Ranking the Reported Bills Coaching Candidates

(Photo Courtesy of Sports Illustrated)

Since Doug Marrone’s abrupt departure, the Buffalo Bills’ front office has been busily interviewing candidates for their vacant head coaching position. To date, Terry and Kim Pegula have met with 12 different men about potentially relocating to Buffalo. Although there are two other names that have been floated as possibilities once their current teams reach the conclusion of their season (Pep Hamilton and Josh McDaniels), the front office already has numerous intriguing names to consider.

While the Pegula’s will undoubtedly consider the face-to-face meeting when making their decision, so much of their choice will stem from each candidate’s job history and performance. With that in mind, I’m going to take a look at what each prospective coach has to offer. From there, I’m going to rank who I believe would provide the Bills with the best chance to end the organization’s lengthy playoff drought.

Darrell Bevell (Photo Courtesy of Seattle PI)

Darrell Bevell
(Photo Courtesy of Seattle PI)

Darrell Bevell, Offensive Coordinator, Seattle Seahawks

Notable Experience: Green Bay Packers Quarterbacks coach (2003-2005), Minnesota Vikings Offensive Coordinator (2006-2010), Seattle Seahawks Offensive Coordinator (2011-present)

In 2007, Bevell perhaps foreshadowed his recent success in Seattle with a rushing attack that finished 1st in yards, touchdowns, and yards per attempt. Surely he benefitted from a very productive rookie season from Adrian Peterson, but he also was forced to split 16 starts at quarterback between Tarvaris Jackson, Kelly Holcomb, and Brooks Bollinger.

In 2009, Bevell coordinated a Brett Favre-led Vikings offense that finished 5th in yards, 2nd in points, and had the third fewest turnovers in the NFL. Minnesota finished 12-4 that season, and was a terrible Favre interception in the NFC Conference Championship away from a Super Bowl berth. Unfortunately for Bevell, everything fell apart a season later. Favre’s play rapidly deteriorated. Brad Childress was fired 10 games into the season and Bevell left town at the end of the year.

Bevell did land on his feet quickly. In 2011 he joined Pete Carroll in Seattle and after a mediocre first season that was plagued by ineffective quarterback play (Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst). Since then, Bevell has engineered three straight successful seasons with Russell Wilson at the helm. Though Seattle’s offense hasn’t been dominant from a yardage standpoint (17th, 17th, and 9th in the NFL from 2012-14), Bevell has crafted on offense predicated upon running the ball and not turning it over. In 2012, the Seahawks had more rushing attempts than any team in the league. The last two years they’ve ranked second in that category. This past season signaled the pinnacle of that rushing success as the Seahawks finished 1st in rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, and yards per attempt. Former Bill Marshawn Lynch has been a significant beneficiary in Bevell’s offensive scheme.

 

Adam Gase (Photo Courtesy of Cleveland.com)

Adam Gase
(Photo Courtesy of Cleveland.com)

Adam Gase, Offensive Coordinator, Denver Broncos

Notable Experience: Detroit Lions Quarterbacks Coach (2007), Denver Broncos Wide Receivers (2009-10), Denver Broncos Quarterbacks Coach (2011-12), Denver Broncos Offensive Coordinator (2013-present)

Upon joining the Broncos coaching staff in 2009, Gase’s career began to take off. In 2009 and 2010 he worked with Denver’s wide receivers. During those two years he worked with several notable names including Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal, Brandon Lloyd (who had a career year in 2010), and Demaryius Thomas (rookie year was 2010). Despite a head coaching change that saw John Fox replace Josh McDaniels, Gase remained on Denver’s offensive staff. In 2011, Gase was placed in charge of Denver’s quarterbacks. During that year, Gase oversaw the development of Tim Tebow into a playoff-winning quarterback. Despite Tebow’s obvious limitations as a passer, Gase, along with then offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, crafted a run-heavy offense suited to Tebow’s strengths. The team, despite finishing with the fewest number of passes attempts in the league, finished 8-8 and upset the visiting Steelers in overtime during Wild Card weekend.

