The Buffalo Bills hired Syracuse University head coach Doug Marrone as the franchise’s 17th coach in the offseason. His hiring came as a mixed bag in the media. The local writers thought it was another cheap ploy and the national writers were impressed with the Bills’ forward thinking.
The reality is that it was probably a mix of both — the Bills wanted something fresh and innovative while staying away from using their time and money in the dog-and-pony Chip Kelly show.
Marrone is 3-5 in his first eight games with the Bills. It’s been a up-and-down first half for Doug, and he’s had to play almost half of his games with the backup QB. The flaws in his game are easy to pick up. He is 0-for-3 in challenges and all three have come at odd times. They’ve been spot challenges which are tough to overturn. He’s also let a few would-be challenges go without throwing the red flag.
The other thing he’s struggled with is time management. The Bills have given up too many scores by the other team at the end of the first half of the game, and it’s been a direct result of poorly managed drives by the Bills prior to the scoring drives. Marrone and co. have to slow the game down and diversify the playbook when it’s called for in those situations.
The good news is that those problems are correctable. Marrone should become a better game manager over time, particularly when you consider that his OC Nathaniel Hackett is a rookie coach in the league as well. As they gain more in-game experience, they should be able to spot these problems. If these mistakes are still happening in year three, then we’ve got problems.
On the flip side, you’ve gotta like how Marrone has gotten his team to play in the first half of the year. They have been in nearly every game and when it looks like they are out of a game, they always seem to find a way to crawl back in. They’ve played stronger in the second half of many of their games and haven’t given up. They’ve made some astute decisions in personnel as well, like going with Aaron Williams at CB and utilizing undrafted rookie Nickell Robey in the slot.
As a rule, when you bring in a new coach and QB, you consider bettering the team’s record from the prior year as a step in the right direction with an eye towards playoff contention the next year. Right now, the Bills are on pace to equal their record of 6-10 from the past two years, but with an easier second half schedule and a returning E.J. Manuel, this team can easily eclipse that mark and maybe even get to .500.
Considering the Bills haven’t been at or above .500 in eight seasons, an 8-8 first year wouldn’t be a bad start to the Marrone regime.