It is with a heavy heart that I wave goodbye to Doug Marrone. As head coach of Syracuse (my alma mater), I was so stoked that he finally had the program going in a great direction after winning a share of the Big East and becoming the definitive Pinstripe Bowl dynasty (hey, you take victories any way you can at SU). But, I digress. This is about the Bills.
Don’t forget, he’s an offensive-minded coach who installed a high-octane offense with the Orange (helped by Nathaniel Hackett, Paul’s son. And oh by the way, how about a Hackett involved in a high-octane offense?! That’s like saying “jumbo shrimp” or ‘large mouse’). Coming from the Saints, he pretty much used their offensive system in Central New York for the last four years, and Syracuse peaked in 2012 by scoring 30 or more points in five of their last six games. They ranked 20th in the nation in total offense this year, so Buffalo is getting someone who wants to light up the scoreboard. There was always plenty of production to go around at Syracuse, as every year Marrone featured a prolific QB, two WRs and two RBs who all put up numbers.
So how does this translate to Western New York (sorry, I can’t shoehorn Eastern New York anywhere in here)? Marrone will rely on his QB to throw a lot, and while it’s a near certainty they’ll obtain a QB of the future — possibly his Syracuse record-breaking signal-caller Ryan Nassib, who’s moving up draft boards and is currently the fourth-ranked college QB — whoever is under center will get his chance to post numbers. If it’s Ryan Fitzpatrick, he’ll still probably be the same QB he’s been the last couple of seasons, stat-wise. However as all head coaches want their own QB with them, it could also be someone other than Fitzpatrick if the team goes trade or free agency. So the quarterback’s identity is still a question mark — but an intriguing one as he’ll be throwing it a bunch.
There’s no question there’s a need for upgrade at WR, where Stevie Johnson simply is who he is: a guy who will get you right around 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns every season. That’s not going to change, but what is, is that whoever comes in as the No. 2 opposite him will be capable of getting the same stats as Johnson. I don’t think it’s Donald Jones or David Nelson, so I’d have my eye out for someone on the horizon in March who will come in and help amplify this attack.
Now, here’s the big thing: when did Syracuse start rolling this year? When Marrone pushed Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley to the forefront as the Orange ran over teams en route to their terrific finish. This means great things for C.J. Spiller, and it might not mean a closed door on Fred Jackson. Marrone’s system uses two backs a fair amount, so don’t be surprised to see Jackson back. Or if he isn’t, someone else will be in the mix to help the running game. You can expect Spiller to be the main guy, but not the Arian Foster-workhorse we thought he could be in 2013.
What Marrone is going to give the Bills is a chance to compete with the elite teams in the NFL who can score in bunches. It’ll be a fun time unless you’re playing against him.
Jason Smith hosts NFL Fantasy Live on the NFL Network and writes fantasy and other pith for NFL.com. Talk to him on Twitter @howaboutafresca, and listen to him on the NFL Fantasy Live podcast with Michael Fabiano and Elliot Harrison every week on NFL.com. He only asks you never bring up when the Jets play poorly.