In 2013 and 2014, Gase ascended from his role as quarterbacks coach to become the team’s offensive coordinator. Over the course of the past two years Gase has called plays for what has been arguably the NFL’s premier offense. In 2013, Denver finished 1st in total yards, points, passing yards, and passing touchdowns. This past season saw very comparable numbers. Despite the departure of Eric Decker and several significant injuries, Denver finished the regular season 4th in total yards and passing yards, and 2nd in points and passing touchdowns.

 

Dan Quinn (Photo Courtesy of NY Daily News)

Dan Quinn
(Photo Courtesy of NY Daily News)

Dan Quinn, Defensive Coordinator, Seattle Seahawks

Notable Experience: San Francisco 49ers Defensive Line Coach (2003-2004), Miami Dolphins Defensive Line Coach (2005-2006), New York Jets Defensive Line Coach (2007-2008), Seattle Seahawks Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Line Coach (2009-2010), Florida Gators Defensive Coordinator (2011-2012), Seattle Seahawks Defensive Coordinator (2013-present)

During his several stops as a defensive line coach from 2003 to 2010, Quinn wasn’t exactly thought of as a budding young star. During that eight-year stretch, Quinn managed to coach just three players to double-digit sack seasons (Jason Taylor in ’05 (12.0) and ’06 (13.5) and Chris Clemens in ’10 (11.0)). However, following a successful two-year defensive coordinating stint in Gainesville with the Gators (5th in the nation in points against in 2012), Quinn has returned to the Seahawks, and the NFL, with a vengeance.

In 2013, the Seahawks defense ranked 1st in yards allowed, points allowed, takeaways, rushing touchdowns allowed, passing yards allowed, and interceptions. A year later, the Seahawks have largely matched that production. In 2014, the Seahawks ranked 1st in yards allowed, points allowed, and passing yards allowed. That defensive dominance helped the Seahawks win a Super Bowl in 2013, and sit in prime position to repeat again this year.

 

Frank Reich (Photo Courtesy of Kate Korson/Twitter)

Frank Reich
(Photo Courtesy of Kate Korson/Twitter)

Frank Reich, Offensive Coordinator, San Diego Chargers

Notable Experience: Indianapolis Colts Quarterbacks Coach (2009-2010), Indianapolis Colts Wide Receivers Coach (2011), Arizona Cardinals Wide Receivers Coach (2012), San Diego Chargers Quarterbacks Coach (2013), San Diego Chargers Offensive Coordinator (2014)

Reich’s first notable NFL experience came at the tail end of the Colt’s dominance during the mid-to-late 2000’s. In 2009 and 2010 Reich worked firsthand with Peyton Manning as the Colts lost in the Super Bowl to the Saints and to the Jets in the Wild Card round. In 2011, Reich worked with Indianapolis’ receivers as the club suffered to a 2-14 finish without the injured Manning. After a stop in Arizona working with the Cardinals wide outs, Reich began to build a resume with his impressive work as San Diego’s quarterbacks coach.

In 2013, Reich helped Philip Rivers bounce back in a big way from a disappointing 2012 season. The veteran quarterback posted a career best in completion percentage (69.5%) and led the Chargers to the Divisional Round of the Playoffs under Reich’s tutelage. Following Ken Whisenhunt’s appointment as the head coach of the Tennessee Titans, Chargers head coach Mike McCoy promoted Reich to offensive coordinator. In his first year as coordinator, Reich led the San Diego offense to fairly middling results. Rivers buoyed the club’s dismal running game (30th in yards, 29th in rushing touchdowns, 31st in yards per attempt), and the offense finished 18th in total yards, 17th in points, and had the 13th fewest amount of turnovers.

 

Mike Shanahan  (Photo Courtesy of Sports on Earth)

Mike Shanahan
(Photo Courtesy of Sports on Earth)

Mike Shanahan, Currently Unemployed

Notable Experience: Los Angeles Raiders Head Coach (1988-1989), San Francisco 49ers Offensive Coordinator (1992-1994), Denver Broncos Head Coach (1995-2008), Washington Redskins Head Coach (2010-2013)

While the 62-year-old Shanahan has a more extensive resume than I mentioned, his most notable stops are listed above. The start to his head-coaching career featured a tumultuous relationship with then Raiders owner Al Davis. After only 20 games in charge, Davis fired Shanahan. In 1992, Shanahan began to rebuild to his reputation as one of the brightest offensive minds in the league. From ’92 to 1994, Shanahan served as the 49ers offensive coordinator under George Seifert. During that three-year stretch, San Francisco finished 1st in points scored all three seasons, and 1st in total yards for two out of the three seasons (finished 2nd in 1994). The offensive firepower resulted in three consecutive NFC Conference Championship appearances, and a Super Bowl victory in 1994. Following that success, Shanahan got a second shot as a head coach.

