The Buffalo Bills made their head coaching choice official Monday, introducing Doug Marrone as the team's 17th coach.
Marrone signed his contract just before being introduced to the media Monday. The former Syracuse University coach been courted by several teams, Cleveland among them, but he learned in meeting with the Bills five times last week his preference was to remain in New York state:
"I had some opportunities to make a choice, and I've chosen to be here. I can't tell you how excited I am to be the head football coach. I can't tell you how excited I am for my family and I to move up here. We're looking forward to it. I'm excited about working with the people in this organization, but I'm especially excited to be working with these players."
Those players are coming off their fifth straight last-place finish in the AFC East. Bills officials hope Marrone can perform a turnaround similar to the transformation seen in Syracuse. The Orange went 10-37 in the four years prior to Marrone's arrival. His teams went 25-25 in four seasons, but they also posted two wins over top 10 teams (West Virginia in 2011 and Louisville in 2012) and earned two Pinstripe Bowl titles and a share of the 2012 Big East title. A 25-25 record may not seem great at first glance, but ask any Orange fan how moribund the mood around the team had become in the 21st century, and you'll quickly gain insight into just how great a job was done by Marrone.
Most Orange fans are sad to see Marrone go. So, too, is the administration, which was sad Marrone won't make the trip with the school to the ACC in 2013.
"Doug has restored Syracuse football to its rightful place and we are appreciative of the foundation he has laid on and off the field for the future success of the program," Syracuse athletic director Daryl Gross said. "We wish him the absolute best in his opportunity in the NFL."
Marrone's offense set several records in 2012, including school marks for total yards, passing yards and first downs. Quarterback Ryan Nassib was also a Pro Football Weekly All-American under Marrone, as he went on to set the career school record for passing, ahead of even Donovan McNabb. He was also offensive coordinator of the New Orleans Saints in 2006 and 2008, when the Saints led the NFL in total offense and quarterback Drew Brees surpassed the 5,000-yard mark.
Such a performance would be welcomed in Buffalo, but he won't be calling plays. He did say, though, that all plays on every side of the ball will go through him. He will have total say on who his assistants are, but general manager Buddy Nix said he is free to rehire any of the assistant the team fired last week if he so chooses.
Team officials repeatedly said over the past week no stone will be left unturned as they try to find people who fit the team's new, forward-thinking mindset. Nix said they did that with Marrone, so there was no need to continue the interview process with Lovie Smith, Ken Whisenhunt and other candidates:
"Once we saw this guy fits what we want and this is the guy, then we'll sign him. We won't say, 'Let's go see if we can find a better one.' If we're happy with that guy, we'll pull the trigger."
The Bills did not release terms of Marrone's deal. ESPN reported the contract is for four years. The Bills are the first of the teams to fire their coaches after the 2012 season to hire a new one.
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