Buffalo Bills head coach Doug Marrone is a meat and potatoes offensive line coach at heart. He was touted as a forward thinking offensive coach that would instill a no quit attitude in the team, which he has for the most part, but unlike most successful NFL coaches he relies too much on his coordinators in certain situations.
When the Bills interviewed Marrone for their head coaching job the supposed quote that sold CEO Russ Brandon on him was that Marrone believed in the idea of “throwing to score and running to win.” So far this season it appears the Bills offense doesn’t know when the appropriate time to run or throw the ball is.
The Bills are tied for second in the league in rushing attempts and fifth in yardage through 10 weeks. They also stand 23rd in pass attempts and 26th in yards. Needless to say being in the top three in one category and the bottom third in another shows that the ineffectiveness of one makes the entire offense too one dimensional.
Granted that the Bills have played three different quarterbacks this season means that the team will rely on the run game more, but there is a persistent question arising around the offense that reflects the Marrone and Hackett relationship. Are the right offensive calls being made?
This coaching dynamic has played itself throughout the year in a confusing manner. It started early in the year with fans and media members screaming for more screen passes as opposing defenses routinely blitz and brought pressure on rookie quarterback EJ Manuel. Hackett, who calls the plays, shrugged that off the calls until Manuel got hurt in the fifth game against the Browns.
With Thaddeus Lewis in place he decided to listen and started calling ultra conservative game plans that averaged four screen calls a game. When another rookie, Jeff Tuel, came in for the injured Lewis, Hackett decided to air the passes deep and was successful on one attempt.
This erratic play calling is showing itself as contradictory to the quarterback’s success, and in today’s NFL the team’s success is determined by the quarterback’s play.
With the stable of running backs the Bills have in the backfield running the ball should be a priority, especially as the weather turns. But the Bills also have two Olympic sprinters in TJ Graham and Marquise Goodwin on the outside, possession receivers Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods and a tall tight end threat in Scott Chandler. How can an offensive roster like this average 11.2 yards per completion?
Further criticism comes in when one looks at the timing of the pass plays. The Bills have attempted 110 passes on first down, compared to their 185 rushing attempts. This becomes an issue when you see that the Bills when passing on first down have their highest completion percentage (60%) and yards per completion (6.3) versus all other downs. In comparison the run game has their fewest yards per rush (4.2) versus all the other downs.
What it boils down to that Nathaniel Hackett for whatever reason has failed to realize how to best to utilize the talent he has per game situation. The Bills have become predictable on the what type of plays are being called for each situation, and as the head coach Doug Marrone needs to step in and throw his authority around.
Marrone and Hackett were viewed as a package deal, once the ink was dry on Marrone’s contract. If this offense continues to flat line from it’s seven straight 20 point outputs then Hackett’s job should be put into question, along with special coach Danny Crossman whose unit ranks 27th according to Pro Football Outsiders Ranking.
Too often egos get in the way for teams to be successful, but in this case it’s becoming clear that Marrone is letting his assistants fail. What he’s failed to realize is by doing so it’s just putting the pressure and focus back on him. He needs to step up and take control of his assistants and the team as a whole; after all,, he is the head coach.