On Tuesday, Buffalo Bills head coach Doug Marrone commented for the first time about the Marcell Dareus street racing incident, and fans of the team and leaders in the locker room shouldn't be happy with some of his personal feelings.
"Right, wrong or indifferent, when any player makes a poor decision, I always think of where I made a mistake," said Marrone during his responses to more than two dozen questions about Dareus from the media. "I just feel that way, and when I make decisions on not playing people and benching them, I do it because - and don't get me wrong, my job is to win, and winning is important - but it's not as important as trying to help somebody. I'd rather lose games and do the right thing in my mind, then I can live with myself."
Russ Brandon and Doug Whaley traded away their first-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft in the name of winning, but Marrone's comments fly in the face of that action. It's a noble thought, but it's a college mentality, not a a professional one.
I'm not advocating Marrone completely abandon Dareus on a personal level. I also don't claim to know what is going on in Dareus' personal life, something Marrone led the press conference with. In this case, it's a little difficult to see whether Marrone is keeping Dareus around to help him or because he's super-talented. As a fan, I hope it's the latter. The Super Bowl Bills weren't choir boys, but they won and are beloved.
Treating Dareus and the rest of his players like adults capable of making the right decision is the only way forward for Marrone. Questioning where he went wrong allows the player to continue to transfer blame. If Dareus isn't on the field because of the transgressions, Marrone will feel the burden when the team suffers, but until then, his response doesn't do him or the veterans in the locker room primarily concerned about winning any good.
Even second-year quarterback EJ Manuel understands that dynamic that Marrone apparently misses.
"We're all grown men, but at the same time this is a team and we're not going to be upset with Marcell because he makes a decision. That's still his decision to make," noted Manuel after OTAs Tuesday.
Saying he is "taking a bigger role" and "becoming more personally responsible," Marrone has instead chosen to become more involved with Dareus' off-the-field behavior. As a college coach, you're the CEO of the team and everything falls at your feet. In the NFL, that's not the case - and there are staff members in the building whose only task is to help with off-field matters. Director of Player Engagement Paul Lancaster should feel the burden of making things right when players make a poor decision, not Marrone.
It's time for Marrone to follow Brandon and Whaley's lead and be more focused on winning, and less focused on players' personal lives.