Bills Hire Syracuse Head Coach Doug Marrone

The Bills have made a splash in the head coaching carousel by hiring much sought after Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone (per Adam Schefter of ESPN).  Marrone had interviews with the Bills, Browns, Eagles, and Chargers and was on the top of the list of both the Browns and Eagles who were also meeting with Oregon coach Chip Kelly.  Marrone is a 48-year old native of Bronx, NY and has coached the Syracuse football team for the past 4 seasons.  He had a 25-25 record but had turned around a program that was 10-37 in the 3 years prior.  Before coaching Syracuse he spent 3 seasons as Sean Payton’s offensive coordinator in New Orleans.

New Bills HC Doug Marrone

New Bills HC Doug Marrone

Bills team president Russ Brandon talked about being an innovative, progressive, forward-thinking organization.  The Marrone hire is proof that Brandon is backing up what he said at his press conference.  They could have played it safe with an experienced guy like Ken Whisenhunt or Lovie Smith but they went with Marrone who runs an innovative offense.  The coordinator hires will be important for the Bills.  There are already rumors that Marrone may try to pry current Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael away from New Orleans.  With Sean Payton coming back he will resume play-calling duties which means Carmichael would have a better opportunity in Buffalo.

Of interest is the fact that senior quarterback Ryan Nassib is one of the top rated QBs in the draft this year.  It will interesting to see if the Bills draft Nassib and have him implement his college offense, much like the Dolphins did last year when they hired former Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman and drafted his QB Ryan Tannehill.

I like the aggressive and forward thinking move by the Bills but will reserve judgement until I see the staff on whether or not I think Marrone is a good hire.

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Breaking Down the Bills’ Head Coaching Candidates

This year’s Bills head coaching search seems to be a lot more fluid compared to the search 4 years ago.  They only conducted 4 interviews in total last time and one was a sham interview that Mike Shanahan used to leverage a higher price from Redskins owner Daniel Snyder.  This time around they’ve already got 5 interviews lined up only 2 days after firing former coach Gailey and more rumored as well.  Russ Brandon went to work quickly after his introductory press conference as Bills Team President yesterday, catching a plane to Arizona along with GM Buddy Nix, assistant GM Doug Whaley, and VP Jim Overdorf to start conducting interviews.  Here is a primer of who’s interviewed, who will interview, and who’s on the radar.


Former Cardinals HC Ken Whisenhunt

Former Cardinals HC Ken Whisenhunt

Former Cardinals HC Ken Whisenhunt – Whisenhunt has a pretty good resume.  He’s won a Super Bowl as the offensive coordinator of the Steelers and then lost one against his former team as the head coach of the Cardinals.  Whisenhunt has ties to Buffalo’s GM-in-waiting in Doug Whaley from their time together in Pittsburgh.  The concern with Whisenhunt is that in the last 3 seasons his record in AZ was only 18-30 which is just 2 games better than the recently fired Chan Gailey.  He’s also struggled to groom a young QB after he lost veteran Kurt Warner to retirement.  On the positive side he could presumably bring in good experienced assistants and implement a similar system to the Steelers.  There is said to be strong mutual interest between the two parties but the Bills have set up several interviews behind him so they’ll have to go back to him if he’s the guy.  This front office has been high on experience so he has that going for him.

Cardinals DC Ray Horton – Horton is a veteran of the Cardinals and Steelers staffs.  He is a candidate for the Cardinals head coaching job but may be running behind Andy Reid for that spot.  Horton is well-regarded as an up-and-coming assistant.  His young Arizona Cardinals defense was the catalyst for the team’s 4-1 start before the bottom fell out.  As a matter of fact Horton and his entire defensive staff were retained after Whisenhunt and his offensive staff was let go on Monday.  Horton will give you what Whisenhunt will as far as that Pittsburgh philosophy goes but you get a fresh face in Horton.  The only drawback to Horton is that he has been a career 3-4 coach and that would mean moving from the 3-4 to the 4-3 back to the 3-4 in a 4-year span.