In 1995, Shanahan took over as the head coach of the Denver Broncos, which was a position he held for the next 14 consecutive seasons. During his 14-year run, Shanahan compiled an impressive resume. Nine times the Broncos finished top five in total yards, rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. Twice the Broncos finished top five in passing yards. Three times the Broncos finished top five in passing touchdowns. And five times the Broncos finished top five in points scored. Upon being fired in 2008, Shanahan left Denver with a 138-86 (.616) regular season record. He made the playoffs in seven of his 14 years, and went 8-5 in those playoff runs. Most important of all, Shanahan won back-to-back Super Bowl’s in 1997 and 1998.

During his most recent run in the NFL, success was far harder to come by. In four years with the Redskins, Shanahan went 24-40 (.375) as head coach. In his one successful season, Shanahan led the Redskins to a 10-6 record and a Wild Card berth, During that year, Shanahan and his son Kyle crafted an offense suited to the strengths of their rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III. The results were incredible as the Redskins finished in the top five in total yards, points scored, fewest turnovers, rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, and rushing yards per attempt. Unfortunately, a devastating knee injury to Griffin limited the Redskins offensive success going forward. Shanahan was fired following a 3-13 season in 2013, and was out of football this past season.

 

Pat Shurmur (Photo Courtesy of CSN Philly)

Pat Shurmur
(Photo Courtesy of CSN Philly)

Pat Shurmur, Offensive Coordinator, Philadelphia Eagles

Notable Experience: Philadelphia Eagles Quarterbacks Coach (2002-2008), St. Louis Rams Offensive Coordinator (2009-2010), Cleveland Browns Head Coach (2011-2012), Philadelphia Eagles Offensive Coordinator (2013-present)

Shurmur first obtained notoriety for his lengthy seven-year stay as the Eagles quarterbacks coach. During that time, Shurmur worked with Donovan McNabb and helped McNabb lead the Eagles to four division championships, three conference championship appearances, and one Super Bowl appearance. After departing Philadelphia, Shurmur was hired as the offensive coordinator for the Rams. In his two years there, Shurmur failed to help St. Louis post inspiring offensive numbers as the club finished 29th and 26th in total yards, and 32nd and 26th in points scored. Despite those lowly statistics, Shurmur did help develop rookie quarterback Sam Bradford and helped the young signal caller win the AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Award.

His ability in helping Bradford, and his close ties with Mike Holmgren landed Shurmur the head-coaching job with the Cleveland Browns in 2011. His two years proved to be fruitless. The Browns finished 29th and 25th in total yards. They also finished 30th and 24th in points scored. Upon his firing at the end of the 2012 season, Shurmur finished with a 9-23 (.281) record.

After leaving Cleveland, Shurmur took over as Chip Kelly’s offensive coordinator in Philadelphia. Shurmur has overseen Kelly’s fast paced offense that has posted consecutive top five finishes in total yards and points scored.

 

Jim Schwartz (Photo Courtesy of Fox Sports)

Jim Schwartz
(Photo Courtesy of Fox Sports)

Jim Schwartz, Defensive Coordinator, Buffalo Bills

Notable Experience: Tennessee Titans Defensive Coordinator (2001-2008), Detroit Lions Head Coach (2009-2013), Buffalo Bills Defensive Coordinator (2014-present)

Schwartz represents the candidate that Bills fans are most familiar with as he oversaw the club’s exemplary defense this past year. Under Schwartz’s guidance, the Bills ‘D’ finished fourth in total yards allowed and points against, and third in takeaways. The run defense was vastly improved over years prior and the secondary had it’s best season in recent memory.

