One-on-One with Doug Marrone, Part I

December, 15, 2008
12/15/08
3:14
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

It's been a whirlwind December for Doug Marrone.

The new Syracuse coach was juggling his job as New Orleans Saints offensive coordinator while going through two interviews for the Orange job, which he accepted on Friday. Marrone's schedule got a little lighter this weekend, when he and the Saints decided it would be best for him to relinquish his NFL job to concentrate on Syracuse. I talked to Marrone on Saturday as he was spending time with his three children -- ages 3, 5 and 7. Here's the first part of our conversation:

 
 AP Photo/Kevin Rivoli
  Doug Marrone was named the new Syracuse head football coach this past Friday.

You've talked a lot about how much you love Syracuse. Where does that love come from? Is it just from having played there and being from New York?

Doug Marrone: It goes beyond that. It started out as being from New York and going to a school that represents New York. My dad was always a big Jim Brown/Floyd Little fan, so that made it very attractive for my parents, and obviously being close to home. But really it goes deeper than that. Where I grew up, in the Bronx, most of the people there become policemen, firemen, work in the union -- they go the other way. For me to go up there and have the experience that I had, it really opened up my eyes that there's more to the world than just the Bronx, New York. Really, what it did was it set the foundation for the rest of my life.

When you grow up -- the Bronx is a not a bad area, I don't want to trash the area where I grew up -- but you have to make decisions all through your life on who you're going to stay with, who you're going to hang out with. You know, there's kids who are going to get in trouble, kids who are going to get into things that aren't good. And you make those decisions daily growing up. Every time I wake up -- I have three beautiful children and a tremendous wife -- I always look back and think, 'If I didn't go to a school like Syracuse, a school that was committed to me and helping me, making sure I graduated, I don't know where I would be in the world today.'

It just means so much to me. There's no one that loves Syracuse more. Being in a position where you come in and rally the people around you, the people that know you know that this is what you wanted your whole life, it really is a dream come true. How many times in your life do you have a dream and it comes true, especially when it's such a hard situation to get a job in Division I?

When this search began, no one would have thought Doug Marrone was the top candidate. How much did your passion for this job help you land it, do you think?

DM: I don't know if that was my plan. You know, everyone has an opinion about the program, about what they should be doing, what kind of offense they should run, what kind of defense. I think that's the case with every institution. For me, I looked at it as, hey, this is an opportunity for me to really talk to the boss and tell them how I think things should be. That's how I saw it in my mind to go and attack this job. I didn't go up there thinking, 'If I say this, it will look good,' or 'This is what they'll want to hear.' And sometimes that happens (in job interviews).

I didn't feel I had to do that. I felt I needed to go in there and tell them the truth, tell them how I felt about the school and show them the plan that I've had, that's been on my calendar. I was very prepared for whatever question that was asked of me, and I answered them with my heart.

You know, obviously, going through an NFL week is very, very difficult in this league. So people asked me, 'How do you find time to prepare for this interview?' And I said, 'Prepare for what?' All I had to do was answer everything from my heart. I've thought about it my whole life. I hoped that maybe one day I'd be in this position, that maybe one day I would have accomplished enough to be able to be considered for that job.

It's been said that you were so prepared for your interviews that you were already breaking down opposing Big East defenses and how you'd attack them. Is that true?

DM:
I do know those coaches. Greg Schiano is a very good football coach who I have a lot of respect for. We competed against each other when I was at Georgia Tech and he was at Miami. Obviously, Randy Edsall and I worked together when he coached at Syracuse and I was there, so I have a lot of respect for Randy and I know defensively how well prepared he is for each game. Jim Leavitt was at Kansas State and we never competed against each other, but I've always watched those defenses and what he's done at South Florida. West Virginia was always a big opponent for Syracuse when I was there, so I've watched a lot of Syracuse-West Virginia games. Pittsburgh with Dave Wannstedt, I competed against him when he was at Miami and have the utmost respect for him.

So I know how good the coaches are in this conference. I know how well prepared they are. I know how they look, how they scheme and get after people. I really am proud to be part of the Big East and such accomplished coaches. That's my goal, to become an accomplished coach and do the things those coaches have done at their school.

You've never been a head coach, which is a concern for some fans. But the same point could have been used against Schiano, Edsall and Leavitt. So is that an overrated thing?

DM: That was a big question, the head coaching experience, and I brought those points up. And I brought up Bob Stoops at Oklahoma, Ralph Friedgen in the ACC, and obviously the Big East has been a big part of that. In the NFL, there is a large percentage of coaches who hadn't been head coaches prior.

I've been a Division I prospect myself, and I've recruited a lot of Division I athletes when I was in college. I was a player here when Coach Mac (Dick MacPherson) was here and that was a tremendous experience. I was at Georgia Tech with George O'Leary and helped lay the foundation, and that was a tremendous experience as well. And now the New Orleans Saints. I said, 'I love this school, I know how to sell this school better than anyone. That has to be a tremendous advantage.' I tried to point out that I had so much more experience for this school than anyone else. That's what I believe.

You've talked about running your system at Syracuse. What is your system? Is it the same as what you and Sean Payton are running in New Orleans or will it be different in college?

DM: I don't think it's complex. A lot of people have been coming through here (New Orleans), a lot of coaches from college teams, like Oklahoma and Florida, to look at the system and to see what we're doing offensively. And really, it always comes down to this: You have to have a system that enables the players to be productive. Each player individually has certain talents. And one, you have to identify who your playmakers are, and when you do that you have to make sure to put them in the right positions.

Every system, any team that throws the ball well, it starts with the quarterback. Any team that runs the ball well, it's going to be up front and the running back. I'm not recreating the wheel. Bill Walsh has done it, Don Coryell has done it, and those are two different systems and diffe
rent labels. I always get confused when people label systems with names like West Coast. I can't answer what the West Coast is. Or Don Coryell and the vertical passing game. Well, it's not all vertical in that system. Or the spread offense, the zone read, the zone running game. It's all these terms that people use, but I still think at the end of the day that it needs to be multiple.

It has to be multiple to handle all the personnel that you have in the system. You may show a different type of variety on third down than you did on first down, or vice versa. Maybe an empty package or no huddle. What our players can grasp, that's what we'll be. If they can't understand the system or what we're trying to accomplish on either side of the football plus special teams, then obviously that system's going to struggle, and we've got to streamline it for them.

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