BBD Editor Mike Watkins
In less than a week after the Buffalo Bills hired Doug Marrone to be their head coach, the two most important positions on his staff have been filled. The first news to break was his offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett would join him in Buffalo to resume the same position. Then in less than 24 hours Marrone hired defensive coordinator Mike Pettine formerly of the New Your Jets. Both hires caused pretty stark reactions from Bills fans.
The more controversial hire of the two was Hackett, for a multitude of reasons. He’s young at 33 years old, he’s never been an OC on the NFL level, and Marrone said in his introduction news conference that he wanted proven guys who wanted to be in Buffalo. Now I like everyone else started to go down the connection list of possible NFL OC’s with previous experience at that spot. The names included people he had worked with like Carmichael in New Orleans and others he hadn’t like Hue Jackson in Cincinnati. Then it occurred to me that Marrone wasn’t going to hire any of those guys. Marrone being from the offensive side of the ball was going to look for, like most coaches do from either side of the ball when hired as an HC, someone who was an extension of himself, Someone who knew what he wanted and how he wanted it to be taught. Enter Hackett, Hackett has been learning under Marrone for two years now and is said to be very bright and a rising star in the coaching ranks.
Obviously Bills fans are worried about the young age and lack of experience on the NFL level, but I think its getting overblown. The reality is Marrone is going to have much more influence over the offensive side of the ball then he led on at his press conference. He however cannot be everywhere at once and needs someone to convey things in the manner he wants them conveyed. Hackett is his star apprentice and he clearly trusts him with such a tall task. I’m really not worried about this hire because when push comes to shove Marrone will call the shots on that side of the ball.
Now to the more critical hire by Marrone and that is the DC position with which he filled with Pettine. The most pressing question from the get go will be what type of defense will the Bills be running under him 3-4 or 4-3. To me its doesn’t really matter because with the spread passing game in full vogue in the NFL right now you need to teach a 4 man front no matter what you do. I expect him to install a hybrid defense which is the way the league is going now. You really can’t just settle into one type of look as the Bills did this year and expect an NFL team not to figure it out before half time.
Pettine comes from a great tree of coaching and has worked with defenses that have top 10 finishes from Baltimore to the Jets. That is key because it likely means he has a good idea of what works and what doesn’t work in the NFL. In both those stops the defenses were and are set up to attack opposing offenses not “bend but don’t break” that has been the Bills model for what seems like a decade now. This new style of defense should be a pretty stark contrast to what has been recently run in Buffalo. I think Bills fans will really take to it even though it will give up a big play now or then, it will be refreshing to see the Bills finally attack on defense.
So to sum this up I’m ok with both of the hires. They are young enthusiastic coaches who are looking to prove themselves on this level for various reasons. There are still a lot of positions to fill before its said and done, but this to me looks like a start in the right direction with coaches that look to have bright futures in the league. The great ones all have to be given a chance to start somewhere and hopefully it’s here in Buffalo.