“I thought it was a perfect fit,” said Morris of coaching under Marrone. “He’s the reason I’m here. We’ve known each other over the years and we were both line coaches. We kind of have our little society. He is the person that I thought he was. What he’s done is treat everybody fair and with class and I’m excited to be a part of his staff.”
Marrone has known Morris for 16 years. Though they were only acquaintances in various coaching circles, Buffalo’s head coach knew Morris’ experience could be a valuable addition to his offensive staff.
“One of the things I believe in is balance,” said Marrone. “The way I see the profession a little bit is some people are very heavy schematically and you forget the foundation of sometimes you’ve got to put your hand in the ground and knock somebody off the ball. So you have to have balance in what you do.”
Morris spent the past year out of coaching at Jon Gruden’s Fired Football Coaches Association (FFCA) in Tampa, and got a different perspective on the game that coaches don’t often get when they’re immersed in weekly game planning.
“I worked closely with Jon (Gruden) at the FFCA,” Morris said. “He has all the film down there so I stayed fresh in terms of what happened in the league last year. When you don’t have the games every week and don’t have the gun to your head, you have more time to evaluate more personnel.
“We’d tape every Monday night game and analyze it and I sat with him and went over guys on defense and other offenses. It’s not a bad thing to take a year off and try to get yourself re-energized and fresh. It was a way for me to look at the game from the other side of the fence. It got me energized in how I looked at the game and how much I love it.”
Now Morris’ task is to evaluate Buffalo’s offensive line. Unlike some of the other position coaches, Morris will be evaluating players individually as well as the unit as a whole.
“I think you have to look at individuals and then how they worked as a group,” he said. “Then I’ve got to find out what went on when I wasn’t here because I don’t know what was taught. I hate to make any judgment on somebody without asking the player what they were told on that play. You don’t want to make decisions on hearsay, but more often than not you can tell what’s going on.”
For Morris seeing that the unit ranked sixth in rushing and 11th in fewest sacks allowed is encouraging, but not something that is going to mislead the veteran line coach.
“I think stats are something, but your number one stat is your won-loss record,” Morris said. “I’ve been in places where we’ve won the rushing title, but we didn’t win games. The bottom line and obviously those things can lead to it, but the only stat I care about are wins and losses. You can pat yourself on the back (for those other things), but you’re back home and you’re not going down to New Orleans. That being said I think it’s a good group. I’m just getting started. I think their past has proven they’re a good line.”
The inside zone run game and the screen game have been two strengths for Buffalo’s line over the past couple of seasons. Morris likes the fact that there are some ‘bread and butter’ plays that the group can turn to when they need them.
“You’re always going to lay your hat on something, whatever you decide and whatever your personnel dictates,” he said. “Obviously they have been successful with that. I think screens are just that change up to get guys in space. That takes athletic linemen to get out there and you’ve seen guys get out there. All those things we’ll look at as a staff and ask can we do more? We’ll stay with the same stuff and you’re just in that whole process, but I think that’s good for an O-line.”
Linemen always have some measure of concern that they’ll have a whole new set of techniques to learn under a new line coach. As far as Morris is concerned football is football.
“There are probably different ways to present it, but they basically are the same,” said Morris of line techniques. “Pass protection is pass protection and run blocking is run blocking. There’s zone blocking, man blocking. If there’s any difference I may say it a little bit different than they would. Our system that coach Marrone is bringing in is different terminology. I think that’s the biggest transition.”
Morris himself knows the system intimately having spent his entire NFL coaching career in it. That extensive knowledge of the scheme provided Marrone with an advantage he coveted for his staff.
“I coached at the Pro Bowl in 2006 and had two of Pat’s players with me in Matt Birk and Steve Hutchinson. One of the things I would do at the Pro Bowl is gather as much information as I could in terms of what other coaches would do, how they were inspiring and how they were motivating and at that time both of those players had nothing but great things to say about Pat,” said Marrone. “For me I was going to try to bring someone in again with the energy and the background in terminology so when a line coach came in we didn’t have to talk about terminology and the protection. Everything is handled the same way so we could move forward at a quicker pace.”