Sean McDermott, whose Buffalo Bills will host the New England Patriots this Sunday, knows Cam Newton well.
Before Newton joined the Patriots this summer, he spent nine seasons with the Carolina Panthers. McDermott was with him for six of those years, serving as Carolina’s defensive coordinator from 2011 (Newton’s rookie season) through 2016.
He remembers their time together fondly.
“There were a lot (of good memories),” McDermott, now the Bills’ head coach, said Wednesday in a video conference. “He’s certainly a great player on the field. I think people don’t always know who he is off the field and they wonder.
“Cam and I, our relationship goes back a long time, and he’s a real joy to be around, a real pleasure of a young man just in terms of the way he handles himself with all the attention he’s gotten over the years. He was always very respectful of me and very kind to me and my family, and I’ll never forget that. I’ll always remember that, and I think my young kids will, as well.”
McDermott had a front-row seat for many of Newton’s most productive seasons, including his NFL MVP campaign in 2015, which ended with a loss to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50. He believed the 31-year-old quarterback would fit in well in New England.
“I thought it would be a good marriage,” McDermott said. “Cam’s been to the promised land in terms of what we can do in this business, in terms of the level of his play. With the coaching staff they have there, I figured that it would be a very good marriage.”
Newton got off to an impressive start with the Patriots but has struggled mightily of late, throwing zero touchdowns and five interceptions over his last two games. New England lost both to fall to 2-4 on the season, 2 1/2 games back of the AFC East-leading Bills.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick benched Newton late in last week’s 33-6 loss to the San Francisco 49ers but said he will start Sunday against 5-2 Buffalo.
“Cam’s a really good player, a former MVP of this league for a reason,” McDermott said when asked about Newton’s poor play. “I know what Cam can do. I’ve seen him in practice over the years in Carolina there. He’s a heck of a player. … We know full well what he’s capable of.”
McDermott also knows how to stop Newton. When the two faced off for the first — and, to date, only — time in 2017, the Bills held Carolina’s offense to three field goals, sacked Newton six times and limited him to 27 rushing yards in a 9-3 Panthers win.
Two weeks later, Newton threw for three touchdowns and ran for another as the Panthers upset the Patriots 33-30 at Gillette Stadium.
Sunday’s matchup will pit a slumping Patriots offense (28 total points over their last three games) against a surprisingly ineffective Bills defense (21st in DVOA, down from seventh last season).