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The process of installing a system

Posted Feb 4, 2013


There are several methodical steps that Buffalo’s new coaching staff is currently taking as they get their respective offensive and defensive systems implemented. While both sides of the ball bring in very distinct plans for what they intend to execute come the fall, now is also the time where those plans on refined and tweaked to most effectively fit the Bills roster.

“Obviously I was looking for people that were great teachers, have a lot of energy, that can develop players and that can communicate well,” said Bills head coach Doug Marrone. “Communication is big. Being able to keep going forward, being able to bring points up, not have any hurt egos. I think that’s really important.”

Marrone is encouraging dialogue in the offensive and defensive meeting rooms right now because he knows if you remain stagnant  with your schemes in the NFL the league will pass you by.

Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett’s offense was very successful at Syracuse, but what changes might it need to be effective in the NFL? Is there enough of the personnel needed on hand to continue the success they experienced at their previous stop? If not can they acquire it?

Hackett welcomes the dialogue in his meetings. Having played his college ball on defense, he’s glad he has former NFL offensive players in his room in running backs coach Tyrone Wheatley and Ike Hilliard.

“It’s great to have Ike and Tyrone in the room because they’ve played,” said Hackett. “I ask them questions more than they ask me questions.”

All the coaches on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball already know the terminology having been immersed in the system before either as a coach or a player. That puts the staff a step ahead, because they don’t have to coach coaches. But there’s also analysis of the system to see if elements of the scheme can be improved or changed for the better.

“We’ve taken the opportunity to look at four years worth of what we did in New York,” said defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. “Then even go beyond that to look back to some of the Baltimore stuff and really kind of hit the reset button on it. This is what we did for four years, let’s analyze it and see how efficient it was. If we need to tweak it let’s take this opportunity to make sure we rebuild it as we go. That’s the exciting part. We can take four years worth of data from where we were in New York and go and improve it.”

As the staff works through any tweaks or changes that might be made they also assess how effectively the new layers of the scheme can be processed by the players.

“As the coaches are learning if something doesn’t make sense to them we might say, ‘Hold on, if it doesn’t make sense to you it might not make sense to the players,’” Pettine said. “So let’s make sure we streamline it, cut out some of the stuff that maybe was good against offenses three or four years ago, that has maybe kind of fallen by the wayside. So we kind of want to modernize it, streamline it and rebuild it to the point where it’s teachable.”

And that’s where Marrone wants the main focus of his coaches to lie during this process with their respective schemes.

“You’re putting in a system and you’re putting it together and now you’re spending your time getting ready for the most important thing which is getting ready for our players,” he said. “For me I probably put a lot more weight in that than other things.”

So while Hackett is committed to having a varied offense that’s hard to predict, he also wants a system that players can absorb and execute with consistency.

“We want to have an offense that’s very multiple, but also could have the proper teaching fundamentals that we wanted so the guys could understand what we want,” he said. “It’s how you talk to the players and how you communicate it. If you can do that and have a good knowledge of what you’re trying to get done that’s when you have a chance to get some things done out on the field.”

“It’s not what you know,” said Pettine. “I’ve seen a lot of coaches that are great on the grease board and they know it in their head, but they can’t communicate it to their players. We want to build something that’s best to teach, that’s best for them to learn. They’re the ones out there playing.”