Buffalo Bills’ owner Terry Pegula was faced with a hard, but crucial, first decision as new owner of team. Would he accept head coach Doug Marrone’s requested terms, or call his bluff that he would opt out of his contract? He chose the latter and now Marrone is the former Bills head coach, and Pegula should be commended for a job well done.
Many in the national media and some locally, have openly questioned and criticized Pegula’s decision to call Marrone’s bluff. Especially after former Bills, Panthers and Colts GM Bill Polian declined to become the new football czar for Pegula. Those media members have gone on to question the direction of the franchise and vision of the team, which I say couldn’t be more on track.
One can’t fault Marrone on wanting more money, power, and to push a number of executives out of the front office where they didn’t belong; but it was even more of a testament that Pegula balked at his demands.
Marrone had done a good job cultivating a winning attitude, and despite his overtly conservative approach, brought a winning season in which the team was a game away from the playoffs. That though was still not good enough as his conservative nature played against him in games against the Chiefs, Dolphins and Oakland. The offense, and namely the line, regressed despite him being touted as an innovative game planner and one who stressed superior line play.
So Pegula made the smart choice. If Marrone had opted out then there was nothing he could do as his pay was guaranteed either way, if he stayed then Marrone’s would have had the lion’s share of power and would have another year to make the playoffs or face the guillotine. Either way it was probably going to end up messy between both parties.
For now the Bills, and namely Pegula, look like a mess, but the reality is that the picture probably got a whole lot clearer. It starts with Marrone’s exit and namely his comments to Pegula, and probably to a certain degree, what he told Polian. Pegula now knows more of what meddling was going on, and he could seek to expunge, or at least reorganize, a number of those cited business executives (Russ Brandon) that tend to intrude on football decisions. He should separate church (football) from state (business) and no doubt Polian would’ve done the same.
Secondly it allows Whaley to find a coach that he can be comfortable with. The trinity of former GM Buddy Nix, Brandon and Whaley choose Marrone. Even now we are uncertain of how much input Whaley gave, and how much string pulling Brandon was doing. The fact that Whaley is leading the search gives a clear message that 1.) Whaley is calling the shots on football matters and 2.) He’s sticking around for a while.
This leads to maybe the greatest gift of all, namely a new head coach that may be better than Marrone. The Bills are set to interview Denver offensive coordinator Adam Gase, and then San Diego OC Frank Reich.
Reich is a former Bills quarterback that is beloved by the fans, but also a student of the game and a noted teacher. He may be the best fit possible as they will be tasked with repairing a broken project in EJ Manuel at quarterback. The list of possible candidates is sure to grow, however fans have certainly jumped on the Reich bandwagon early.
By making the decision to not create a more dysfunctional situation Pegula instead made a tough decision that as a first time NFL owner he should be applauded for. He did not give into demands from an employee, and hopefully from this will be able to build a more agreeable relationship with the next head coach, and thus GM, that will lead to more wins in 2015.