Sunday, January 6, 2013
Bills venture into the unknown
By James Walker
The Buffalo Bills interviewed high-profile coaching candidates Lovie Smith, Ken Whisenhunt, Mike McCoy and Chip Kelly. But they settled on a lesser-known commodity Sunday in former University of Syracuse coach Doug Marrone.
Is Marrone the right choice for Buffalo? Expect plenty of early skepticism.
Marrone would not have been my first pick from the batch we just mentioned. The Bills haven't been to the playoffs since 1999, the NFL's longest drought. Bills fans are a tortured bunch who need a big name to re-energize the fan base.
The Bills failed to make a splash with Marrone, who was only 25-25 at Syracuse. Based on comments I received this past week, nabbing Kelly would have been more appealing to Bills fans if they wanted a college coach.
However, a low-profile hire doesn't always mean it's a bad hire. It simply means the Bills better be right in choosing a coach who wasn't at the top of any NFL team's wish list. Marrone’s .500 record in college and Buffalo’s poor track record with head coaches makes it a risky choice. The Bills will either look smarter than everyone else or dumber than everyone else in two or three years based on Marrone's performance.
You also knew what Smith and Whisenhunt brought to the table. Both coaches led their former teams to the Super Bowl and multiple playoff appearances. This is what Buffalo is striving for as an organization, and there was comfort in taking the safe pick.
But Buffalo took the retread route twice in the past seven years with Dick Jauron and Chan Gailey. Both choices were disasters. So the Bills deserve some credit for trying something different.
The Bills have a 7-10-year stadium lease, a new president in Russ Brandon and Marrone as their next head coach. This is truly a new beginning in Buffalo. Marrone will get the next several years to prove he is the right choice for the Bills.
Buffalo’s next step is to hire the best coordinators and assistant coaches available. Marrone has no head-coaching experience in the NFL, and that transition will go smoother with veteran assistants.
The Bills have quality talent on both sides of the football. Buffalo tailback C.J. Spiller is one of the more dynamic players in the NFL and must be used properly in 2013. Buffalo’s next offensive coordinator must make Spiller the focal point.
The Bills’ defense underachieved this past season but has talented players such as Mario Williams, Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams and Stephon Gilmore. Buffalo needs a defensive coordinator who can maximize its talent.