(Reports say the Buffalo Bills have hired a guy who actually has hoisted a championship trophy as a head coach. Photo from suathletics.com)
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UPDATED: 11:05 am EST
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GREENBELT, Md. — The Buffalo Bills have tabbed Doug Marrone to be their next head coach.
New Bills president Russ Brandon, in a Sunday-morning text to the Buffalo News, confirmed overnight reports that the NFL club and Marrone had reached an agreement in principle.
A contract and other details had yet to be hammered out, according to both the Buffalo News and Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.
Marrone, 48, had been head coach at Syracuse University since 2009.
In four years he turned around a moribund Orangemen program, which hadn’t had a winning season since 2001.
Marrone (pronounced Ma-RONE) led the Orangemen to a pair of 8-5 seasons that included two bowl victories, and his record was 25-25. Syracuse had gone 26-57 in the seven seasons before Marrone’s arrival.
In his last game with Syracuse on Dec. 29, Marrone’s Orangemen crushed West Virginia 38-14 in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium.
Marrone was one of five candidates the Bills interviewed, after the club fired previous head coach Chan Gailey on Monday.
The other interviewees: fired Arizona Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt, fired Arizona defensive coordinator Ray Horton, fired Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith and the hottest NFL head-coach candidate from the college ranks, Oregon’s Chip Kelly.
The Bills interviewed Marrone on Friday, reports said.
Current Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten is among the future NFLers Marrone mentored in college. Marrone was Witten’s position coach at Tennessee in 2001.
Marrone jumped to the NFL in 2002, and for four years was offensive line coach with the New York Jets under head coach Herm Edwards.
From 2006-08 Marrone was Sean Payton’s offensive coordinator with the New Orleans Saints, in the early years of the club’s renaissance behind quarterback Drew Brees.
At Syracuse, reports said Marrone ran an NFL-style offence his first three years, before he and offensive coordinator Nathaniel (Nate) Hackett incorporated a more up-tempo college-style attack this past season.
Marrone’s quarterback for the last three years at Syracuse was Ryan Nassib, whose draft stock has been rising since the season ended.
Marrone himself played his college football at Syracuse. He started as an offensive lineman from 1983-85, then played two seasons in the NFL – with the Miami Dolphins in 1987 and the Saints in 1989.
A native of the Big Apple, Marrone was born in the Bronx. He and his wife Helen have two daughters and a son.
Gailey was fired on New Year’s Eve after compiling a 16-32 record in three years.
On New Year’s Day, Brandon promised a bold new direction for the Bills franchise, on the field and off, after 13 years of missing the playoffs and all the accompanying angst.
“It is time to start, create and lead this franchise into the future with a new legacy,” Brandon said. “I can promise you that this will be a forward-thinking, progressive and attacking organization heading into the future.”
Brandon led a four-member team that conducted the head-coach interviews, along with GM Buddy Nix, assistant GM Doug Whaley and front-office VP Jim Overdorf.