It’s been 13 years since the Buffalo Bills have made the playoffs, and they will turn to a new head coach to break the NFL’s longest running postseason drought.
Buffalo has reportedly come to terms with Syracuse head coach and former NFL assistant Doug Marrone, though the team has made no official announcement. The 48-year-old was chosen over top candidates like now-former head coaches Lovie Smith and Ken Whisenhunt, who led the Chicago Bears and Arizona Cardinals to the Super Bowl, respectively.
The Orange went 25-25 under Marrone, including an 8-5 mark this season that concluded with an impressive victory over high-flying West Virginia and quarterback Geno Smith. He will be the coach that possibly leads Buffalo to winning ways as they expand their market north of the border to Toronto.
Marrone spent time as an offensive line coach and offensive coordinator in the NFL. His most recent stint came with the New Orleans Saints from 2006-08 under the tutelage of Sean Payton. Marrone left the Saints for Syracuse, and New Orleans won the Super Bowl the following season.
Marrone inherits a team that has gone 6-10 for two straight seasons, and was 31st in run defense, allowing almost 146 rushing yards per game.
The Bills were far more adept at rushing the ball, and ranked sixth in the league with 138.6 yards per game thanks to the emerging C.J. Spiller. The 25-year-old more than doubled his career-high for yards in a season with 1,244 yards and six touchdowns. Buffalo also has a strong corps of receivers in Steve Johnson and tight end Scott Chandler, though they could use another possession wide out.
Buffalo will have the No. 8 pick in April's draft, and Marrone could address the team's issues then. ESPN reported Sunday that LSU defensive ends Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery, along with defensive tackle Bennie Logan will declare for the draft, and at least one will be available when the Bills make their selection.
However, Marrone’s biggest challenge may be at quarterback, where Ryan Fitzpatrick tossed 39 interceptions the last two seasons.
Marrone has terrific experience with quarterbacks, specifically New Orleans All-Pro Drew Brees, who was named NFL Offensive Player Of The Year in Marrone’s final season. Similar results can also be found in Syracuse. Orange senior quarterback Ryan Nassib saw his total passing yards, completion percentage, and touchdowns increase every season during Marrone’s four-year tenure.
Coaches jumping from the college ranks to the NFL have had mixed results. San Francisco's Jim Harbaugh brought the 49ers to the NFC title game in his first year, while Steve Spurrier's two-year tenure with the Washington Redskins ended with a 12-20 record and a resignation. Though most would like to end up like former Dallas Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson, who won two titles with Dallas after leaving the University of Miami.