Before his arrival in Buffalo, Schwartz’s track record as a defensive-minded coach failed to consistently match the successes of this past year. In his years as a head coach in Detroit, and his time in Tennessee as defensive coordinator, Schwartz’s defenses registered only one other top five finish in yards allowed (2007), one other top five finish in points against (2008), and two other top five finishes in takeaways (2008 and 2011). While Schwartz did have great success this past year, his track record doesn’t suggest one of the NFL’s “elite” defensive minds. And despite his playoff appearance in 2011, Schwartz’s 29-51 record as Detroit’s head coach doesn’t suggest a man that’s entirely deserving of another shot after one great season.

 

Hue Jackson (Photo Courtesy of Fansided)

Hue Jackson
(Photo Courtesy of Fansided)

Hue Jackson, Offensive Coordinator, Cincinnati Bengals

Notable Experience: Washington Redskins Offensive Coordinator (2003), Cincinnati Bengals Wide Receivers Coach (2004-2006), Atlanta Falcons Offensive Coordinator (2007), Baltimore Ravens Quarterbacks Coach (2008-2009), Oakland Raiders Offensive Coordinator (2010), Oakland Raiders Head Coach (2011), Cincinnati Bengals Secondary Coach/Assistant Special Teams Coach (2012), Cincinnati Bengals Running Backs Coach (2013), Cincinnati Bengals Offensive Coordinator (2014-present)

Jackson’s resume is a pretty extensive one in comparison to his peers. Unlike Shanahan however, the length is largely due to a frequent change in address and roles. An optimist might view that as Jackson possessing a diverse knowledge of responsibilities within a team. A pessimist might suggest that Jackson’s inability to remain in one place and in one role is cause for concern. Among his several stops over the past decade, Jackson has produced several notable results. As the receivers coach in Cincinnati, Jackson helped Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh become one of the NFL’s best wide receiver tandems. His time with the Ravens saw Jackson help develop Joe Flacco in his rookie season. In 2008 Flacco led the Ravens to the AFC Championship game. A year later, the Ravens went 9-7 and advanced to the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

Jackson’s first two stints as an offensive coordinator were unmemorable and mediocre. However in 2010, Jackson oversaw an Oakland offense that likely represents his best work to date. With Jason Campbell behind center, and Darren McFadden and Michael Bush in the backfield, the Raiders finished 10th in total yards and 6th in points scored. The rushing attack finished second in yards, rushing touchdowns, and yards per attempt. That success led to a promotion and Jackson took over as head coach in 2011. The Raiders started the 2011 season 7-4, but faltered down the stretch to finish 8-8. Although Oakland had another strong season on offense, particularly on the ground (7th in rushing yards, touchdowns, and yards per attempt), Jackson was fired.

Since his departure from Oakland, Jackson has been with Cincinnati in a few different capacities. This past season Jackson assumed the offensive coordinator position following Jay Gruden’s departure for the head-coaching job in Washington. The results were fairly similar to his time in Oakland. Cincinnati’s offense was strong on the ground (5th in rushing attempts, 6th in yards, and 2nd in touchdowns), but overall was a league average unit (15th in total yards and points scored).

 

Rex Ryan  (Photo Courtesy of New York CBS Local)

Rex Ryan
(Photo Courtesy of New York CBS Local)

Rex Ryan, Currently Unemployed

Notable Experience: Baltimore Ravens Defensive Line Coach (1999-2004), Baltimore Ravens Defensive Coordinator (2005-2008), Baltimore Ravens Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator (2008), New York Jets Head Coach (2009-2014)

Much like Schwartz, Bills fans are very familiar with Ryan’s work. For the past six years Ryan has coached the divisional rival Jets and he’s compiled a 46-50 (.479) record. Despite that sub-.500 mark, Ryan has drawn praise for his ability to maximize his club’s talent. In his first two years, Ryan took a Mark Sanchez-led offense to the Conference Championship game. Unfortunately since 2010, Ryan’s Jets teams failed to match their initial highs. In the last four seasons the Jets have gone 8-8, 6-10, 8-8, and 4-12. While much of that can be attributed to poor offensive production and lackluster quarterback play, Ryan was fired at the end of this past season.

