Doug Marrone’s to-do list is long as the new head coach of the Buffalo Bills.
Near the top of that list is making a decision on the status of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick heading into the 2013 season.
Not surprisingly, Marrone was asked about Fitzpatrick on Monday as part of his introductory news conference. Also not surprisingly, he wasn’t ready to address Fitzpatrick’s status — not that he would have, anyway.
“I haven’t had the time to make those evaluations,” Marrone said. “I don’t talk about players in the press. I’m looking forward to evaluating this time with our great scouting staff, getting to know them, and starting that process.”
Now for the interesting twist: Marrone’s agent, Jimmy Sexton, also represents Fitzpatrick. The quarterback is due a $3 million roster bonus in March. If he gets cut before that bonus is paid, then he will count $10 million against the Bills’ salary cap in 2013. If he stays on the roster, his cap number will be $10.45 million.
“We covered that, just like we covered everything, but I don’t think we emphasized that any more,” General Manager Buddy Nix said when asked whether the team’s quarterback situation came up with Marrone during the interview process.
Nix has made it clear for months that the Bills are interested in adding a young quarterback to their roster through the draft. They’ll have a leg up in scouting one of those prospects with Marrone on staff.
Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib is a three-year starter for the Orange who’s projected to be a first- or second-round draft pick in April. Last season, when the Miami Dolphins selected Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill eighth overall, they had hired his coach with the Aggies, Mike Sherman, as offensive coordinator. If Nassib’s got what it takes to make it in the NFL, Marrone is the man who’s got the best chance to know.
“I love him. He did an outstanding job for our football team. He’s really grown in the last couple of years; he put a lot of emphasis on the leadership role and really took over the team. He’s a player that has gotten quite a bit better during the year,” Marrone said of Nassib, via the NFL Network.
“He’s going to be playing in this league. I haven’t studied the draft, I haven’t gone through that; that’s down the road for me as far as the process of what I have to go through. But I do know that he’ll be in this league, so I’m excited for him.”
Nassib, who did not respond to an interview request from The News through the Syracuse Athletics Department, is the school’s all-time leader in passing yards (9,194), and completions (792) and is second in touchdown passes (70) and completion percentage (60.3).
“Nassib, we were looking at him for quite a while. He’s one of the quarterbacks out there that’s going to be drafted and we’ll be interested in,” Nix said.
Nassib got better in each season at Syracuse, improving his passing yardage, completion percentage and touchdown totals in each season. He went 21-17 in his three years as a starter, including two Pinstripe Bowl victories.
Eight rookie quarterbacks started and won at least one game this season, so the days of drafting a rookie only to have him sit behind a veteran are long gone.
“My stance on players at every position, whether it be QB, defensive line, or whatever it might be, we will play the best players that give us the best chance to win,” Marrone said. “I don’t think I can say it any more clear than that.”
Before arriving at Syracuse, Marrone worked as the offensive coordinator for coach Sean Payton with the New Orleans Saints from 2006 to ’08. The first of those seasons was Drew Brees’ first with New Orleans.
Finding the next Brees will be a tall order for Nix and the team’s front office, but they hope in Marrone, they’ve got the right coach in place to groom the team’s quarterback of the future.