As we all know by now, Chan and friends have been canned. He went graciously, and left some very kind words for Bills fans. I will root for his success, gladly, elsewhere. Russ Brandon is now in charge, and brings a youthful look to the organization, along with some forward thinking. Bringing a “money-ball” type analytic department in is top on the list for Russ, outside of the new coach search. While many are skeptical that this approach will be successful in the NFL, including our own hero Bill Polian, I am personally intrigued to say the least about this. Any change is welcome at this point, and if it means paying closer attention to our players and their production, I am for it. What effect it will have remains to be seen, and will depend on the ability of the department to interpret the results, as there are many variables in the NFL vs. MLB or NBA.
Buddy, Russ, Doug Whaley, and Jim Overdorf head the search for a Coach, and have already assembled an impressive list of candidates. Interviewing Ken Whisenhunt and Ray Horton the day the announcement was made that Russ was in charge was in itself an aggressive move, even if fans don’t want another retread. The fact that they immediately flew across the country to start interviews was a refreshing sign of things to come. Securing interviews with Mike McCoy and Chip Kelly, along with following through on the reported interest of Lovie Smith, shows Russ was serious when he said he would “Leave no stone unturned”. There are also reports that there is mutual interest between the Bills and Doug Marrone, as well as interest in Redskins DC Jim Tressel These are all competent coaches, and would be a vast improvement over the last regime.
However, they each have major flaws and most of them would require much more than just a few pieces falling into place to equal success. Whisenhunt is nearly identical to Chan. Conservative, but good offensive mind when he has the right pieces to work with. He needs a top tier QB to be successful, and fans were outraged to hear that the first candidate up is one similar to what was just fired. He was the only coach to punt more than Chan Gailey inside his own 40, not a popular stat with Bills fans. He needs to hire a top tier DC, as he has little defensive knowledge
Ray Horton was a superb defensive player, and is proving to be one of the up and coming defensive minds in the league. He would add a fire to the locker room, and any player that has played for him has loved playing for him. He gets the most out of his players, and knows how to lead group of football players. He has said that he would not call any plays as a head coach, and would delegate that to his coordinators, a welcome change from Chan’s refusal to give up play calling on the offensive side of the ball; a task that ended up overwhelming him, and lead to his release. However, Ray has no experience as a head coach, and would need to hire not just a solid OC, but a capable DC that would be willing to take input and not have total control over the defense, which could be a tall order for a coach without much pedigree, or connections to multiple coaches that guys like Lovie Smith would have…leading us to:
Lovie Smith was the only coach (as far as i know) that called the Bills first. We all know what he can do. He puts together some of the most feared defenses assembled, and commands the respect of all his players. Devin Hester has contemplated retiring since Lovie was fired. Lovie has the most experience out of any candidate on this list, includingl a Super Bowl appearance with an awful starting QB, Rex Grossman. He could take the talent of the Bills defense and turn them into a top 5 unit within two years, and has deep connections to players and coaches, including pending free agent Brian Urlacher (OK I’m dreaming a little bit here). Smith’s greatest weakness has been his inability to hire a solid offensive coordinator, but that is something I feel Buddy can help with. His expressed interest has already won over the fans, as the vast majority has started campaigning for him. Lovie would require the least out of all candidates to get the Bills to being a true competitor, and is likely the least of a gamble. However, he will undoubtedly be asking for a lot more money that most of the other candidates lined up, and paying head coaches has never been a characteristic of the Bills front office before. We will soon find out if that was all Ralph Wilson, or a joint decision by him and the front office. His drafting has also been questioned, but that may be a result of the Bears scouting department. Doug Whaley has proven himself more than capable as head of the scouting department, and is likely to be the GM of the Bills in the not so distant future. His scouting abilities, coupled with Smith’s coaching abilities, could be what this franchise needs to turn it around.
Now i will look at the two college candidates the Bill shave shown interest in. There are a number of college coaches either interested in jumping to the NFL, or have NFL teams interested in them. Two of the top five candidates are meeting with the Bills.
Doug Marrone is the head coach of the Syracuse Orangemen. He is praised for turning a program that has long been a joke into a team that has won two bowl games in three years. He developed Ryan Nassib, a top QB prospect in this years draft, and it is thought that the two could wind up being a package deal. Doug is a local favorite, as most Bills fans also follow Cuse teams as well, and no one can deny what he has done with a program that has a very hard time recruiting football talent (sounds familiar doesn’t it?). He has knowledge on both sides of the ball, and his players show a great amount of respect for him, as does the college. He does lack experience as a head coach in the NFL, but some big risks will need to be taken by the Bills, and Marrone could be one of them. It should also be noted that many think Doug will end up staying in ‘Cuse with a larger pay rate when all is said and done.
Lastly, Chip Kelly. Chip has done some absolutely amazing things with the Oregon Ducks, and his talent will likely be on display tonight against Kansas State in the fiesta bowl. The Ducks have averaged over 50 points a game this season. The Bills, somewhat conveniently, planned their interview with Ex-Cards coach Ken Whisenhunt at the same time that Kelly was in town for the Fiesta bowl, another aggressive and intelligent move by the Bills brass. There are a number of concerns with Kelly, such has his lack of NFL experience, and the skepticism that his sceme will not translate to the NFL (even though it already has started to, Patriots coach Bill Belichick credits Kelly’s up tempo offense to his own teams faster pace that has been employed this season). The fact that a coach with Belichick’s pedigree respects a man like Chip is reason enough to pursue him. He is the hot commodity of all the college potentials, and would bring instant credibility and relativity to the Bills, something this new President seems to crave. Chip would also require a very good defensive coach to run the D, and is said to want a lot of control over personnel, something i think Buddy would be willing to do. Chip would likely embrace the idea of competing with Belichick, as well as going against defensive guru Rex Ryan, and that competitive spirit would be welcome here in Buffalo
The list will likely not stop there, with reported interest in Jim Tressel, and rumors of Bruce Arians being a possible target as well. There are other coaches out there that would be a good upgrade as well, Mike Zimmer and Hue Jackson come to mind, but we will just have to sit back and see what the Bills do. Hopefully they have learned from the mistakes of the past 13 years, and find the guy to restore our team to winning ways.