The Buffalo Bills’ offseason has gotten off to a rocky start following the team’s first winning season in 10 years. Head coach Doug Marrone opted out of his contract and Bill Polian, who was expected to join the team as President and “football czar” had a change of heart after speaking to Marrone. Now, as reported by Tim Graham, General Manager Doug Whaley will head the team’s coaching search, meaning that his job is safe.
The team is reportedly scheduled to interview Denver Broncos’ Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase and names like Frank Reich, Dan Quinn and Rex Ryan have been floated as coaches that the team has interest in as well.
Adam Gase was a hot name last year after the Cleveland Browns made a serious effort to make the 35-year old their Head Coach, before settling for Mike Pettine. Gase is 36-years old and has no college or professional experience as a player, but he’s gotten votes of confidence from some of the most powerful voices in football- Nick Saban and Peyton Manning.
Gase got his start as an assistant under Nick Saban at Michigan State, before following him to Louisiana State as a graduate assistant. After three seasons at LSU, Gase moved up to the NFL, working in the Detroit Lions’ scouting department, eventually moving up to an offensive assistant, before being named the quarterbacks coach. Following a season with the San Francisco 49ers as an offensive assistant, Gase went to the Denver Broncos, where he’s been an integral part of building the offense that Peyton Manning operates.
Gase was the Broncos’ quarterbacks coach when Tim Tebow led them to the playoffs. He’s drawn serious praise for getting the most out of Tebow, but with Manning leading the offense for the past three seasons, it’s hard to get a gauge for how much of the success was from Gase’s offense, compared to Peyton’s abilities to exploit a defense.
Manning, who is actually two years older than his offensive coordinator, has high praise for the young offensive mind.
“Adam is a lot like me in that he’s always thinking of how we can do something better or different — or both,” Manning said. “And he has an almost photographic memory. He can recall a defensive scheme we saw from eight games back and remember our exact formation and the play called.”
To credit Gase, he essentially changed the Broncos’ offense during the middle of the 2014 season when it became apparent that Manning’s arm was not where it needed to be. He relied on running back C.J. Anderson, while calling quicker short-to-intermediate passes to negate the struggles of Denver’s offensive line.
Dan Quinn is a defensive-minded coach that has enjoyed success at both the college and professional level. After serving as the 49ers’ defensive line coach, Quinn traveled to Seattle to join Pete Carrol’s staff. After two seasons as the Assistant Head Coach, Quinn went to the Florida Gators to gain coordinator experience for two years before going back to Seattle.
Upon returning to the Seahawks in 2013, Quinn’s unit emerged as the No. 1 defense in the league, ranking in the top five in nearly every defensive category. Quinn ran a 4-3 “Under” scheme that relied on an aggressive front seven that allowed them to play tight press coverage in the secondary. The Seahawks’ defense gained notoriety for finding underrated or unwanted players and finding a role for them that maximized their skills.
Pete Carroll had this to say about his defensive coordinator:
“I just came to know him quickly and he’s an easy guy to be around. He’s done so many things right here – handling the transition to the coordinator’s job; handling a bunch of guys that have a pretty good opinion of themselves about what they’re capable of doing; and molding a bunch of young guys into a great unit in every phase. And we he works beautifully with the staff, too.”
The 44-year old Quinn, who’s a defensive line coach at heart, should find the Bills’ defensive personnel intriguing if he were to be interviewed by Buffalo.
Bills fans are very familiar with Frank Reich, who was Buffalo’s backup quarterback during the team’s “glory days” of the early 90’s. Reich was the team’s signal caller during the biggest comeback in NFL history, so his name seems like an obvious connection to the Bills’ head coaching search.
Reich spent five years with the Indianapolis Colts and Arizona Cardinals in various offensive coaching roles, before taking over as the San Diego Chargers’ quarterbacks coach in 2013. In 2014, Reich was promoted to Offensive Coordinator, where the team finished 18th in yards gained and 17th in points. San Diego’s offense was one of the most explosive in the league at the beginning of the season, but injuries to key offensive linemen and running backs stunted the unit’s growth.
Reich’s 2014 offense featured a lot of no-huddle, something Bills’ fans are very familiar from the “K-Gun” days. His offense was pass-heavy, rushing 398 times and attempting 574 passes. In the passing game, the Chargers spread the ball around, as Keenan Allen, Antonio Gates, Malcom Floyd and Eddie Royal each saw over 90 targets.
While he’s relatively inexperienced from a play-calling standpoint, Reich is credited with cleaning up Philip Rivers’ game and helping him put together one of his best seasons as a pro. He’s respected around the league, having played 14 seasons and coached for six, serving on staffs that featured coaches such as Bruce Arians and Ken Whisenhut.
Rex Ryan is the lone coach that the Bills have been linked to that has previous head coaching experience. Ryan is a defensive-minded coach that values aggressiveness on defense and lives by the “run and stop the run” motto. Ryan’s time with the New York Jets turned into a joke over the last couple of seasons, but what he was able to do with average-at-best quarterback play should be commended.
Ryan went to the AFC Championship twice with the Jets, and always fielded a top defense, outside of the 2014 season. Much of his failures towards the end of his tenure with the Jets can be credited to the personnel he was given, but Ryan will be a highly sought after coach.
He’ll be attractive to the Bills because he’s basically the exact opposite of what Doug Marrone was. While Marrone was not particularly well-liked by his players or the media, Ryan has always been a colorful personality that was loved and respected by his players.
Ryan groomed former Bills’ Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine, so Buffalo’s defense will be familiar with the scheme he runs if hired. The biggest question mark with Rex Ryan is his ability to put together a quality offensive staff.