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Doug Marrone can solve Buffalo Bills' Ryan Fitzpatrick problem
By Adam Schein
Published: January 08, 2013 at 7:13 AM PST
Modified: January 08, 2013 at 7:14 AM PST
The Buffalo Bills were one of the NFL's biggest disappointments of the 2012 season. The offseason champs became the in-season chumps after Mario Williams and Co. flopped miserably. Coach Chan Gailey was rightly fired at the end of the year. He couldn't inspire. He couldn't lead. I wasn't sure, based on his play calling, if he remembered he actually employed C.J. Spiller .
The Bills needed two major pieces after Gailey was fired: a new head coach and a new quarterback. Gailey's chosen signal-caller, Ryan Fitzpatrick , has fizzled mightily since being given a new deal in the middle of the 2011 season. Fitzpatrick is not the answer for Buffalo, and he never should have been given huge money.
On Monday, the Bills found one of those major pieces when they hired former Syracuse coach Doug Marrone .
On Monday, the Bills became infinitely better.
There were other, flashier candidates out there. I'm sure rabid Bills fans were eager to see a proven winner like Lovie Smith or Ken Whisenhunt shuffle to lovely Western New York. The Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles , meanwhile, were busy flirting with and romancing highly coveted Oregon coach Chip Kelly.
Marrone, though, rightly became the clear-cut choice for the Bills , and they smartly swooped in and got down to business with the coach, who was also on the Browns' and Eagles ' radar.
Unless the pool of available candidates suddenly changes, the Browns and Eagles will regret not hiring Marrone. He's smart and disciplined, the right man to lead the Bills out of the stone ages; he's ready to win now. But he needs a quarterback, which leads me to my next prediction: Marrone might not be the only one-time member of the Syracuse Orange football program to help save the Bills ' franchise.
Enter Ryan Nassib.
Nassib, who just wrapped up his final season with Syracuse, is a legit NFL prospect. He has the height (6-foot-3), the weight (227 pounds), the arm and the savvy to succeed.
The people I most respect in the NFL think Nassib will eventually start and win as a pro. I polled five executives about Nassib, and they think he grades as someone who will be picked in the middle of the second round.
Or, he could go eighth overall to the Buffalo Bills .
Would that make the Bills crazy? Or would it put them ahead of the curve?
Bills general manager Buddy Nix told reporters in Buffalo on Monday how much he liked Nassib. Nix has also gone on record lamenting the fact he hasn't drafted a quarterback. Perhaps the wheels started turning that hiring Marrone could turn into a package deal, like what the Miami Dolphins ended up with after making former Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman their offensive coordinator and drafting former Aggies quarterback Ryan Tannehill .
Nassib is going to be drafted higher than his grade -- much higher. Watch him rise through the process. Many teams need a quarterback, but the free-agent class is weak and the draft class is worse.
When people studied Tannehill in the fall of 2011, nobody thought they were watching the future eighth overall pick. But that's what he became, and he ended up being solid for Miami, thanks to his knowledge of the Dolphins ' system. He should only get better when Miami improves its receiver corps (perhaps by adding Greg Jennings ) in the offseason.
Two executives I talked to think Nassib has more potential as a pro than Tannehill or Brandon Weeden , who was taken in the first round last year by the Cleveland Browns . One executive stressed how much he likes the fact that Nassib learned under Marrone.
Maybe the Bills trade down. Maybe Nassib is a Round 2 value pick (though I doubt it), or maybe he's taken eighth overall. But having Nassib shoot up I-95 on draft day would be a great scenario for the Bills .
In October, I identified Marrone as someone who could be the next Greg Schiano , the long-time Rutgers coach who helped turn things around in his first season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers . On Monday, two NFL general managers both used the word "smart" in describing to me what makes Marrone great for Buffalo.
Some well-respected NFL types like Marrone even more than Kelly because Marrone, a former offensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints and offensive line coach with the New York Jets , has NFL experience. He also had a cup of coffee as a player, bouncing around as a training camp ***abond and landing with the Saints and Dolphins for short stints. He was cut by the Minnesota Vikings and went through true "two-a-days" under Don Shula, experiences that should give him credibility with players as well as perspective on what they go through.
The NFL offensive lines Marrone coached were ready and physical. With the Jets , he turned Brandon Moore from an unknown, position-less afterthought into a Pro Bowl offensive lineman. His Syracuse teams played with pride and purpose.
"From the moment Sean (Payton) hired him here, it was clear he would be a head coach," said Saints general manager Mickey Loomis. "He has the requisite football schematic knowledge and, more importantly, the ability to teach it."
