In 2013, the Buffalo Bills hired Doug Marrone from Syracuse University to be their head coach. Marrone had an offensive background with the New Orleans Saints but, as an offensive lineman, he had never called plays. He brought with him his young offensive coordinator from Syracuse to be the play-caller in Buffalo and coordinate the offense. That young OC was Nathaniel Hackett, and a decade later, he’s now the head coach of the Denver Broncos.
Hackett coordinated the Bills’ offense in 2013 and 2014 before Marrone opted out of his contract following the death of Buffalo’s owner, Ralph Wilson. He went with Marrone to Jacksonville, coordinating the Jaguars’ offense after Marrone was promoted to head coach there. He landed on his feet in 2019 when the Jaguars blew up again, coordinating the Green Bay Packers’ offense.
His offenses have consistently overperformed the talent he had at his disposal, including in Buffalo, where EJ Manuel and Thad Lewis gave way to Kyle Orton. Additionally, Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, Fred Jackson, Chris Hogan, Scott Chandler, Bobby Dixon, and T.J. Graham all had some of their best seasons with Hackett. C.J. Spiller made the lone Pro Bowl of his career in 2013.
Hackett is the son of longtime NFL coach Paul Hackett. The elder Hackett never rose to the ranks of NFL head coach, though he was the top dog at the University of Pittsburgh and USC, but he coordinated offenses for the Kansas City Chiefs and the New York Jets.
The other Bills coordinator under Marrone was Mike Pettine, who spent 2013 as Buffalo’s defensive coordinator. He was hired after just one season to be the head coach of the Cleveland Browns. Both of Marrone’s coordinator hires were future NFL head coaches. The man who replaced Pettine was Jim Schwartz, and while he hasn’t returned to the ranks of head coach, he spent the five seasons before coming to Buffalo as the head coach of the Detroit Lions.
For the current Bills, the number of available opportunities is beginning to finally shrink. The Broncos are one of two teams who have hired a coach. The Chicago Bears hired Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus. Chicago always made sense for Bills defensive coordinator/assistant head coach Leslie Frazier, who played there in the 1980s and coached in the division. Both Frazier and Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll have second interviews with the New York Giants, and rumors say the Miami Dolphins are heavily interested in Daboll, as well. The New Orleans Saints, Las Vegas Raiders, Jacksonville Jaguars, Houston Texans, and Minnesota Vikings have not requested interviews with either Bills coordinator in this cycle. Frazier was a finalist for the Texans job a year ago.