Buffalo Bills head coach Doug Marrone has hired 16 assistant coaches (with at least one more forthcoming) so far, and a select group of fans are irritated by the fact that seven of those 16 assistants come with Marrone from last year's Syracuse Orange coaching staff.
The word "cronyism" has appeared on this blog more times in the past week than I'd ever heard it in my previous 27-plus years of existence, and frankly, it's starting to get on my nerves.
Let's just get rid of this argument altogether, folks; it's meaningless. If you don't buy the "every head coach does this" argument as fact - even though it's fact - then take a look at the last two prominent head coaches to leave the college ranks for the pros as examples. We're talking about Jim Harbaugh of the San Francisco 49ers and Greg Schiano of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers - two of the most well-regarded young coaches in the business.
When Harbaugh left Stanford for San Fran after the 2010 season, he brought five former Cardinal staffers with him, including both of his major coordinators (Greg Roman on offense, Vic Fangio on defense). Tim Drevno (offensive line), Peter Hansen (defensive quality control) and Kevin Tolbert (assistant strength and conditioning) also made the jump with Harbaugh - and everyone's favorite head coach at the moment also hired Reggie Davis, with whom he played for two years in San Diego, as his tight ends coach.
Harbaugh, of course, is 24-7-1 in two seasons in San Francisco, and will be playing for a Super Bowl berth for the second straight year.
Schiano left Rutgers for Tampa Bay last off-season, and brought a whopping eight Scarlet Knights assistants with him: Brian Angelichio (tight ends), Jay Butler (head strength and conditioning), Bob Fraser (linebackers), Phil Galiano (assistant special teams), Bob Gilmartin (assistant strength and conditioning), Jeff Hafley (assistant defensive backs), Tem Lukabu (defensive assistant) and Randy Melvin (defensive line). A 1-5 finish derailed a promising 6-4 start for Schiano's Bucs this past season, but they're still considered a rising program in the NFC.
Marrone, of course, has brought Nathaniel Hackett (offensive coordinator, quarterbacks), Tyrone Wheatley (running backs), Greg Adkins (tight ends), Donnie Henderson (defensive backs), John Anselmo (special teams assistant), Jason Rebrovich (defensive quality control) and Hal Luther (assistant strength and conditioning) with him from Syracuse.
Do you know how fans talk all the time about specific player groups or units (like, say, last year's new-look and very young Bills defense) needing time to "gel"? When coaches bring in guys they've worked with, they avoid that altogether. They're hiring guys that they know fit the type of culture they're trying to build, that have shown that they can move in the same direction and be on the same page as the head coach, and can get the most out of the players they're going to be working with.
Why, then, do fans continue to insist that the Syracuse-to-Buffalo pipeline is a problem? There's no logical answer to that question, by the way. Who populates the coaching staff is only a problem if the Bills continue to lose, and ultimately, that responsibility falls on Marrone, and Marrone alone. If Marrone and his hand-picked coaches turn the program around - as they did in Syracuse, by the way - this argument won't matter. The real secret, though: it doesn't matter now, either.