Ryan’s track record on defense speaks for itself. In the ten years that Ryan has been a defensive coordinator (four years in Baltimore) and a head coach (six years in New York), his defenses have ranked in the top 10 in total yards allowed in all but one year (2013). Similarly his defensive units have ranked in the top 10 in rushing yards per attempt in all but one year (2012). In his 10 years, Ryan’s defenses have ranked in the top ten in points against and takeaways five times and they’ve ranked in the top 10 in rushing yards allowed eight times. Despite faltering a bit the past two seasons (largely due to injury and incompetent management), Ryan’s defenses have been great against the pass as well. In his 10 seasons, Ryan’s defenses have ranked in the top 10 seven times in passing yards allowed. All things considered, few men can match Ryan’s defensive resume in football.

 

Kyle Shanahan  (Photo Courtesy of Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports)

Kyle Shanahan
(Photo Courtesy of Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports)

Kyle Shanahan, Currently Unemployed

Notable Experience: Houston Texans Wide Receivers Coach (2006), Houston Texans Quarterbacks Coach (2007), Houston Texans Offensive Coordinator (2008-2009), Washington Redskins Offensive Coordinator (2010-2013), Cleveland Browns Offensive Coordinator (2014)

At only 35 years old, Kyle Shanahan has seven years of experience as an offensive coordinator. That experience at such a young age is hard to come by. Throughout those seven years, Shanahan’s stops have featured ups and downs. His first two seasons were mostly ups. His first season in Houston saw the Texans finish 3rd in total yards and 4th in passing yards. A year later, under Shanahan’s guidance, the Texans finished 4th in total yards, 10th in points scored, 5th in passing touchdowns, and 1st in passing yards. During the course of those two years, Shanahan drew career years from both Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson. Schaub’s performance especially looks impressive considering his current standing within the league.

In 2010, Shanahan linked up with his father in Washington. His first two seasons as a coordinator there failed to match the success he had in Houston. In 2010 and 2011, Washington finished 18th and 16th in total yards, and 25th and 26th in points scored. In 2012, following the selection of RGIII with the second overall pick in the draft, the Redskins offense found some answers. Shanahan incorporated read-option plays and play-action centric game plans (similar to Griffin’s offense at Baylor) and was lauded for his work. The offense finished 5th in total yards, 4th in points, and 1st in fewest turnovers. The running game was particularly effective as it ranked 3rd in attempts, 1st in yards, 2nd in touchdowns, and 2nd in yards per attempt. Unfortunately, the highs of 2012 were short-lived. In 2013, Washington’s explosive offense was a shell of its former self. Shanahan and his father were fired after the season.

This past year, Shanahan worked alongside former Bills coach Mike Pettine as the offensive coordinator in Cleveland. Despite lowly finishes in yards (23rd) and points scored (27th), Shanahan was limited due to incompetent quarterback play, inexperience, injuries, and a lengthy suspension to his top wide out. A few days ago, it was announced that Shanahan and Cleveland had mutually parted ways following Shanahan’s unhappiness with the front office.

 

Greg Roman (Photo Courtesy of Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)

Greg Roman
(Photo Courtesy of Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)

Greg Roman, Offensive Coordinator, San Francisco 49ers

Notable Experience: Houston Texans Tight Ends Coach/Quarterbacks Coach (2002-2005), Stanford Cardinal Tight Ends Coach/Offensive Tackles Coach (2009-2010), San Francisco 49ers Offensive Coordinator (2011-present)

Roman is most known for his recent spell as the offensive coordinator under Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco. During that stretch, Roman’s offenses have been predicated on running the ball and protecting it. From 2011 to 2013, the 49ers ranked 1st, 2nd, and 2nd in fewest turnovers committed. From 2011 to 2014, the 49ers ranked 3rd, 7th, 3rd, and 9th in rushing attempts. As a result of that high number of attempts, the 49ers ranked 8th, 4th, 3rd, and 4th in rushing yards. Despite that success running the football, the 49ers have failed to crack the top 10 in total yards or points during Roman’s four years calling the plays. While some of that blame can certainly be placed with head coach Jim Harbaugh’s tendencies, Roman also oversaw the decline of young quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Although he yet again managed to protect the ball (Kaepernick had only 10 interceptions), he seemed hesitant to throw the ball down the field at times. Perhaps Roman’s conservative approach stunted Kaepernick, and the offense’s development this past season. With Harbaugh now at Michigan, it’s up in the air as to whether Roman remains the coordinator in San Francisco.

