There are some coaches that look like a deer in the headlights at their introductory press conference. These coaches may have a brilliant football mind, when you see them look out at a sea of faces and pads of paper scribbling down their every thought, you can assume this coach is in trouble.
For everything that has been said about Doug Marrone, positive and negative, one this was made abundantly clear by his press conference a little over a week ago. This man is not afraid of the challenge he faces. His demeanor was etched in confidence and charisma. I remember when he said Syracuse was his dream job, but when he stood at the podium and said with utmost certainty that the Buffalo Bills was his dream job, I believed him. Marrone commanded the room from second one of the press conference, a promising sign.
In the end; however, Marrone is not playing against writers for the Buffalo News. His command of a press conference will not matter when he has to game plan for how to stop Tom Brady, or move the ball against the New York Jets. The fact is that options abounded for the Bills, and the conversation following Marrone’s move West on the thruway revolves more around the candidates they didn’t hire than the one that they did. The Bills entertained Ken Whisenhunt, Lovie Smith, and Chip Kelly, but instead took a guy who they seemed more interested in than anyone else.
Doug Marrone did certainly have NFL buzz, and with good reason. Syracuse was one of the 10 worst Division 1 FBS programs in the country when Marrone arrived, and he ultimately undid the potentially program ruining hire of Greg Robinson. Now when recruits hear Syracuse they don’t immediately shutter or get out their MAC pamphlets. That, and his NFL experience make him if nothing else, an intriguing hire.
The question now is, was it the right hire? I personally would have preferred a bigger name, or more transcendent splash. The Bills don’t need a coach who is in a rebuilding mindset. That is what Doug Marrone is. He didn’t go to Syracuse with the idea of making the team a perianal bowl team in his first season. Year one for Syracuse yielded four competitive wins. It was a good step forward in the rebuilding process, but no one needs me to tell them that the whole “rebuilding” thing really got old around year seven or eight, and we are pushing into year 13. The Bills have talent and need a coach that can utilize the talent enough to win now. The reason Chan Gailey was fired, in my opinion, was because of his stubbornness in not only his play calling philosophy but also in his use of certain players (cough, cough, C.J. Spiller). The talent is there, for a large part the production is there. This is not a roster that people glance up and down and say: “Yeah, this is a 6-10 team.”
The Bills didn’t need to go after the huge name like they did when they tried every big name imaginable during their 2010 coaching search. They needed to go after experience. They had two coaches who have been to the Super Bowl in the last 10 years. Yes the retread label is scary because of past results but not every retread is created equally. I would love if the bills had been able to install the toughness and discipline that ken Whisenhunt is known for, and I would have loved having the sharp defensive mind of Lovie Smith. Doug Marrone does bring certain things to the table. A head coaching stint in the Super Bowl isn’t one of them.
It is hard to say after the turnaround Doug Marrone instituted at Syracuse that his hire by the Bills was a bad one. I am still not convinced it was the best one. The problem with the Bills is whether it was flashy or conservative, exciting or boring, when it comes to signing players and coaches they just didn’t find the best piece to fit the organization at the time. Doug Marrone feels like a coach who can piece together some 7-9 teams, maybe knock on the door of the playoffs once or twice like Mike Mularky did, and then fade back into the college ranks. I’m not saying the Bills missed on this hire, but after 13 years of missing the playoffs “not missing” is no longer good enough.