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Bills head coach gets mostly good grades

Rochester Business Journal
January 31, 2014

In 2013, the Buffalo Bills finished 6-10 and missed the playoffs for the 14th straight year. In spite of this, most respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll gave Bills head coach Doug Marrone good grades for his first year with the team.

Newly promoted to Bills president and CEO, St. John Fisher College graduate Russ Brandon hired Marrone last January. Marrone, who had spent four years as head coach at Syracuse University, replaced Chan Gailey, who was fired after the Bills were 6-10 in the 2012 season and again missed the NFL playoffs.

Slightly more than half of poll participants this week gave Marrone a grade of B; one-third gave him a C. Seven percent gave his first-year performance an A, compared with 3 percent who gave him an F.

Statistically in 2013, the team showed some improvement over 2012. The defense finished second in the NFL with a franchise-record 57 sacks and ranked 10th in yards allowed, the best performance since 2004. But against the run, the Bills ranked 28th. The offense’s performance also was mixed. The team’s runners finished second in the NFL, but the passing attack finished 28th.

Brandon said after the season he was “pleased with the direction of the franchise”—whose players come to Rochester each summer for training camp—and the leadership of Marrone and General Manager Doug Whaley. “We are (on) the path to success,” he added.

Most respondents, however, think the Bills will miss the playoffs again next season.

As for this weekend’s 48th Super Bowl, the majority of respondents predict that the Denver Broncos will defeat the Seattle Seahawks.

Roughly 500 readers participated in this week’s poll, conducted Jan. 27 and 28.

How do you grade Doug Marrone’s performance in his first season as Buffalo Bills head coach?
A: 7%
B: 51%
C: 33%
D: 7%
F: 3%

Do you think the Bills will make the playoffs next season?
Yes: 44% 
No: 56% 

Which team do you think will win this year’s Super Bowl?
Denver Broncos: 78% 
Seattle Seahawks: 22% 


Marrone clearly established himself as an NFL head coach and much more impressive than his Bills predecessors of late. He is hampered by a lack of depth in several positions, so the next two years and drafts as well as off-season moves will be critical to his success. Of course, the development of EJ Manuel will also play a huge part in his success. I gave him a C average.
—Peter Short, Pittsford

The Bills are headed in the right direction. Losing Mike Pettine was a setback, but it happened at the best time possible. The incoming defensive coordinator has a full off-season to work. Jim Schwartz seems to have a similar, aggressive style as Pettine, and I’m confident the Bills won’t miss a step. I see at least a wild-card berth so long as they have a healthy quarterback all year.
—Chris Grabowski, Solutions Unlimited

I think the Bills have made progress this year despite the record; they lost many games by three points or less and played well most games despite the QB issues. At least one was caused by Marrone’s play calling. It was his first year as an NFL coach. If the Bills can keep most of the good players, I believe they could be a playoff contender in 2014.
—Stanley Hilt

Coaching performance is based only on wins. How can Marrone be graded out as a C if the team he coached was less than .500? My grade was a D.
—Jerry McCabe, Irondequoit

The Bills will make the playoffs the year they decide to spend money to field a team that is capable of this goal.
—Dave Sliney

Really? This is so male. This question comes under the heading of “popular culture” and has little merit. When you begin asking questions like this: “What impact has the ‘Redefining the Multiple: Contemporary Japanese Printmakers’ show currently being exhibited at the Memorial Art Gallery had on your thinking about contemporary Japan and its worldview?” I will think of giving sports a 10 percent share of attention. We need inquisitive, intellectual thinking for our children and society. Yeah, yeah, yeah—I know that sports make “team players.” Just remember that the U.S. has always been built by fiercely independent, free-thinking mavericks who never played on teams and who follow their own instincts.
—Eve Elzenga, Eve Elzenga Design

The new Bills management team looks like a big improvement over the last 10 years. One big problem the Bills have had since the Bill Polian and John Butler era was college scouting. Now that Buddy Nix is gone, I think we will do better in the draft (Aaron Maybin vs. Kiko Alonzo).
The other problem has been the handling of salary cap and re-signing veteran stars (Marshawn Lynch as an example). If the new guys can upgrade the talent level, we will have a winner again.
—Dennis Ditch

The Bills will not reach the playoffs until they finally get a real franchise quarterback who can play the whole season. EJ Manuel is not the answer.
—Jim Nielsen

Marrone’s grade of “C” rather than “D” for year one is based on some pretty impressive (albeit early-season) wins against the Panthers and Ravens. This team clearly has some good athletes and potential, but the staff needs to do a much better job “coaching up” the players. Schwartz coming in as the defensive coordinator is great move by the front office; the team needs experienced leaders. Here’s hoping for a good draft and better offensive execution in 2014!
—P.J. Guisto, JC Jones & Associates LLC

I believe Marrone will be a very successful head coach in the NFL for many years to come. He is the real deal, and he gets the big picture. Rome wasn’t built in a day. I feel the same way I felt in 1988 and ’89, when the Bills were building a really great team after many years of incompetence. We are definitely on the upswing.
—Jim Christian

To field a good team, you have to select and develop good players. The coach can do so much. Too bad the NFL has overpriced good talent.
—John Beez, Rochester

(Former Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Mike) Pettine went from being the defensive coordinator to being a head coach in Cleveland. There are published reports of other defensive coaches being poached to join Pettine. Apparently Marrone can pick good defensive coaches, although I am not at all happy with (ex-Detroit Lions coach Jim) Schwartz. Who picked Schwartz? He comes from Detroit. The Lions were a train wreck and led the league in underachievement. Marrone looks to be a good guy. We’ll see if he is a playoff coach. He sure isn’t going to get there with this quarterback and receivers who are too small, too slow and have mediocre hands except for (wide receiver) Robert Woods, who was in witness protection for the year. Who is responsible for not calling plays for Woods? If it is Marrone, my grade goes down.
—Jay Birnbaum

A great coach makes the blowouts close, and then he wins the close ones. There were too many mental mistakes and blown games, which have a lot to do with attitude, which in turn flows down from the coach. I’m tired of saying, “If things had been different, the Bills would be 8 and 0” … when they are 2-6. With a better team, Marrone had the same record as Chan Gailey, 6-10. If (quarterback EJ) Manuel doesn’t come around or keeps hurting his knees, there’s little in the near future for the Bills.
—Clifford Jacobson M.D., Vanguard Psychiatric Services

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