Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott will spend this week studying the three opponents the Panthers could face in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs.
McDermott might have other teams to consider by the end of the week, as well.
With at least six head-coaching jobs open following the annual “Black Monday” firings, NFL observers expect McDermott to draw interest for one or more of the vacancies.
McDermott, 39, architect of the league’s second-ranked defense, said his focus is on the Panthers’ playoff preparations. But the longtime former Philadelphia Eagles assistant did not hesitate Monday when asked if he believes he’s ready to be a head coach.
“I do,” McDermott said.
Assistant coaches on playoff teams with a first-round bye have a one-day window to interview for head-coaching positions, on Sunday.
McDermott said he has yet to hear from any teams.
But McDermott, whose father was a Division II football coach in Pennsylvania, said becoming a head coach is his ultimate goal – when the time is right.
“I’m not going to rush it,” McDermott said. “I’m a guy that believes in faith and whenever that’s meant to be, that’s going to happen. And so be it. Those things happen. They’re a result of good players and good coaches, and I’ve been very fortunate to have both.”
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said he wouldn’t speculate whether he expected McDermott to be contacted for interviews.
Carolina’s defense has made gradual strides under McDermott, who was hired by Rivera in 2011 after being let go in Philadelphia.
The Panthers improved from 28th in total defense in McDermott’s first season to 10th in 2012, a jump that coincided with the arrival of middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, the Defensive Rookie of the Year last season.
This year, the Panthers finished second behind Seattle in total defense (allowing 301.2 yards a game) and scoring defense (15.1 points a game). They also were second in rushing defense (86.9 yards a game).
With a reliance on generating pressure from their front four, the Panthers led the league with a team-record 60 sacks, capped by a nine-sack performance Sunday at Atlanta. The nine sacks were a franchise, single-game record, breaking the previous mark of seven.
That the Panthers (12-4) are one of the NFL’s hottest teams enhances McDermott’s potential candidacy.
“When you win, sometimes good things happen and people get opportunities,” McDermott said. “If that happens, so be it. That’s part of the process. But I’m just focused on getting this defense as good as we can get it for the next couple of weeks in this playoff run.”
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