Buffalo Bills Coaching Changes and Scheme Changes
Buffalo Bills Coaching Changes and Anticipated Scheme Changes
There is only one constant in the NFL, and that’s change. For the third consecutive year, 25% of the league’s teams will enter the season with different head coaches — and that doesn’t include Sean Payton, who returns to the head coaching ranks after a one-year suspension. Seven of the eight new head coaching hires are from the offensive side of the ball, emphasizing the NFL’s continued transition to an offensive-friendly environment. Only the Jacksonville Jaguars opted to hire from the defensive side of the ball (Gus Bradley).
As if that weren’t enough change, consider that 27 of the league’s 64 offensive and defensive coordinators were replaced. Including the head coaching changes, 37% of the NFL’s most important coaching positions are different from a season ago. Thinking about this another way, there are only 13 teams that return the same head coach, offensive and defensive coordinators:
The NFL is both a cyclical league and one prone to copy cats. When something works for a team, you can be sure other teams will look to duplicate that success; and it doesn’t always work. Not every iteration of the West Coast offense enjoyed the success of the Bill Walsh 49ers. Not every version of Dick LeBeau’s zone-blitz stopped opposing quarterbacks. With that in mind, today’s trends including the zone-read, spread attacks and no huddle approaches will have a mix of successes and failures. That’s the very nature of the league as success only comes with the confluence of great coaching, great players and health.
We will detail each team’s major coaching changes and the schematic implications of those hires. We will update and post our views throughout the preseason as more information is made available in training camp and the preseason.
Today we take a look at the Buffalo Bills
• Head Coach: Doug Marrone (replaces Chan Gailey)
• Offensive Coordinator: Nathaniel Hackett (replaces Curtis Modkins)
• Defensive Coordinator: Mike Pettine (replaces Dave Wannstedt)
What to expect on offense:
New head coach Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett are looking to install an up-tempo offense that is more about pace and mismatches than any one overarching philosophy. At Syracuse, Marrone and Hackett implemented a fast paced (often no huddle) attack that asked the quarterback to make pre-snap reads and put the ball in the optimum playmaker’s hands based on what the defense was showing. That will be the same approach in Buffalo, although Marrone has made it clear his plan is to build an offense around the skills of the players, not force the players to fit into his scheme.
It’s difficult to pigeon hole Marrone’s scheme because he’s a student of the game that’s tried to take pieces from a variety of classic approaches. Ultimately, if things go well, Marrone’s offense will most closely resemble that of his former boss Sean Payton. We could see dozens of different formations and personnel groupings from the Bills in a given game, and the Bills will look to disguise their intentions by running the same plays out of different formations.
With a new quarterback under center (either veteran Kevin Kolb or rookie EJ Manuel), it’s unclear whether we’ll see the full implementation of Marrone’s long-term plans in 2013. We can be sure that Buffalo will make use of its running backs, particularly C.J. Spiller — as playmakers inside, outside and in the receiving game. At the risk of sounding redundant, the key expectations for the Bills this year will be variety, misdirection, and tempo.
What to expect on defense:
Mike Pettine was Rex Ryan’s defensive coordinator in New York for the last four years, and will now have the opportunity to put his own stamp on his former division rival Bills. Versatility is the name of the game, as Pettine wants his players to be comfortable playing different roles. Schematically, the Bills are going to vary their looks more than anyone in the league. Pettine said the Bills will use a nickel formation as the baseline defense, but will move interchangeably from 4-3, 3-4 and even 5-2 defensive fronts. He’s also promised that his defensive backs will play both man and zone interchangeably. While versatility certainly has theoretical appeal, there is a concern that players will be overwhelmed by the complexities of such a diverse defensive approach. It shouldn’t surprise anyone if Buffalo’s defense struggles early only to build cohesion as the roster gains experience in Pettine’s unique approach.
Next Up: The Carolina Panthers
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