules, questions that will come up with players or coaches, etc. He operates on a daily basis with a passion, positivity and humility that is rare and sets him apart.

Mike McDaniel on offensive coordinator Frank Smith

It’s certainly possible Smith might not be able to coach Allen out of his problems, the 27-year-old quarterback is who he is at this point. As the Bills” head coach, however, Smith could improve the effectiveness of the Bills’ rushing attack, help build up this offensive line and run an adaptive system that can adjust to different opponents and allow this team to thrive in 2024 and beyond.

Brian Johnson, Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator

NFL: Washington Commanders at Philadelphia Eagles
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Our primary focus with the Bills coaching candidates for 2024 is on brilliant minds who can help Allen and this offense. We saw the impact Daboll had a few years ago and Buffalo can’t risk losing a coach like that again.

In his first season as the Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator, Brian Johnson is overseeing a unit that ranks third in scoring (28 PPG), 10th in QB rating (97.0) and leads the NFL in third-down conversion rate (50 percent) entering Week 11. He’s done this despite Jalen Hurts playing through injury and the Eagles’ offensive line regressing a bit.

Related: NFL defense rankings

There’s another reason to like Johnson. He’s thrived working one-on-one with dual-threat quarterbacks. Johnson is credited with overseeing the development of Dak Prescott (Mississippi State’s QBs coach 2014-’16), making Kyle Trask an All-SEC QB in 2020 and maximizing Hurts’ skills and overseeing his development as quarterbacks coach (2021-’22) and now offensive coordinator.

Bobby Slowik, Houston Texans offensive coordinator

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Houston Texans
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Ben Johnson would be a slam-dunk hire for Buffalo and the ability to coach Josh Allen might be enough incentive to land him. If not, the NFL’s next version of Johnson might be Houston Texans offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik.

NFL teams want coaches who’ve been mentored by Kyle Shanahan and can implement a version of the Shanahan offense. Not only is Slowik doing that in Houston, but he’s turning a league-worst offense in 2022 into an elite unit in 2023 with a rookie quarterback under center. Keep in mind that very few liked the Texans’ roster coming into the season.

Texans’ offensePPGTotal YPGYards per Play3rd Down Conversion
202217.0 (30th)283.5 (31st)4.7 (32nd)30.32% (31st)
202324.1 (10th)372.6 (6th)5.7 (7th)41.13% (13th)
There are risks with Slowik. He’s only 36 years old and this is his first season as an offensive coordinator. However, having spent more than a decade learning from Shanahan, McDaniel and Robert Saleh has clearly influenced how Slowik calls games. NFL teams are also now more willing than ever to hire young head coaches. If Buffalo could pair Slowik with an experienced staff, including a defensive coordinator with a background as a head coach, he could help turn the Bills around.

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