It’s no secret now that the Bills brain trust in charge of finding the team’s new head coach had set up shop in Arizona for almost all of last week. It was there that they conducted all of their interviews with potential head coaching candidates. Below is a timeline of how things unfolded in the desert and how the Bills decided on Doug Marrone to be the 16th head coach in franchise history.
Just hours after a team press conference to announce that Russ Brandon had been named team President and would be taking over day-to-day organizational control from owner Ralph Wilson, Brandon, GM Buddy Nix, Assistant GM Doug Whaley and Sr. VP of Football Administration Jim Overdorf boarded a private plane bound for Phoenix.
“It was like a clearinghouse of coaches,” Brandon told Buffalobills.com of the scene in Arizona. “We met with (former Arizona) coach (Ken) Whisenhunt on Tuesday evening right after we left the press conference in Buffalo.”
Come Wednesday morning, Buffalo interviewed their second head coaching candidate in Arizona defensive coordinator Ray Horton. It was followed that evening by an interview with then Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone.
“We also met with Doug on Thursday, Friday and Saturday,” said Brandon. “We met with Doug numerous times in that pocket of interviews.”
It was clear that Marrone’s initial interview was the best of the bunch and had Buffalo’s brass leaning in his direction from the early goings in the process.
“It was a developmental process,” said Brandon. “We had an interview lined up with him. We conducted it and then based on feedback we set up other ensuing conversations to continue the process. From our opening conversation we were so impressed that the spotlight was really on him.”
Buffalo’s coaching search committee set up subsequent interviews with Marrone in each of the days that followed, both late in the evening and early in the mornings. It was clear they wanted to maintain an open dialogue with Marrone because he had quickly found the way to the top of their list.
Discussion and debate among the Bills top executives was lengthy on the candidates they had interviewed, and the consensus was leaning in favor of Marrone.
“Once we make a decision, we make a decision together, but we needed to debate it as we went through the process,” said Brandon. “There was good, open, honest discussion of what we set our criteria and agenda to be to find the next head coach of the Buffalo Bills. Every time we talked about Doug he looked like our head coach. But we would be doing ourselves a disservice if we did not continue on the path of what we set out to do.”
Come Friday the Bills met with former Bears head coach Lovie Smith and Oregon head coach Chip Kelly. Brandon admitted every candidate put their best foot forward in their interviews, but each subsequent meeting with Marrone only further convinced the Bills he was the right choice.
“He’s a very impressive man and it’s difficult to distance yourself when you’re talking about the individuals that we spoke with. To have the opportunity to talk to Whiz and Lovie, that’s why he had more collective conversations (with Marrone) to ensure that you felt it and you felt what you wanted to do as an organization was there, and that was the case,” Brandon said.
It wasn’t long after their final interview with Chip Kelly Friday night that a final decision was made.
“After our conversations we met as a group and said, ‘How do we feel?’ We all had good, open communication and said, ‘Let’s make Doug Marrone our next head coach.’”
There reportedly was one more interview to be conducted by the Bills, but GM Buddy Nix had said last week if they found their man they weren’t going to wait.
“If you did that you’d lose the guy you want,” said Nix. “We could have gone another day and we would have been starting over. We knew the guy we wanted when we interviewed him, so why go any further?”
Throughout the process owner Ralph Wilson was kept up to speed by Brandon, including a call to inform him of the search committee’s decision.
“I talked to Mr. Wilson three or four times during the week,” he said. “The admiration and respect I have for Mr. Wilson there’s no way I wouldn’t keep him updated on crucial decisions. In my mind this is the most crucial decision you have to make.”
Brandon doesn’t deny that competing with five other NFL clubs to fill a head coaching vacancy intensified the process and made the task at hand even more demanding.
“I think it was intense from day one. You hear different media reports and agent reports. This business is interesting when it comes to that element especially in the age of social media,” he said. “After we had gone through four or five days with around the clock talks with candidates we decided to make the decision with coach. He was very high on the radar of some other clubs. That much we knew, but we kept an open dialogue throughout the process. A very, honest, trustworthy dialogue as we went through it.”
In the end the constant contact allowed Buffalo to land the coach they believe can lead them to bigger and better things.