When Doug Marrone deserted the Buffalo Bills, what would have happened if the team tried to maintain continuity by keeping Jim Schwartz?
December 31, 2014, was the date Doug Marrone did the unthinkable: he gave up a head coaching job in the NFL. Marrone still received his $4 million salary owed on his contract despite walking away thanks to an out clause built into his contract in the event team owner Ralph Wilson, Jr. passed away. After Wilson’s death, Kim & Terry Pegula purchased the team and inherited a coach with a negotiating position.
Marrone made a play to get extensions for himself and his coaching staff. When the Pegulas balked, he left, eventually settling in as the Jacksonville Jaguars’ assistant head coach and running their offensive line. It was a big downgrade in stature, money, and power after Marrone failed to immediately land another head coaching gig.
The Bills' exhaustive search landed them recently-fired New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan as their replacement after interviewing their own defensive coordinator, Schwartz. Ryan came in and blew up the defense and started from scratch. But what if he never had the chance?
Under Schwartz, the Bills had finished the previous season fourth in the NFL in total defense and scoring defense. A great team against the pass, they were third in turnovers and harassed opposing quarterbacks into mistakes. Mario Williams had 14.5 sacks, Jerry Hughes and Marcell Dareus each had ten sacks, and the team as a whole had 54. Maybe that stays intact.
Should they have kept Schwartz and elevated him to head coach?
With most of the same players on defense and the same scheme, maybe Buffalo’s defense doesn’t fall off the cliff.
In Detroit, Schwartz has Scott Linehan as his offensive coordinator. After leaving the Lions, he was hired as the Dallas Cowboys passing game coordinator. In 2015, he was promoted to the Cowboys offensive coordinator, so maybe he doesn't come to Buffalo with Schwartz. Regardless, it's likely Schwartz brings in a new offensive coordinator as Hackett was Marrone's right-hand man.
If Schwartz stays, it's unlikely the team adds Pro Bowl guard Richie Incognito, but maybe they can still land LeSean McCoy in a trade. Orton announced his retirement before Marrone opted out, so do the Bills add Tyrod Taylor if Linehan is the offensive coordinator? Even if they add Taylor, is he the starter over Matt Cassel or EJ Manuel? Would enough of the offensive problems been fixed to put Buffalo over the hump and into the playoffs? A lot of fans wanted it at the time.
SB Nation’s NFL blogs are each running an article today featuring a recent “What if” scenario.