The main questions that should be hovering above Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott right now is how he intends to slow down Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson and how he plans to break through the NFL's stingiest defense this Sunday in the AFC Championship. But that scenario only resides in fantasy land, with McDermott facing far more unpleasant questions in reality.

Although Buffalo came into the AFC Divisional Round shorthanded on defense, as it has been much of the year, this looked like the team's best chance to finally rid itself of the burden that is the Patrick Mahomes-led Kansas City Chiefs. Riding a six-game winning streak, the Bills had momentum on their side. Perhaps even more importantly, they had desperation on their side.

None of that, along with home-field advantage, was enough to avoid another postseason defeat to the Chiefs. A win wasn't going to instantly mend the agony incurred by four consecutive Super Bowl losses, two decades of being dominated by Tom Brady and 13 of the most excruciating seconds fans have ever witnessed. But it would have been a heck of a start.

And so, the pain grows more intense as McDermott and company watched the defending champions celebrate another January triumph at their expense. The head coach should not be afforded the opportunity to see that happen again.

This statement is not made in haste, as Sean McDermott successfully overcame multiple injuries to major players and improbably led his team to the No. 2 seed in the conference. Though, a combination of big-stage shortcomings and a historically-impressive crop of available coaching candidates forces the Bills to consider firing the man who helped bring them back to relevance.

Sean McDermott is plateauing with Buffalo

To be sure, McDermott deserves ample criticism for his failed fake-punt decision from Buffalo's 30-yard line in the fourth quarter, but he earns high praise for the entire body of work he has amassed in his seven-year tenure. This team was mired in mediocrity immediately before he arrived in 2017 and languished in the division's basement from 2008-13. The franchise urgently required a jolt of life.

McDermott answered the city's distress signal and ended the Bills' 18-year postseason drought. With more star power coming into the fold, he then guided them to the AFC Championship Game in 2020-21 for the first time since 1993. A history-making run seemingly foretold unprecedented success in the near future.

Fast forward to now, and the team is no closer to figuring out the Chiefs in the playoffs and seizing its first Lombardi Trophy. If linebacker Matt Milano and cornerback Tre'Davious White stayed healthy and Super Bowl legend Von Miller didn't tear his ACL at 33 years of age maybe that dream would have been realized this February.

Sean McDermott is not making any excuses, but one can justifiably do so after the multitude of blunders his players committed in the final minutes of Sunday's divisional war. Advocating for him is impractical, however, when there are elite football minds and leaders possibly up for grabs.

Bills have tempting alternatives to potentially consider

Bill Belichick, Pete Carroll, Jim Harbaugh

I realize we are pretty deep into all this, but I want to make one thing clear. Firing McDermott in and of itself is not necessarily the most logical route for the organization to take. But I believe it is the only one if Bill Belichick, Jim Harbaugh or Pete Carroll are willing to come to Buffalo.

We could list several objectives for general manager Brandon Beane to address this offseason like adding another wide receiver and pass rusher (Patrick Mahomes wasn't sacked once). Those will be crucial no matter who the head coach is in 2024, but the main objective for this franchise is getting over the hump.

That is not often achieved through talent alone. It requires ingenuity, grit and discipline. McDermott might possess all of these vital traits, but the coaches mentioned above have displayed them with the lights at their brightest.

Belichick is the greatest of all-time (try to forget the last two seasons), Carroll is the only HC to win a Super Bowl and national championship (try to forget the ones he choked away) and Harbaugh redefines cultures like no other (we've moved on from that sign-stealing thing, right?). While each comes with their own unique type of baggage, nothing weighs heavier than their stellar credentials.

Additionally, they are all masters at maximizing top-tier talent. And that is what Buffalo has in Josh Allen. These champions should jump at the chance to coach a superb athlete who perfectly fits the modern quarterback position. Allen and the Bills can help two of these men write a compelling last chapter of their careers and give the other a chance to take care of the unfinished business he left behind in the NFL. Unfortunately, pursuing them cannot be done without McDermott becoming collateral damage.

Can the Bills afford to pass up this opportunity?

A brutal loss gives way to an agonizing decision, one that can determine how this team will be remembered decades from now. The AFC is loaded with young QBs who are hungry for their own history-making moment. Buffalo must try to obtain an edge anywhere it can get it.

Dismissing Sean McDermott and moving onto one of these big names is admittedly not a full-proof plan. Bill Belichick could be too deep in talks with the Atlanta Falcons, Jim Harbaugh might already have his eye on another star signal-caller and a one-year break could be in the cards for Pete Carroll. The Bills can't leave those stones unturned, though.

This fan base has uttered the words “what if” far too much in its existence.