The Bills will be fine without Marrone

A 15-17 record apparently makes Doug Marrone a hot commodity on the coaching market. Marrone did lead the Bills to their first winning record in a decade, but there's no denying that the offense regressed under his watch.

Doug Marrone opted out of his contract with the Buffalo Bills on Wednesday night. This comes days after the Bills finished the 2014 season 9-7. After Buffalo's Week 17 win over the New England Patriots, Marrone said, "It's all about the family, the Bills family!" Apparently, Marrone is the dad who goes out for milk and never returns.

Marrone became head coach of the Bills in 2013.  He came from Syracuse University where he led the Orange to a 25-25 record over four seasons. The record itself isn't very impressive, but the program was in much better shape when he left. Before joining his alma mater, Marrone served as offensive coordinator of the New Orleans Saints from 2006-08 and offensive line coach of the Jets from 2002-05. Marrone, an offensive-minded coach, replaced Chan Gailey in Buffalo. Gailey was also an offensive-minded coach. 

Unfortunately for the Bills, the offensive regressed under Marrone. Here's a look at Buffalo's offense from 2012-14.

  Offensive Points Offensive TDs Rushing Yards YPC Passing Yards Yards per Offensive Play Sacks Allowed
2012 (Gailey) 344 36 2,217 5.0 3,269 5.6 30
2013 (Marrone) 339 31 2,307 4.2 3,103 4.8 48
2014 (Marrone) 343 30 1,482 3.7 3,614 5.0 39

In terms of points, Buffalo's offense didn't change much from Gailey to Marrone. That being said, offensive touchdowns were down under Marrone. Marrone's offense was able to move the ball, but their drives often ended in field goals. In the last two seasons, Dan Carpenter connected on 67/74 field goal attempts. Rian Lindell, Buffalo's place kicker in 2012, only attempted 24 field goal attempts in Gailey's last season. If you love field goals, Marrone has proven that he can get you in place. Hopefully for Marrone, his next coaching destination has a kicker as consistent as Dan Carpenter.

Rush yards is one area where the Bills fell significantly in 2014. In Marrone's first season, Buffalo actually ran for more yards than Gailey's 2012 offense. Gailey's offense rushed for 2,217 yards on 442 attempts. In 2013, the Bills had 546 rushing attempts, more than 100 carries from the previous season. It showed as the team's yards per carry average dropped from 5.0 to 4.2. This season, the run game was simply atrocious under Marrone's watch. Buffalo ran for 1,482 yards on 402 attempts. Buffalo's offensive line didn't do the running backs any favors, but giving the backs 144 less carries is a significant drop. Even with the drop in attempts, Buffalo's 3.7 YPC average was it's lowest in the last three seasons. 

Buffalo was pass happy this season and it shows in passing yards. E.J. Manuel and Kyle Orton combined to throw for 3,614 yards. The offense attempted 579 passes this season, compared to 522 in 2013 and 511 in 2012. Even with the significant increase in pass attempts, Buffalo's yards per offensive play was highest in 2012 under Gailey. 

For being an offensive-minded coach, the Bills didn't thrive by any means under Marrone. His offensive line expertise can also be questioned. The line regressed in run blocking and pass protection under Marrone. In his first season, Buffalo's quarterbacks took 18 more sacks. This season, the total dropped from 2013 but 39 sacks is still significant.

Marrone stressed playing his best five offensive linemen throughout the year, yet he waited almost half the season to play Kraig Urbik at left guard. Urbik isn’t a superstar, but his play was significantly better than those who played before him. Urbik was Pro Football Focus’ 53rd best guard, whereas Cyril Richardson was 60th and Chris Williams was towards the bottom of the rankings before suffering a back injury. Buffalo's other offensive guard, Erik Pears, finished 76 among 78 offensive linemen. Eric Wood, Buffalo's center, struggled at center this season because of the poor guard play. The offensive line also regressed with Marrone as head coach.

The best thing I can say about Marrone is that he's terrific at finding defensive coordinators. Mike Pettine, now head coach of the Cleveland Browns, and Jim Schwartz each did a fantastic job on the defensive side of the ball. Each coach had a different philosophy, but the defenses thrived under their coaches. This season's defense was one of the best in franchise history. The unit the Bills in every game they played in 2014. 

The intent of this article wasn't to bash Marrone. He played a part in Buffalo's first winning season since 2004 and Bills fans are certainly grateful for his efforts. However, the fact remains that Buffalo's offenses regressed under Marrone. There's no doubt in my mind that Buffalo will be fine without Marrone. 


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