Each Friday during the summer, The Juice Online will be looking back to some of the biggest story lines in the 2012-13 Syracuse sports year. This week, we take a look back at Doug Marrone’s departure from Syracuse.
Back on Nov. 3, 2012, it would’ve been hard to picture Doug Marrone leaving for a head coaching position in the NFL.
Syracuse had just been thumped by Cincinnati, 35-24. It was one of SU’s sloppiest games of the season and dropped the Orange to 4-5. They lost two fumbles deep in its own territory that led to Bearcats scores. The squad missed one field goal and had another blocked. And, it committed 12 penalties for 104 yards.
Marrone, now in his fourth year at Syracuse, owned a tepid 21-24 record.
But you know how the story goes from there. Syracuse won three straight games and qualified for a bowl game, SU’s second bowl appearance in the last three years.
With his team playing significantly better, Marrone’s stock rose quickly. Peter King’s story Nov. 26 mentioned Marrone among five college coaches that had NFL potential. Prior to taking over at Syracuse, Marrone had been the offensive coordinator with the New Orleans Saints.
The idea was initially dismissed in some circles, but then began to percolate after Syracuse’s impressive 38-14 win over West Virginia in the Pinstripe Bowl, which evened Marrone’s head coaching record at 25-25.
After Marrone’s post-game press conference, The Juice Online’s Brad Bierman asked Marrone about his name being linked to NFL openings. Marrone’s smile disappeared.
“I just want to enjoy this victory,” he said before departing back inside the victorious ‘Cuse locker room.
As it turns out, Bierman was the last reporter to speak to Marrone while he was still head coach of the Orange.
Rumors became reality, and over the next few weeks, Marrone interviewed with several NFL teams including the Philadelphia Eagles and Cleveland Browns.
On Jan. 6, Marrone was hired as the head coach of the Buffalo Bills and gutted the Syracuse staff, taking assistants Nathanial Hackett, Greg Adkins, John Anselmo, Donnie Henderson and Tyrone Wheatley with him to Buffalo.
Wanting to continue the momentum of a winning season, Syracuse athletics director Daryl Gross named defensive coordinator Scott Shafer head coach of the Orange three days after Marrone’s departure.
“It’s our job to put a product on the field that the community can say, ‘That is us. That is our team. They’re physical, and they’re going to get after you when you come to the Dome,'” Shafer said in his introductory press conference. “We’re going to storm [the ACC] and do better than people think we can.”
WHAT WE SAID:
With the Bills, recently promoted President and CEO Russ Brandon, an East Syracuse native familiar with Marrone’s work at the ‘Cuse who was given complete authority in running the team by 94-year old owner Ralph Wilson, Jr. on New Year’s Day, has made his choice for a franchise that hasn’t been to the playoffs since 1999, and who’s loyal fan base annually wonders if this “latest new direction” will include the team staying in western New York past its current 7-10 year lease. Be assured, Marrone came to that initial Bills interview as thoroughly prepared for a NFL head coaching job as he did for the Syracuse search committee in Dec. 2008, achieving another likely career achievement perhaps a little bit ahead of his schedule. — Brad Bierman
WHAT THEY SAID:
The Buffalo Bills didn’t make the sexiest hire. They went with the head coach they thought was the best fit to turn around an organization that has missed the playoffs 13 straight seasons. In a move that will define Russ Brandon’s buck-stops-with-me presidency, the Bills agreed in principle with Syracuse’s Doug Marrone to be the team’s next head coach. Marrone took over a culture of losing at Syracuse and turned it around. He will try to do the same thing with the Bills. In picking Marrone, the Bills are going with an offensive-minded coach with a reputation for being a disciplinarian. Head-coaching experience was important to the Bills. They opted for a candidate with college experience over two other interviewees — Ken Whisenhunt and Lovie Smith — who took their teams to Super Bowls yet had been fired from the NFL. — Mark Gaughan and Tim Graham, Buffalo News
The man is a football coach, and a team in the greatest professional league ever assembled in any sport offered him the chance to sign on at a substantial raise in pay. And so, even if that outfit was the Buffalo Bills and it plays in a city that shivers along the shore of Lake Erie, Marrone wisely chose to accept the promotion. There are decisions, and then there are easy decisions. And this one made by Marrone — who once claimed that ramrodding the football program of his alma mater, Syracuse University, was his “dream job” (now, an unfortunate choice of words) — was a decision that could have been made while sitting in a bubble bath. — Bud Poliquin, Post-Standard