After roughly a week of searching for the right candidates, the Buffalo Bills have filled their head coach, offensive coordinator, and defensive coordinator positions. Bills fans who were against the idea of retreads taking the sidelines in Orchard Park were pleasantly surprised to learn that the team had hired Syracuse head coach, Doug Marrone, and his 33-year old offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. The team also hired Mike Pettine, formerly of the New York Jets. But who are these guys? What kind of systems do they operate?
Marrone was hired by Sean Payton to become the Saints’ offensive coordinator / offensive line coach in 2006. There, his offensive scheme prospered, ranking No. 1 in total offense twice, and finished in the top 5 of scoring offense twice. What should strike the fans as “innovative” about this hire, is that not only the front office will be involved in the analytics team, as well as supportive of it, is that Marrone fully supports it as well.
“We’ve used quite a bit of it in when we were in New Orleans when we were there. We want to be innovative,” Marrone said. “We want to use that to be in the cutting edge and push us forward. So again, it’s part of what we do. It’s part of our planning; it’s part of our process.”
Marrone’s offenses in New Orleans were explosive to say the least. He utilized Reggie Bush, a running back with a skill set very similar to that of C.J. Spiller, very well. In the three seasons that Marrone was offensive coordinator for the Saints, Bush averaged 70 receptions a season.
Nathaniel Hackett is a boom-or-bust situation for the Bills. While he does have the “NFL Experience” that Coach Marrone made it clear that he desired, that experience only comes in the form of a quality control coach, which he served as with the Bills in the Dick Jauron era in the 2008-2009 season.
Hackett has also spent time at Stanford as an offensive/defensive assistant, and has only been an offensive coordinator for two seasons at Syracuse. During his time in Buffalo, the Bills attempted to bring back the K-Gun offense, which the Jim Kelly-led team utilized in their Super Bowl years.
The K-Gun offense is predicated on a no-huddle, high tempo, attacking offense. The system is designed to wear down opposing defenses, just like we have grown to see with the New England Patriots, as well as at the college level with Chip Kelly’s Oregon Ducks.
For the K-Gun to be successful, the quarterback must be accurate and intelligent enough to make sight adjustments at the line of scrimmage. This is why Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib has now been linked as a possible draft target of the Bills; he knows the offense, he is intelligent, and he is a fairly accurate passer.
On the defensive side of the ball, Mike Pettine will be coaching. He is a Rex Ryan disciple, having joined him with the Baltimore Ravens in 2002 as a defensive assistant. There, he quickly rose up the coaching ladder becoming a defensive line coach, an outside linebackers coach, and finally a defensive coordinator when he followed Ryan to the Jets in 2009.
Pettine has operated with a 3-4 base defensive front since joining the league, however he utilizes both the 4-3 and 46 defenses so much, that it’s difficult to say “He’s a 3-4 guy” or “He’s a 4-3 guy.” With the Jets, Pettine’s defenses have ranked no lower than No. 8 in the National Football League in total defense, and in his first year had a No. 1 ranking.
Pettine has been credited on numerous occasions with being the primary reason for cornerback Darrelle Revis’ and linebacker David Harris’ fast development in his defensive scheme.
These moves, while risky on the offensive side of the ball, should excite Bills fans for the simple fact that these aren’t your same old Bills. They’re trying something new. Something exciting. Something innovative.
The Bills are desperate for a winning team, failing to earn a playoff bid in each of the last 13 seasons, and youth, energy, and excitement is what this young roster needs to succeed. Coupled with a solid showing in free agency and the 2013 NFL Draft, it’s hard to count these Bills out of a playoff run.