Oregon HC Chip Kelly

Oregon HC Chip Kelly

Oregon HC Chip Kelly – Kelly is considered the “holy grail” of potential head coaches this off-season.  He was rumored for months to be interested in a job in the NFL and has already set up three interviews for after his bowl game tomorrow night in Arizona.  The Bills will meet up with him on Friday.  When Brandon talked about being a forward thinking, progressive organization Kelly was the first name that came to mind.  Kelly would be the big splash that the Bills desperately seek to become relevant.  Kelly would also represent great risk, as would any college coach taking his first crack at the pros.  Running back C.J. Spiller would be a superstar in a Chip Kelly offense.  The Bills will face stiff competition from Philadelphia and Cleveland for his services.

Broncos OC Mike McCoy – McCoy was a hot name last season after he brought the Tim Tebow-led Broncos offense to the divisional round of the playoffs.  He’s done it again this season albeit he doesn’t get as much credit with Peyton Manning as the QB this time around.  He’s still considered one of the premiere young offensive coordinators in the league and with Josh McDaniels staying in New England he is getting lots of looks.  The main concern with McCoy would be his ability to put together an experienced veteran coaching staff which is a must for the Bills.

Syracuse HC Doug Marrone

Syracuse HC Doug Marrone

Syracuse HC Doug Marrone – Marrone is one of those guys with success as a coordinator in the NFL and then as a head coach in college.  It could be the perfect mix for a team looking for someone with a lot of experience but not someone who would be considered a retread.  He worked with Sean Payton in New Orleans and helped turn around a downtrodden Syracuse program.  The success that he had in Western New York could attract him to the job but, again, the Bills will face competition for him from the Eagles and Browns as well.


Former Bears HC Lovie Smith – Smith is said to be interested in the Bills head coaching job and it sounds like he may get an interview.  Smith is exactly what the Bills have been looking for in a head coach – a guy with a track record of success and lots of experience.  He finished 18 games over .500 in his 8 seasons in Chicago.  He’d also be able to put a good coaching staff together although his Achilles heel at the end of his Chicago tenure was the lack of a productive offensive coordinator.  He also missed the playoffs in 5 of the last 6 years.  Still he has a wealth of experience and would probably love a chance to coach the front 4 of the Bills defense.

Former Cardinals OL Coach Russ Grimm – Grimm was rumored to be on the Bills list in Arizona but it doesn’t sound like an interview has been set up yet.  Grimm turned down the Bills 3 years ago and his stock hasn’t exactly risen since then.  It would be surprising to see Grimm get the job ahead of either Whisenhunt or Horton but it could be conceivable that he would be part of a staff if one of them was hired.

Bengals DB Coach Hue Jackson – Jackson actually did a hell of a job last season with the Raiders, going 8-8 with a dismal team.  He did however give up the farm for Carson Palmer.  He will be hampered by the fact that he won’t be able to interview while the Bengals are in the playoffs.

There have been other names such as Redskins DC Jim Haslett but I’d be shocked if the Bills went too much further from the above list.  There are certainly some good names to choose from and if Russ Brandon wants to make a splash he can go all in for Kelly.  I think Smith or Whisenhunt end up in the roll if Brandon can’t woo Kelly.  It will still be a thorough process.  I don’t think they have a coach by the end of the weekend but I don’t see it going to far into next week either.

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Parcells coaching tree is as good as it gets

A few years ago when Bill Parcells was coach of the Cowboys people felt the need to ask the question – who is a better head coach, Bill Belichick or Bill Parcells?  While it may be true that Belichick might possibly be the better game day coach no one has left their fingerprints on today’s NFL more than Bill Parcells.

