- Tania Ganguli, ESPN Staff Writer
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Doug Marrone tripped on the word "probably."
I began a question during his podium session today at the combine by noting that he was probably Houston Texans coach Bill O'Brien's best friend in the league.
"Did he say probably or you said probably?" the Bills head coach said with a smile. That was my word, not O'Brien's. "I just wanted to make sure. When I see him I'm going to ask him."
The pair coached together at Georgia Tech in the mid-1990s. O'Brien met his wife, Colleen, through Marrone and his wife right around then.
"It's a funny profession," Marrone said. "You start off, and I started off in Division III after I'd gotten done playing. You grow up with a lot of people. usually it's regional. we were all obviously in the northeast together. ... You see everyone grow and see everyone grow in the profession. It's a gratifying experience to know people in your profession have integrity, have character, that work extremely hard and are able to be successful."
Marrone didn't say much about what O'Brien was like when they were young coaches together, but I asked him off the podium if the intensity everybody talks about with O'Brien has always been part of his character.
"Bill wears his heart on his sleeve," Marrone said. "I'd say it's intense, but it's intense in a positive way, not a negative way. ... If he couldn't turn it off, that would be a negative way. ... He's done it throughout his whole career, not only as a head coach, but even when I saw him as a position coach."
Marrone recently went through the same transition O'Brien is about to. I felt similarities in their feelings about making the move. Marrone actually felt the transition from college to the NFL was easier than the transition from working in the pros to working in college.
"I was much more comfortable with the schedule, calendar, the way it was in the NFL than it was in college," Marrone said. "The schedule is different. It's very difficult to spend as much time as you'd like to coaching."
That move to the NFL makes actual coaching much more of a focal point than it is in college. Marrone made that move last season. His team went 6-10 after his move from Syracuse to Buffalo, but Bills writer Mike Rodak indicates the team has pieces in place to get better next season.
An upward trend for the Bills would fit Marrone with the new trend of college coaches who become NFL head coaches. If you asked a few years ago, conventional wisdom indicated former college head coaches struggled with a move to the NFL. That is not really the case anymore as coaches like Pete Carroll, Jim Harbaugh and Chip Kelly have shown.