 

Teryl Austin (Photo Courtesy of Freep)

Teryl Austin
(Photo Courtesy of Freep)

Teryl Austin, Defensive Coordinator, Detroit Lions

Notable Experience: Seattle Seahawks Defensive Backs Coach (2003-2006), Arizona Cardinals Defensive Backs Coach (2007-2009), Florida Gators Defensive Coordinator (2010), Baltimore Ravens Secondary Coach (2011-2013), Detroit Lions Defensive Coordinator (2014-present)

Prior to this past season, Austin worked almost exclusively with defensive backs and coached several notable names. During his four seasons in Seattle, Austin helped develop Marcus Trufant into one of the NFL’s top cornerbacks. In his three years in Arizona, Austin coached Antrel Rolle, Adrian Wilson, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. After a brief one-year stop in Gainesville with the Florida Gators, Austin returned to Baltimore to once again coach defensive backs. In his three seasons working under Jim Harbaugh, Austin mentored Ed Reed, Lardarius Webb, Cary Williams, and current-Bill Corey Graham. During his stays in Seattle, Arizona, and Baltimore, Austin has been apart of winning football. He’s coached in three Super Bowl’s (Seattle in ’05, Arizona in ’08, and Baltimore in ’12) and won one ring (Baltimore in ’12).

His first season as a defensive coordinator yielded impressive results. This past season Detroit finished 2nd in total yards allowed, 3rd in points against, and 8th in takeaways. Austin’s defense was particularly stout against the run as it finished 2nd in rushing attempts against, 1st in rushing yards allowed, 5th in rushing touchdowns against, and 1st in rushing yards per attempt against. Austin’s experience with defensive backs also proved useful as the Lions improved in three major areas against the pass. From 2013 to 2014, Detroit went from 23rd to 13th in passing yards allowed, 13th to 11th in passing touchdowns allowed, and 17th to 3rd in interceptions.

 

Rankings the Candidates

After sifting through each coach’s background, I’d like to now share who I believe is the best option for the Bills. Here are my rankings, from worst option to best, of the 12 men who have reportedly interviewed with the Bills brass.

 

12. Greg Roman

It’s hard to imagine that the Pegula’s really consider Roman a viable candidate for the head-coaching job. His ultra-conservative tendencies would make Doug Marrone look aggressive. He doesn’t appear to be well liked by some of his players. And his play calling was frequently a source of scorn by the San Francisco media, and even GM Trent Baalke’s daughter.

11. Pat Shurmur

Much like Roman, I hope Shurmur isn’t considered a legitimate option as head coach. His time as offensive coordinator and head coach in St. Louis and Cleveland featured conservative offenses that placed far too much value in not turning the ball over. His head coaching record in Cleveland was miserable and it’s difficult to gauge how much input Shurmur has running Chip Kelly’s offense in Philadelphia. My guess would be very little.

10. Dan Quinn

While Quinn’s defenses in Seattle have been incredible, I have considerable doubts as to whether his coaching is largely responsible for that production. Prior to the last two years in Seattle, Quinn had limited success as a defensive line coach. Although I’m sure Quinn has contributed to the Hawks’ dominance in some ways, I place far more responsibility in the hands of Pete Carroll and a long list (Sherman, Chancellor, Thomas, Wagner, Bennett, Irvin, etc.) of incredible players.

9. Frank Reich

Despite Reich being labeled by some as the favorite for the job, I don’t think he’s the right choice. He has only one year of coordinating experience, which is less than the despised Nathaniel Hackett, and his offense during that year produced middling results. While a long list of injuries can be blamed for San Diego’s inability to reach its full potential, I don’t think Reich is deserving of a head job quite yet. I like Reich, and it’s encouraging that media members, like Bill Polian, believe he’s a fantastic choice, but I’d like to see him excel as a coordinator before we expect him to excel as a head coach.

