Doug Marrone is picking one of the young, up-and-coming members of his Syracuse University coaching staff for a key job with the Buffalo Bills.
The Bills’ head coach will bring his Syracuse offensive coordinator, Nate Hackett, to Buffalo to hold the same position with the Bills, a source close to the team told The News.
Hackett, 33, has limited NFL experience. He was a bottom-rung aide on Dick Jauron’s Bills staff in 2008 and 2009 as the offensive quality control coach. He held the same job the previous two years in Tampa Bay.
He blossomed under increased responsibility given to him by Marrone the last three years in Syracuse. Hackett is given credit for helping Orange quarterback Ryan Nassib progress into one of the top college quarterbacks in the country. Hackett served as quarterbacks, passing game and tight ends coach for Marrone in 2010. He was offensive coordinator each of the last two seasons.
He’s the son of former University of Pittsburgh and Southern California head coach Paul Hackett, a disciple of the West Coast offense.
Marrone, an offensive coach, stressed on Monday he wanted coordinators with NFL experience. But he gave the impression he viewed it as more key on the defensive side.
“We want people that have thorough NFL experience, especially on the defensive side of the ball,” he said, referring to the coordinators.
The Syracuse offense improved from 90th to 17th in the country this season. Hackett and Marrone showed flexibility in running the Syracuse attack. They switched to a hurry-up, no-huddle approach to try to kick-start the offense, and it eventually paid off. The Orange won six of its last seven games to finish 8-5. Nassib completed nearly 63 percent of his passes for 3,619 yards with 24 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Syracuse averaged a school-record 476 yards a game and gained more than 500 seven times.
Meanwhile, Marrone held an interview with New York Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. The Bills’ interview with Pettine — pronounced PET-in — was reported by Jets coach Rex Ryan during a news conference in New York.
Pettine’s contract with the Jets is up, and he refused an extension earlier this year. Pettine ran a Jets defense that ranked first, third, fifth and eighth in yards allowed over the past four seasons.
“I hope he doesn’t take that job,” Ryan said of Pettine’s Bills interview. “I hope he goes somewhere else.”
Pettine, 46, has worked in a 3-4 defensive scheme his entire career. He was Ravens outside linebackers coach from 2006 to 2008. He was a lower-level Ravens aide for three years before that.
Ryan called the defensive signals on game day in 2009 and 2010. He ceded more of the play-calling authority to Pettine the past two years. The Jets’ defense has given the Bills’ offense fits the last three seasons due to a complex blitzing scheme and outstanding coverage by the cornerbacks. The Jets have been in the top 12 in third-down defense each of the last four years. New York’s defense held together well this year despite numerous injuries, including the loss of star cornerback Darrelle Revis.
“We had the conversations, and Mike thinks it’s best that he go to a different team as defensive coordinator, and I wish him all the best unless he goes to Buffalo,” Ryan said.
Meanwhile, the Bills also had sights set on Jacksonville defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. Jacksonville’s assistants have been granted permission to seek other jobs, even though they haven’t officially been released. The Bills have requested permission to speak with him, according to CBS Sports.
Tucker, 40, has been coordinator in Jacksonville for four seasons and has not had as much talent as Pettine. Tucker has run a 4-3 scheme with the Jaguars but coached in a 3-4 scheme the previous four seasons under Romeo Crennel in Cleveland. Tucker also coached for four seasons on the staff of Jim Tressel at Ohio State.
The Jaguars ranked 23rd on defense Tucker’s first season, then finished 28th, sixth and 30th this season. Their strong showing in 2011 came despite the fact Jacksonville’s offense ranked 32nd.