MOBILE, Ala. – Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone said Monday he would like to add a quarterbacks coach to his staff of offensive assistants.
Marrone is busy this week working on filling openings on his staff – and waiting to see if a big hole will materialize.
Marrone is reviewing candidates for receivers coach, a spot created when Ike Hilliard was fired after the season. Meanwhile, the Bills are anxiously watching the Cleveland Browns’ head-coaching search. Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine has interviewed for the job, and it would be a big loss to the Bills if the Browns picked him.
The QB coach would be a new addition to the staff. Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett doubled as the QB coach during the 2013 season. But Marrone said that was a lot to put on Hackett’s plate, especially when injuries hit the QB position.
Marrone and most of the Bills’ football staff are in Mobile to scout the practices at the Senior Bowl college all-star game.
“We’re looking at quarterback coaches,” Marrone said. “One of the things that happened when we had those injuries was trying to get three quarterbacks ready. And having just Nathaniel was a very difficult situation, one that we didn’t foresee, but it was the situation we were in. We have a young stable of quarterbacks right now. We want to make sure we add people.
“Not that Nathaniel can’t handle it. But we want to make sure his role as a leader and coordinator is to make sure everything’s going right. When you put three quarterbacks that are playing with only one game of experience between the three, that’s not a situation you would wish on even your enemies in this profession.”
Rookie first-round draft pick EJ Manuel started 10 games for Buffalo. Thad Lewis, who had started just one game before this season, made five starts. Rookie Jeff Tuel started one game and relieved Manuel in another.
“We want to make sure we’re doing the right thing and have the full support of what we need to develop the young receivers, develop the young quarterbacks, develop what we want to do offensively,” Marrone said.
Meanwhile, Marrone said the 47-year-old Pettine is deserving of a head-coaching job.
“Obviously he’s very well respected throughout the league,” Marrone said. “I think in this league when you go out there and you’re putting together a scheme and you’re productive and successful at it, I think you’re going to get recognized. Obviously it’s well earned for Mike. We’re happy for him.”
Marrone said he has had lengthy discussions with team president Russ Brandon and general manager Doug Whaley about what to do if Pettine leaves for Cleveland.
“For us, when we first were contacted about it, obviously myself Doug Whaley and Russ sat down for long periods of time and discussed the what ifs,” Marrone said. “What if he goes? We have a lot of things in place if that happens. Obviously it’s very late in the process. We’re kind of in the same boat – just wait and see.”
There have been numerous reports Cleveland will conduct second interviews this week with both Pettine and Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who is preparing for the Super Bowl. It’s widely believed the Browns also are interested in Denver offensive coordinator Adam Gase, but he has stated he will do no interviews until Denver’s season is over.
Marrone said he would not look to make major schematic changes in the Bills’ defense if Pettine were to leave for Cleveland.
“We’ve had some of the players be successful,” Marrone said. “Would there be some type of changes? Any time you make a move, there’s some type of changes? Would it be dramatic changes? I don’t think that would be fair to our players.”
Marrone is three weeks removed from the end of his team’s 6-10 regular season. His reaction to several season-review subjects:
• What the 28th-ranked pass offense needs besides the development of Manuel: “I think a lot of it is we’ve got to keep people on the field. In going back, we’ve done the preliminary process, meaning looking at all the statistics, pulling a couple things we wanted to make sure we looked at. We’ve seen a lot of positive things we need to work on with EJ. We’re excited about that. There are some statistics we need to do a better job in. Right off the top of my mind ... is the performance on third down. That’s a key issue.”
The Bills ranked 29th on third-down conversions.
• How he evaluated the offensive line: “Just like all the other positions, I don’t think you ever stop trying to upgrade. I do think we have probably two players that even in my time here a couple opposing coaches have said things to me – about how Cordy Glenn played at left tackle, which was very consistent, and with Eric Wood and how he played. I think both those players are going in the right direction.
“Obviously, we went through a couple of transitions at left guard with Colin Brown and Doug Legursky, and Doug’s coming back. At right guard, Kraig Urbik was banged up a lot during the season, and Erik Pears is a veteran guy who played right tackle for us.”
Marrone said the offseason is about trying to upgrade the roster wherever possible.
“And I think the players know that,” he said. “You always say to them our job is to try to bring someone in here to beat you out. Your job is to try to maintain your starting role.”
• Why the run defense, which ranked 28th, wasn’t better: “Big plays. It’s frustrating for all of us. ... When we see something and we envision it, and we do it that way and execute it that way, we feel that we should be able to get that again and again and again. That’s one of the challenges for us as coaches. ... If you’re looking at priorities of what we want to address, when we talk about that phase of defense, that’s at the top of the list.”