Jan 08, 2013 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Just as soon as the word got out early Sunday morning that Doug Marrone was trading Syracuse Orange for Buffalo Bills blue, the negativity began.
From this corner in Central New York, it was fury at Marrone for having the nerve to leave the program he helped resuscitate. From that corner in Western New York, it was griping about missing the big name and settling for something smaller.
Such is our times. You can say something positive happened, and get a few seconds’ worth of perfunctory attention. Or you can complain, and it’s worth hours, or days, of talk that rehashes the same tired points over and over.
None of this requires any reason to stop and think, but that’s what we need to do. And once said thinking is done, we’ll likely find that, for much-improved SU and for the long-suffering Bills, this all just might work out.
A large part of the grief given to Marrone does not stem from this returning to the NFL, where he essentially learned his coaching craft with the Jets and Saints. Nor is it based on the work he has done turning the sorry Orange program around after the Greg Robinson debacle.
It’s all based on a single quote, given when Marrone took over at SU, the one where he said that this was his “dream job”. What, the cynics say, it’s not a dream job anymore?
Folks, this is all about context. Marrone meant it at the time, when he hadn’t been a head coach before, when he was coming back to rescue the alma mater. He was honest and truthful.
But guess what? Times change, and circumstances change. What was true in January 2009 might not be as true in January 2013. Marrone has done wonderful work, and the most important part is that he’s leaving behind a stronger, improved and healthy program, ready to take on the ACC without fear or embarrassment.
Perhaps Marrone also realized that, at SU or in any other major college program not named Alabama, to get to the absolute top is a massive longshot these days. In the NFL, even with the Bills’ recent sorry history, the odds are a whole lot better.
Further credit must go to Daryl Gross, not just for hiring Marrone, but for avoiding pointless headlines and headaches with his replacement and instead making the likely (and sensible) move to promote defensive coordinator Scott Shafer.
Popular with the players and respected by his coaching peers, Shafer gives SU the best chance to keep as much of the staff as possible, not to mention the current crop of recruits as signing day nears. Better yet, no one will have to start over, and they don’t need to, anyway.
Now, to all the Bills fans that longed for Chip Kelly, or dreamed that Jon Gruden or Bill Cowher was going to step down from their cushy TV gigs, or wanted a “proven NFL name” like Ken Whisenhunt or Lovie Smith, just stop already.
As franchises like Cleveland and Philadelphia found out, heavily courting Kelly didn’t work, and might not ever work. By this point, Gruden and Cowher have been away for a while, and no one knows for sure if they ever want to put up with the sidelines again.
Most of all, going after Smith or Whisenhunt, or the latest hot NFL assistant, would repeat a too-familiar refrain. Buffalo has gone the hot-assistant route (Gregg Williams, Mike Mularkey) and the retread route (Dick Jauron, Chan Gailey), and how has that worked? Or more accurately, not worked?
Understandably, folks in Buffalo are quite impatient, but here is where Marrone might really work out for them, for a couple of reasons.
First, this is not a guy that needs an introduction to Upstate New York’s football community. Marrone spent a lot of time logging the miles from Buffalo to Albany, and no doubt he ran into Bills fans that have stuck with the team through these lean years. He gets it, and wants to turn it all around, just as he did at SU.
Also, Marrone has coached much longer in the NFL than he has in college, earning the ringing endorsements of the likes of Bill Parcells and Sean Payton. In his time with the New Orleans Saints, Marrone played a key role in starting that long-suffering franchise, with fans as passionate as anyone in the league, on the path to its ultimate Super Bowl glory in 2010.
So to the Bills and their followers, I promise that you are really going to love having Doug Marrone as your coach at the outset. He’ll work hard, use all the modern tools at his disposal, and will give Buffalo the best possible chance to rise again.
And to the folks in Syracuse, instead of lashing out at Marrone for doing what any good person at his craft would do – namely, seek a better opportunity and take it – thank him for taking a bad product, on and off the field, and making it presentable again. Being mean might draw attention, but being nice works out better.