More than once Bills head coach Doug Marrone has said the players need to hold the coaches accountable as much as the coaches need to hold the players accountable. That might just sound like a clever way of making the players feel more in control of what goes on with the team at One Bills Drive. Marrone however, is backing his words with actions.
Buffalo's sideline boss is meeting weekly with the team's newly named captains, something that Fred Jackson, Kyle Williams or Eric Wood have not experienced at the NFL level before.
"It was definitely something I wasn't accustomed to, but it lets you know that he wants us to be just as in control of this team as he is," said Jackson. "He wants us to know what's going on and what he's thinking about keeping us informed so we can keep the players informed because we're in the locker room."
"We're a young team and we have a lot of voices coming through the locker room. We want to make sure everything is out in the open," said Wood. "We want to be a mature team. We don't want anything eating us from the inside out. It's a great approach by Doug that every week we get together, go over the schedule in advance and make sure we're all on the same page."
Marrone has made an effort to impress upon the captains that being elected by their teammates is just the beginning of the added responsibility they will carry this season.
"We'll meet once a week and really we're accountable to each other. They're going to ask me to do some things and I'll evaluate it and see if that's the direction that we want to go, but make no mistake about it there will be some things that I ask them to do as captains, which they'll be accountable for. I'm very excited about the three captains that we have. Those players have worked extremely hard."
At the same time he wants as much input as Jackson, Williams and Wood are willing to provide.
"That was the first thing he said," Jackson said. "I want to have this meeting so you can tell me what's going on in the locker room and what the fellas are feeling like and what they want to do. He's made it very clear that it's going to be a two-way street.
"I think the first thing he's going to ask us in every meeting is what is on everybody's mind and if there is something we need to do differently. He wants us to bring any issue that we have as players to him and that's a good opportunity to get it out."
"It makes him very approachable," said Wood. "Meeting with him once a week, makes it very easy for us to tell him anything that we feel we need to tell him."
Everything from scheduling and travel logistics to making adjustments in game plans, Marrone is open to suggestions.
"It's going to cover a wide range of stuff," said Williams. "I'm sure we'll get more in depth as we go through the year playing games."
"I think the first thing he's going to ask us in every meeting is what is on everybody's mind and if there is something we need to do differently," said Jackson. "He wants us to bring any issue that we have as players to him and that's a good opportunity to get it out."
Marrone has also made a point of letting the captains know their responsibilities stretch a bit further than most of the players on the roster.
"Really it's important. It's more than just a patch on your shoulder and more than just a thank you from your peers for voting you to be a captain," Marrone told Buffalobills.com. "There's a tremendous amount of accountability that comes with that. A lot of times when you're in a position of leadership whether you're a captain or a head coach or a coordinator, the sense of affiliation has to be a little bit more than normal. You're going to have to make some tough decisions that are beneficial for the team and not for a certain individual."
Perhaps most important is Marrone doesn't want the flow of information restricted to just captains' meetings. He wants it in meetings, in practice and on game days.
"He says when we're coming off the field we have to let him know what we're seeing and what we think we can get done whether it's on offense or defense what formations we're getting," said Jackson. "He said we know how to defend that stuff so to let him know so adjustments can be made."
Marrone clearly feels that empowering his players and making them part of the decision making process will reinforce that their influence will stretch beyond the plays that need to be made on the field.
"Doug has done that since day one," said Wood. "What he says is what you get from him. At times that's been daunting. When he said we were going to work harder than anyone else in training camp I feel like we did. We didn't have any water park days or movie days at camp, and that's fine. He told us that in advance. That's been a good dynamic and he's put his money where his mouth is at all times."