It's the time of year when the coaches have only themselves to interact with on a day-to-day basis at One Bills Drive. With the players not returning until April it's the time of year when the staff reviews video player cut-ups, completes projects and makes additions, subtractions and alterations to their respective offensive and defensive systems.
Buffalo's offensive staff also has two additional voices in their meeting room in senior offensive assistant Jim Hostler and quarterbacks coach Todd Downing. Receivers coach Rob Moore succeeds the departed Ike Hilliard. Moore, who has worked with Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett before, knows his role. Incorporating the expertise of Downing and Hostler into the daily discussions about personnel and scheme while also doing what's best for team success however, will be a methodical adjustment process.
Step one is getting both Downing and Hostler familiar with the terminology of Buffalo's offensive scheme. Once that's accomplished Bills head coach Doug Marrone wants their fresh perspective on things.
"Both of them have a great background in football knowledge," Marrone told Buffalobills.com. "It's great for us because you bring in two people who are very bright and very smart. They've been around for a while and both have had success. So you bring them in and you're talking about teaching them a system, and who better to evaluate a system than two guys coming in. What are the weaknesses of the system? What are the strengths of the system? What can we do to make it better? That's the process we're going through right now."
Downing feels his place in the room is rather straightforward. He'll take his direction from offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett.
"There's not a job description that they hand you when you walk in the door," said Downing. "We're all figuring out how we're going to fit into this puzzle, but on the whole I'm here to support coach Hackett and support the quarterback room and help get this thing on track."
For Hostler the job description isn't quite as cut and dry. Having been a former coordinator himself, Hostler has respect for the authority of that position. At the same time he's being brought in to be a sounding board for Hackett.
"I think when you look at where we're at now coming in here I'm going to help in any area that I can. We're going to figure all that out going forward," Hostler said. "There's no set plan or mold that I'm going to fit into. It's going to be a feel as to how I fit in the room, how the room feels with me in the room and then where I can help take pressure off Nathaniel or where I can help him in different areas based on my background."
As Hostler sees it his role will be one of more give than take, but he'll only provide his input when it's needed.
"I'm going to understand how the dynamics of the room are, whose opinions need to be voiced and then I'll always take the backseat to those guys because they've been here and understand it," he said. "I'm not here to help the coaches coach their position. I'm here to take pressure off Nathaniel, give him another set of eyes, give him another opinion from a guy who has coordinated and done a lot in the passing game and just sort of help him so he can be effectively prepared as a coordinator."
Downing believes there will be a natural feeling out process, but feels coach Hackett is a good facilitator at opening the lines of communication.
"I'm not the type of guy that ever thinks I have all the answers. There may have been a way that we did something in Detroit that was really good for us and I'll be able to interject and say, 'Maybe we should try it this way,'" Downing said. "The great thing is coach Hackett is very open and inviting to new ideas and any way that anybody else did something. He's such a smart guy he can process that and see where it fits in.
"So really the way it's been thus far is he might ask me, 'Hey how did you guys do this in Detroit?' Or he might say, 'I know you had success with the three level passing game. What were some of the things you did?'"
Marrone is never opposed to looking at getting something done a different way. So the fresh spin that Downing and Hostler might be able to offer the offense is something he intends to entertain and consider.
"Once we're able to get everyone on the same page, now you have people coming in here who can bring great ideas to the table," said Marrone. "You want a collaborative effort, especially when you're dealing with younger players on the offensive side of the ball. I think it's going to be a great benefit for us adding those two coaches to our offensive staff."