Parcells won two rings with the Giants but his former assistant have gone on to win a combined 5 of their own

Parcells’ first head coaching gig in the NFL was with the New York Giants from 1983-1990.  5 coaches from his Super Bowl winning coaching staff went on to be head coaches in the NFL.  Running Backs coach Ray Handley replaced him after he retired and had a 14-18 record in two seasons as Giants head coach.  That was his last job in the NFL.  Linebackers coach Al Groh eventually replaced Parcells after he retired from the Jets and lasted one year as Jets head coach, amassing a 9-7 record before resigning himself.  The other three who went on to become head coaches, defensive coordinator Bill Belichick, wide receivers coach Tom Coughlin, and defensive line coach Romeo Crennel will all hold head coaching jobs when the 2012 season begins.  Groh and assistant special teams coach Charlie Weis would go on to be head coaches in the college ranks.

After being out of coaching for two seasons Parcells returned to head coach the New England Patriots.  His new staff bore another future head coach, wide receivers coach Chris Palmer who coached the Cleveland Browns in 1999 and 2000.  Running Backs coach Maurice Carthon served as assistant head coach to Chiefs coach Todd Haley.  After 4 years in New England it was off to the Jets for 3 years.  From that staff wide receivers coach Todd Haley went on to coach the Kansas City Chiefs for almost 4 seasons, tight ends coach Ken Whisenhunt has head coached the Arizona Cardinals for the past 5 seasons, defensive coordinator Mike Nolan coached the San Fransisco 49ers from 2005 to 2008, and secondary coach Todd Bowles was the interim coach of the Miami Dolphins at the end of this past season.  After 3 more years off Parcells once again got the itch and agreed to coach the Dallas Cowboys.  His offensive coordinator Sean Payton was hired by the Saints in 2006.  Offensive line coach Tony Sparano coached the Dolphins from 2008 to 2011.

Parcells disciple Ken Whisenhunt coached the Cardinals to their only Super Bowl

In all, at least 5 former Parcells assistants will be head coaches at the start of the 2012 NFL season.  A number of others have had interviews for current head coaching vacancies, including Bowles and Mike Zimmer, his former defensive coordinator in Dallas.  Romeo Crennel had a disappointing 24-40 record in 4 years as head coach of the Cleveland Browns.  After being named defensive coordinator in Kansas City, Crennel earned the head coaching job after a 2-1 record as interim head coach at the end of 2011.  He’ll start the 2012 season as his first full year as Chiefs head coach.  Ken Whisenhunt is 39-39 in five seasons as a head coach with the Cardinals but boasts a 4-2 postseason record and went to Super Bowl after the 2008 season.

Parcells disciple Sean Payton helped re-energize the city of New Orleans

The other three are as successful as any coach in the NFL currently.  Sean Payton took over the Saints in 2006, the year after Katrina ripped through the city of New Orleans.  In his 6 seasons there he has amassed a regular season record of 62-34, a playoff record of 5-3 and a Super Bowl championship in 2009.  He is a cult hero in New Orleans after turning the franchise around in a time when they needed it the most.  Tom Coughlin has coached in the NFL for 16 seasons, 8 with the Jacksonville Jaguars and the past 8 as head coach of the New York Giants.  He’s hardly ever listed as one of the elite head coaches of the league but Coughlin has coached to a 129-103 regular season record, a 10-7 postseason record, and a Super Bowl Championship in 2007, won over another Parcells disciple.

Belichick has put together a Hall of Fame resume after breaking from Parcells

And then there is Bill Belichick.  Belichick has head coached in the NFL for 17 years seasons, 5 with the Cleveland Browns and then the last 12 with the New England Patriots.  Belichick has a 175-97 lifetime record in the regular season.  In the playoffs he is 16-6.  He has won three Super Bowls with the Patriots.  He’s won the coach of the year three times.  He is a future NFL Hall of Fame coach.  He is widely regarded as Bill Parcells’ prized pupil.

As we head into championship weekend we have a 50% chance that at least one former Parcells assistant will coach in the Super Bowl and there’s a chance that Belichick and Coughlin may be headed towards a rematch of their 2007 Super Bowl clash.  Bill Parcells might be a polarizing figure to football fans, with his brash attitude and constant fear of commitment to one place but one thing is for sure – whatever he was selling to those assistant coaches all of those years, they were certainly buying.

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