The timing was right this time for Rob Moore. As for where he left … not exactly.
Moore, the new Buffalo Bills’ wide receivers coach, actually had a chance to join the team in the same role a year ago, when his boss at Syracuse University, Doug Marrone, left the school to become head coach a couple of hours west down the I-90.
But, as Moore explained this week, he chose to stay at his alma mater for the 2013 season while six other SU assistants came with Marrone to Buffalo.
“I was going through some personal issues, and I didn’t think it would be fair to Doug or the Buffalo Bills to even consider it at that point,” Moore said. “I had to get some things in my personal life together, so that’s really primarily why. That was probably the biggest sticking point. … It just wasn’t the right time and it wasn’t the best situation.”
Fast forward a year, and Moore’s got his personal life “where it should be.” His professional life is likewise stabilized after joining the Bills.
“It’s no different than being a player. I don’t know how you can play this game and not want to play at the top level. It’s the same with coaching,” said Moore, who played receiver for the New York Jets and Arizona Cardinals. “I knew at some point that I would coach at this level, I just didn’t know when.”
The timing of Moore’s arrival in Buffalo has been a bit of an issue in Syracuse. The Bills announced Moore’s hiring on Feb. 6, exactly one day after college football’s national signing day.
The Orange signed five wide receivers as part of their recruiting class, and coach Scott Shafer was left to make phone calls to them after Moore’s departure was announced.
“Do I feel bad about the timing? Yes, there’s no doubt about that. I wish the timing could have been different,” Shafer told the Syracuse Post-Standard last week.
Moore was asked whether he felt any regret that he had actively recruited kids to Syracuse while having preliminary conversations with the Bills – something he said started “about two weeks ago.”
“No, not at all, because for the most part when I was in those living rooms, I had had no contact. I hadn’t talked to Doug, I hadn’t talked to anybody from this staff, so I really didn’t know,” he said. “I had heard rumors swirling and things, but there was no concrete evidence or any concrete conversations that said I wouldn’t be at Syracuse. … I feel pretty good about the situation.”
Shafer told the Post-Standard Moore first told him about the opportunity with the Bills about “four or five days” before signing day.
“He had an illustrious pro career and he wanted to go back and coach at that level,” he told the paper. “I didn’t know what the end game would be – whether he was going to take the job or not. I thought we had a real good chance to keep him, to be honest with you. … He went back and forth on the whole thing.”
Moore agreed, saying he had a “48-hour” window to decide on the job with the Bills when it was formally presented.
“It really did happen quick. It wasn’t a lot of time to really think about it or anything like that,” he said.
Moore’s resume isn’t all that different from the man he’s replacing with the Bills, Ike Hilliard. Each played 12 seasons in the NFL. The 45-year-old Moore will be coaching in the league for the first time in 2014, while the 37-year-old Hilliard came to the Bills with two years of NFL coaching experience.
The difference, of course, is that Moore has a history with Marrone, whom he worked under for three seasons with the Orange.
“I have always admired Rob, stayed in touch with him,” Marrone said. “He did an outstanding job for us there, and we’re fortunate that we’re able to bring him on now.”
Moore inherits what he calls a “tremendous” group of receivers.
“Perfect blend of a lot of different things,” he said. “A lot of speed, some experience, guys that work well in traffic, guys that will be able to stretch the field. … So there are a lot of things here to be excited about.”
All that potential, however, did not amount to enough production in 2013. No. 1 receiver Stevie Johnson had his worst season since becoming a starter in 2010 – finishing with just 52 catches for 597 yards and three touchdowns – although injuries and personal issues kept him off the field for four games.
Combined, Buffalo wideouts had just 144 catches for 1,924 yards and 11 touchdowns. Six individual receivers had as many or more touchdown catches on their own in 2013.
Factoring in catches from running backs and tight ends, the Bills finished 28th in the NFL in receiving yardage.
“I’m in the process of really going through the film and getting a good feel for myself of those strengths and weaknesses,” Moore said.
As a player, Moore was lauded for his work ethic. That’s a trait he’ll need to pass on to the Bills’ young receivers.
“I think it starts with a passion for the game,” he said. “You’ve got to be extremely disciplined in how you play, regardless of route depths and techniques and all the things that are necessary to be on the same page with the quarterback. That’s going to be very important, especially with a young quarterback.”
Moore said his playing career gives him an advantage as a coach “because I’ve been in some of these situations that these players are going to be in. I’ll be able to communicate with them. I’ve probably been through a majority of the things they’re going through.”