As the Buffalo Bills began their 2013 training camp at St. John Fisher College in Pittsford, New York, first-year head coach Doug Marrone was well aware of the many questions that surrounded his football team that would have to be answered prior to the start of the regular season.
Not surprisingly however, instead of working towards finding the answers to some of those questions, Marrone seems as though he may have only begun to get to the core of the problem that has led to the NFL’s longest active playoff drought.
With four different head coaches at the helm during the past five seasons, the Bills are hoping that Marrone will not only change the atmosphere in Buffalo with his “hurry-up” offense, but also offer some much-needed consistency to a franchise that is desperate to have their first winning season since 2004.
After a 6-10 finish to the 2012 regular-season that earned them a tie for last in the AFC East with the New York Jets, Buffalo wisely chose to once again overhaul their franchise beginning at the top. Brought in to replace former head coach Chan Gailey in January, Marrone had a brief NFL career as an offensive lineman and previously held the Head Coaching job at his alma mater, the University of Syracuse from 2009 until the end of the 2012 season, compiling a 25-25 record while in the NCAA. Prior to Syracuse, Marrone served as the offense coordinator for the New Orleans Saints (2006-2008), as well as the offensive line coach for the Jets (2002-2005).
Almost immediately following his hire, Marrone named 33-year-old Nathaniel Hackett as the Bill’s new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, a position he held under Marrone at the University of Syracuse. Not only did Buffalo choose to implement an entirely new offensive system for 2013, they also decided to bring in defensive coordinator Mike Pettine who held the same position with the Jets from 2009 until 2012 to complete the on-field overhaul.
Besides the numerous coaching changes, the Bills also promoted assistant general manager Doug Whaley who is widely respected as a talented scout, in order to replace former general manager Buddy Nix who resigned in March.
While it’s clear that the Bills plan on running an extremely fast- paced offense this season under Marrone and Hackett, having the on-field personnel to do so is easier said than done when you’re basically starting from scratch.
After the release of 2012 starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and backup Tavaris Jackson, the Bills immediately began to scour the league for a veteran arm that could bring both consistency to the position, as well as offer an alternative to a rookie quarterback that would more than likely experience some growing pains during his first season as an NFL signal caller. While the Bill’s acquisition of former Arizona Cardinal’s quarterback Kevin Kolb this past spring leaves much to be desired, Buffalo’s future at the pivot clearly revolves around 2013 first-round draft pick EJ Manuel.
Originally scheduled to select eighth overall, this year’s quarterback class offered few realistic options, leading the Bills to trade down to the 16th overall selection in order to take Manuel out of Florida State University and receive several additional draft picks in the process.
Completely transforming a franchise in any sport is a daunting task, especially in the NFL. In order to bolster their receiving corps beyond lead wideout Stevie Johnson, Buffalo also acquired several players to add depth to the position, most notably second-round pick Robert Woods, third-round pick Marquise Goodwin, and undrafted free agent Da’rick Rogers, who are all hoping to compete for the job as the No. 2 wide receiver.
The fact remains that besides wide receiver Johnson, the only other proven offensive starter outside of the offensive line heading into the 2013 season is Buffalo’s explosive running back CJ Spiller, who averaged six yards per carry in 2012 and is widely believed to be on the verge of another productive year.
No question, the Bill’s and their rookie Head Coach have a difficult season ahead that could easily be the first of many if they’re unable to successfully rebuild an offense that ranked 25th in passing yards during 2012. Coaches have been fired, general managers replaced, and of course, players have been released. Now, it will be left to a group consisting mainly of NFL first-timers who have been brought in to restore the once formidable offense of the Bills.
Now, about that defense…