Bills fans shouldn't be concerned that Marrone had a .500 record with the Orange. As a proud Syracuse alum, I know all too well that it's a minor miracle those teams were that good, considering the mess Marrone inherited from the clueless Greg Robinson, who couldn't coach or recruit his way out of a paper bag. Marrone worked tirelessly to restore relationships and bring quality players to the program. His charges responded. This experience puts him ahead of qualified and top NFL assistants who haven't been head coaches before.
After his news conference, a jubilant Marrone told me on the SiriusXM Blitz how he liked facing adversity and taking it head on as both a player and a coach. It's how he has shaped his career.
"When there is adversity," Loomis said, "he will have a calm presence and be a problem solver."
The Bills ' front office has been a bit of a punchline in recent years, highlighted by Nix's not-so-funny quip about being asleep when the free-agency period started. But Nix can pick players, and his eventual replacement, Doug Whaley, is well respected. The Bills needed someone like Marrone, someone who can maximize the talent. They needed someone like Marrone, who can be authoritative in shaping the roster and the team's identity. Marrone told me that he buys into the statistically driven approach CEO Russ Brandon wants to implement, saying he has used it for years.
One of the knocks against Schiano was that he didn't put together a great staff, but this shouldn't be an issue with Marrone, who is respected in league circles and has great relationships.
"Doug has great people skills," Loomis said. "He understands the need for chemistry among his staff and in the locker room.
"He was been in the NFL for a good period of time and will be able to identify and hire a good staff."
Marrone even confessed that, with the omnipresent reports about his status as a candidate over the weekend, he was getting texts from NFL assistant coaches he didn't know. However, Marrone stressed to me that he doesn't want "independent contractors." He wants guys who will bleed Bills football. He said he will talk to guys he used to work with "and smell their breath to make sure they are still as I remember them as football guys."
You have to love Doug Marrone.
If anyone can end Buffalo's long playoff drought, he can -- perhaps with the help of his old Syracuse gunslinger.
Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein .
Cool. Thanks for posting!
I may not go to church, but I pay for my sins by being a Buffalo Bills fan.
Good read. The sooner Fitzpatrick is cut from this team the better, and I anticipate it happening way before the March deadline to pay him a ridiculous bonus.
Interesting. I love this quote:
He said he will talk to guys he used to work with "and smell their breath to make sure they are still as I remember them as football guys."
Great read. I'm guessing Skeletor hasn't read this yet.
Wow. Great read. This gets me a little more pumped over the hire.
I like it great write-up and we could do much worse at QB then Nassib. I wouldn't mind taking him in the first round if we could trade back. But again QB's are at a premium and are drafted higher then other positions. How many teams ahead of us will be QB hungry? The Jets will probably be looking for a QB at some point also. You not only have to look at value but demand. If you find a QB who you think can lead your team you have to pull the trigger. The risk is not as great either because of the rookie salary cap. Time to grab a 1st round QB and Nassib might be a perfect fit.
Great article. If Nix and Co. think that Nassib is the guy I guess I can't argue with them. Articles like this make it really difficult to have to wait until next fall to watch another regular season game.
Great read. Just adds to the many reasons why Doug Marrone was the right choice for this job.
Trade back into the first a draft Nassib.
The more I hear the more I love the hire!
Anyone who cannot see that this is different than Chan Gailey (who NOBODY else in the NFL was considering for a HC job) is just blinded by pessimism.
The sooner they cut ties with Fitzpatrick the better. He is a coach killer. Just good enough to get you fired.
Yes I'm back. You're welcome.
The best part to me was that he's going to have a good staff around him and that others want to coach with him....I don't think we've had that kind of coach since Levy
I love this guy. The only head coach that ive liked since Perry Fewell. Im excited to see who he brings in, as long as its not Dave Wannstedt or George Edwards, I am good.
"Coach, if you draft me ill make you look like a genius. But if you don't, ill make you pay" - Marcell Dareus
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NFL Mock Draft:
1. Dre Kirkpatrick CB Alabama
2. Kelechi Osemele, OL Iowa State
3. Nick Toon, WR Wisconsin
4. DeQuan Menzie CB Alabama
PS - hey Schef - it is the I-90 he would be driving on to get here. And Tannehill has mobility - this Ryan would not and that is why I don't see him at 8
Coming soon - my wish list for 2014
Gaffney is my sleeper pick
Honestly, I don't want fitz cut. Draft nassib and keep fitz to help teach him. Worst case scenario, fitz is a good backup qb for this team. Marrone isn't gailey and wont run the same offense. Fitz could flourish in it, who knows. I just like the idea of having fitz here to help mold a younger guy
This is really good stuff - I believe we have an elite coach.
Something tells me we're on to something good!
Biils fan since 1960 - forever Buffalo Bills
beat me to it. i just posted the same article. lol
cautiously optimistic about the 2013 season. lets go buffalo!!!