With the hiring of new Head Coach Doug Marrone there came a new coaching staff, and within Marrone’s selections were two new and interesting names tabbed as the team’s top coordinators. Nathaniel Hackett was named Offensive Coordinator and Mike Pettine earned the Defensive Coordinator role in Marrone’s first NFL coaching staff. Both coaches bring interesting connections, styles, and backgrounds to their roles with the Bills and how they handle their jobs will have a long way in the overall performance of the team. Their hiring can be considered as important as any player personnel move that was made this offseason since their influence on their respected units will say a lot about how they perform on Sundays.
Normally assistant coaches don’t have the impact on a game like head coaches, but fans and media members watched as former head coach Chan Gailey was never able to bring the defensive unit higher than 22nd in his three years and only developed an offense that possessed little playmaking and scoring ability. His inability to make proper coaching hires played a part of his underwhelming tenure. Whether it was Dave Wannstedt’s vanilla scheme, George Edwards lack of experience and play calling, or Gailey outsmarting himself it all mixed together to a 15-33 record.
Marrone’s decision to bring his offensive coordinator in Syracuse with him was a logical one. New offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett comes to Buffalo with a lot of familiarity to the type of offensive attack Marrone wants and knows Marrone’s demeanor in the what calls to play and when. Hackett knows the offensive philosophy and his ability to translate it to his new roster will be important, but more important to the offense’s immediate success is his adjustment to NFL defenses versus college.
Hackett knows he has playmakers in CJ Spiller and Stevie Johnson, but what will make this offense electric is how he develops first round pick EJ Manuel and how he molds the offense around the talented rookie quarterback. Manuel is currently behind veteran Kevin Kolb on the depth chart, but Hackett and Marrone both know that Manuel is the future for the franchise and their jobs.
Marrone made a more aggressive hire when it came to picking his defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. Pettine is an established NFL assistant coach and has been a part of some highly ranked units in Baltimore and New York, though he has never been given the true top coordinator role. Pettine stepped out of Rex Ryan’s shadow and on his own leaving the Jets when he joined the Bills. Pettine brings in a wealth of knowledge of attacking 3-4 hybrid defenses that should greatly improve a unit that has been in the bottom of third of the league for the past four years.
The Bills already have defensive talent in place that should make Pettine’s first season a success, but how he adjusts to life without his mentor, Ryan, will be telling. A Bills defense that ranks in the top half of the league would be a marked improvement over the woebegone of Dave Wannstedt and George Edwards. Pettine will be counted on to be smarter when it comes to game day adjustments and also to instill an attacking mentality that will reflect in the players’ attitude and the unit’s scheme as a whole.
In all, if the two new generals of the offense and defense increase the competitiveness and overall success of their respected units, the Bills should be looking at a winning record and a possible playoff berth.