BBD Editor: Dan Hope
Doug Marrone has kept all of his coordinators in tact going into his second season as head coach, but he has already made two changes to his coaching staff. One of those changes came Monday, when the Bills announced linebackers coach Chuck Driesbach was relieved of his duties.
The 2013 season was Driesbach’s 37th year as a football coach, but his first with the Bills and in the National Football League altogether.
In his lone season with the team, Driesbach was primarily responsible for coaching the team’s inside linebackers, according to the Bills’ official website.
That makes the decision to fire him a somewhat surprising one, considering how impressive his lead pupil, Kiko Alonso, was as the Bills’ every-down middle linebacker in his rookie season. A potential Defensive Rookie of the Year, Alonso played every single snap on the Bills defense this season, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). In his 1,176 plays, he amassed 159 tackles, 13 total tackles for loss, two sacks, four interceptions, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.
Also the defense’s on-field play caller, Alonso came along as impressively as a rookie as anyone could have expected, and Driesbach deserves credit for his role in that development. That said, part of the reason Alonso became an every-down player was the overall underperformance of the rest of the team’s inside linebackers. Perhaps the biggest disappoint in development was second-year linebacker Nigel Bradham, who failed to establish himself as a worthy starter alongside Bradham.
The Bills might not necessarily be in the market to replace Driesbach; the plan could be for Jim O’Neil, who is also listed as a linebackers coach and has worked with defensive coordinator Mike Pettine since 2009 (including four years with the Jets from 2009-12), to take on the role of coaching both inside and outside linebackers.
Either way, the Bills still have a real need to improve in linebacker play. Some of that will go along with the continued development of Alonso, who became a major factor on the Buffalo defense as a rookie but still has significant room to improve, especially in terms of his angles in run defense.
Furthermore, the Bills should look to this year’s NFL Draft to add more talent to play alongside Alonso; as BBD’s Eric Samulski recently elaborated upon, there are no shortage of talented linebackers in this year’s draft class who could help the Bills improve their struggling run defense.