8. Hue Jackson

Much like Reich, I like certain things about Jackson. After watching him in Hard Knocks two years ago, I came away loving Jackson’s bluntness and energy. However, I’m skeptical that he’s the right guy for the job here. His time in Oakland was both good (productive offense) and bad (historically undisciplined), and this past season in Cincinnati proved similar. While he was able to strengthen Cincinnati’s running game, he faltered in helping Andy Dalton shed the playoff and primetime demons that have plagued him since he came into the league. Against Indianapolis, Jackson had little answer once the running game was limited. After watching him design several plays for Rex Burkhead (third-string running back who was lining up as a wide receiver throughout the game), I’m not sure I want Jackson in full control of my team here.

7. Kyle Shanahan

While it’s improbable that Shanahan will get the head job here in Buffalo, I’m very much hoping he’s a strong consideration for the likely opening at offensive coordinator. At only 35, Shanahan already has an impressive track record of calling plays. He made Matt Schaub an above-average quarterback, RGIII a rising star, and Brian Hoyer briefly competent. He’s already shown an ability to adapt to differing skill sets and put his players in the best positions to succeed. Plus Cleveland fired him, which means Shanahan is very talented.

6. Jim Schwartz

Schwartz seems to be a popular candidate to take over now that Marrone is gone. To me, that’s a safe choice that I think the Bills are overly familiar in making. I respect the job that Schwartz did this season, but let’s also remember that A.) It was almost universally a career best season for him, and B.) He’s a year removed from being fired from Detroit after a 29-51 record. I’m very open to him staying on as a defensive coordinator, but I think the organization can do better than merely promote someone in-house.

5. Adam Gase

Much like Kyle Shanahan, Gase has an impressive resume at a young age (36). Although some will suggest that Gase’s success is merely a byproduct of working with Peyton Manning, and there is some merit to that, Gase has engineered an offense that has arguably been the best in the league the last few years. This year in particular has been a challenge down the stretch. Manning hasn’t resembled the signal-caller that everybody fawns over each and every week, and Gase in turn has established a dominant running game behind undrafted, second-year back C.J. Anderson. Gase would bring an impressive knowledge of elite offenses to an organization that’s lacked an even above-average offense for decades.

4. Teryl Austin

3. Darrell Bevell

I placed these two together because I find it extremely difficult to separate them. With Austin you’re getting a wealth of defensive (specifically defensive back) knowledge. He’s loved by a long list of former players, and he made an average defense an elite one in a single year as a coordinator. Plus, he’s experienced success at the highest level. With Bevell, you’re getting a similar level of success on the offensive side of the ball. He’s long been a proponent of run-first offense, but he’s also implanted creative ways (read-option) to attack opposing defenses. His work as a coordinator in Minnesota and Seattle has made him an interesting candidate. His ability in helping Russell Wilson become one of the leagues best also makes him an intriguing choice due to the lack of a competent quarterback currently in Buffalo.

2. Mike Shanahan

Extensive success as a head coach, a long record of quality offenses, and two Super Bowl rings. Although there is concern about his age (62) and his most recent work with Washington, Shanahan is a proven commodity in the NFL. With a dominant defense in place, Shanahan would surely elevate the play of the offense upon his arrival. He may look like a weasel and have impossibly tan skin, but Shanahan would be a great choice to take over as head coach.

1. Rex Ryan

Although he just endured a miserable 4-12 campaign, which featured two sizable losses to the Bills, Rex Ryan is the first man on my list. No one other coach in football can boast the success he’s had on the defensive side of the ball. Ryan would walk in and have all the talent at his disposal to make the Bills’ ‘D’ the best in the league. The concern, both on Buffalo’s and Rex’s end, is undoubtedly the quarterback situation. Ryan’s struggles in New York all stemmed from the play of Sanchez and Geno Smith. With uncertainty surrounding the most important position on the field, Ryan might stay away from Buffalo. However, if he has confidence that he can find both a quarterback and a offensive coordinator, Ryan has every ability to win a Super Bowl as a head coach.

 

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