The Bills have announced the hiring of Kelly Skipper as the team’s running backs coach.
Skipper, 49, started his coaching career in 1989 as a graduate assistant at Fresno State. He coached with the Bulldogs until 1997, primarily as a running backs and return specialist coach. He moved on to the same role with UCLA in 1998, and was promoted to offensive coordinator for the Bruins in 2001. UCLA posted the 39th-best offense in both of his seasons with the team, but he was let go along with the rest of Bob Toledo’s staff after the 2002 season. He returned to coaching running backs and special teams at Washington State in 2003, staying with the Cougars until after the 2006 season, when he made the jump to the NFL.
Most of Skipper’s experience in the NFL has been with the Raiders, where he coached tight ends from 2007 to 2008 and running backs from 2009 to 2014. In his eight seasons with the team, Skipper served under five Raiders coaches, beginning with Lane Kiffin and ending with Tony Sparano. It’s rare that coaches stay with the same team through one head coaching change; five is almost unheard of. After leaving Oakland in 2014, Skipper joined Gus Bradley’s staff in Jacksonville as a running backs coach for the Jaguars, where he’d been for the last two seasons. While there, he worked with potential Bills offensive coordinator Greg Olson, who was serving in the same role with the Jaguars for the last two seasons.
Skipper’s job shouldn’t be too difficult. The Bills have one of the best running backs in the game in LeSean McCoy, and backup Mike Gillislee (a restricted free agent) is one of the better players in his position in the league. Rookie Jonathan Williams struggled through most of last season, fighting for playing time even when McCoy was injured, but should earn some more attention now that veteran Reggie Bush has left town.
Sean McDermott’s seventh hire in Buffalo is a lot like his first six. Most of the coaching staff started their careers during the Reagan Administration, and have around a decade of experience in their current role. Skipper fits the bill, and has the added benefit of a long college career working with special teams and a brief run as an offensive coordinator in major college football. He’ll ideally work in close tandem with Juan Castillo, the offensive line coach who’s been tabbed as the run game coordinator.
Hopefully, the Bills will have an offensive coordinator soon, and we’ll have a better idea of what everybody’s role should really be. Until then, though, McDermott has another deeply experienced colleague to lean on.