Bills head coach Sean McDermott speaks with the media on...

Bills head coach Sean McDermott speaks with the media on Thursday in Orchard Park, N.Y. Credit: AP/Jeffrey T. Barnes

We use a lot of metrics and analytics when discussing who should be named the NFL's Coach of the Year toward the end of every season.

It usually comes down to wins. Either it’s an overwhelming number of them or a surprisingly decent number of them. It’s why, respectively, Nick Sirianni of the Eagles and Brian Daboll of the Giants have been in the running for most of this season.

You can’t have too good a roster, though, because then it seems as if you aren’t doing anything special. It’s one of the reasons why Bill Belichick has nine Super Bowl appearances, six wins and only three Coach of the Year trophies. Sorry, Andy Reid.

There are plenty of other reasons we lean on to honor one of the 32 head coaches each year, too: gutsy fourth-down calls, revolutionary schemes, personnel deployment. All of it has to do with football.

Sean McDermott needs to claim the award this season in a landslide, and it has nothing to do with how many games the Bills have won or wind up winning. Don’t even bother looking at their record. It has nothing to do with any plays he has installed or game plans he has concocted, either.

He’s earned it based on the nine words he said on the field in the aftermath of Damar Hamlin’s terrifying situation Monday night in Cincinnati when the opposing coach, the Bengals' Zac Taylor, came up to him and asked if there was anything he could do to help.

“I need to be at the hospital with Damar,”  McDermott replied, according to Taylor.

Nine words. So simple. So sad. So true.

A short little sentence — one McDermott said he doesn't even remember saying in the fog of the moment — that sums up the essence of coaching not just in the NFL but for every sport at every level.

It’s about being there for the players when they need you the most. It’s about recognizing the right thing to do at any given moment and then doing it. It’s about having every uncertain, tear-filled eyeball on the team pressing into you and not flinching from the responsibility of being the leader, even when you want so much to turn your own eyes elsewhere and have someone else make the hard decisions.

It’s about gathering the team around you on the field, bringing them to the locker room, bringing them back to Buffalo. It’s about having hard, frank, emotional discussions about what was seen and what was felt. It’s about organizing meetings and making sure everyone is taken care of before you allow yourself to sit down and process the worst 30 minutes of your career, maybe the worst 30 minutes of your life.

“I really feel like I did what anybody else would have done,” McDermott said on Thursday in his first public comments since before Monday's game.

That observation may have been the only incorrect thing he has said or done through the whole process.

“He was the perfect man for that situation to handle that moment,” Bills quarterback Josh Allen said. “Coach handled it as perfectly as anybody could.”

McDermott never did go to the hospital with Hamlin  — general manager Brandon Beane and some members of the team’s medical staff did and remained in Cincinnati — but his urge to do so was enough. Besides, at that point, Hamlin’s fate was in the hands of the medical professionals who brought him back to life on the field and those at the nearby hospital who have kept him alive since, all the way through Thursday. That's when the first rays of good news — euphoric news, really — started to shine from the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. There was nothing he could have done to help.

The rest of the team didn’t need a doctor at that point. They needed a coach.

"Seeing the way he handled his team just deepened that respect for him and verified everything I always thought he was about as a man,” Taylor said.

A little less than a year ago, it seemed as if McDermott’s legacy would come down to 13 seconds. That’s how far away he was from beating Kansas City in the divisional round of the playoffs and likely rolling to the Super Bowl.

Nine words have erased 13 seconds forever.

McDermott has had to handle a number of unexpected situations just this season alone. The year began in the spring with a mass shooting at a supermarket that rocked Buffalo. There was a blizzard that forced them to move a home game to Detroit and another that prevented them from returning to Buffalo and stranded them in Chicago on Christmas Eve. No head coach since Sean Payton’s Katrina season with the Saints has had to overcome so many external obstacles, and McDermott deftly guided the Bills through all of them.

Then this week happened.

He has guided them through this, too, not based on any preconceived playbook or coaching manual — honestly, there just isn’t one for having a player nearly die in front of the team and the millions watching at home — but by being empathetic, decisive, poised and strong. By being a friend and a father and a pastor and a listener. By putting his players’ needs first and by being himself.

Even the times when he was overwhelmed, such as when he nearly broke down during Thursday’s news conference while talking about Hamlin’s mother and the support the country has shown the family, illustrated not weakness but an awareness of the enormity of what was on his shoulders and a willingness to carry it.

In a scenario in which no one would have blamed him for blinking, he’s winning this staring contest.

“The job of a coach is not just X’s-and-O’s,” McDermott said. “It’s much more than that.”

McDermott has lived that this season, and this week in particular.

It’s hard to imagine anyone else in the NFL navigating it better than he did.