Very soon Bills offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett will no longer hold the additional title of quarterbacks coach. Head coach Doug Marrone has been interviewing candidates for the job at the Senior Bowl this week. Sitting alongside Marrone in those interviews has been Hackett as they try to find the best fit for their offense and their starting quarterback.
In an appearance on the John Murphy Show from Mobile, Hackett was asked what he felt the reasons were to add a quarterbacks coach.
"I've got nine reasons for that," said Hackett flatly. "Since I got here (last year) there have been nine quarterbacks in the building. Even if you had a quarterback coach that would be a lot for one individual man let alone a quarterbacks-slash-coordinator.
"I think it's one of those things where if you have that person, another set of eyes, somebody that can point things out just to help the staff overall in the pass game, run game and to help EJ (Manuel) even more. All that stuff is all positive and I think anyway that we can continue to grow and I can continue to grow and just make us better as an offense. I think that's so important and that's one step we can take to help us."
The main impetus for the addition is to provide more one-on-one time for EJ Manuel to help promote his growth in his second NFL season.
"Without a doubt that's our full commitment is how can we help EJ every step of the way," said Hackett. "How can we continue his growth and let him understand the system better from every aspect? From players to the system to everything because he's a young player who has shown he has gotten a lot better.
"So now it's about how can we just continue that growth and not stay the same and get him better and better every second."
Hackett said it wasn't the dual role of coordinator and quarterbacks coach that made things difficult last season. It was the seemingly ever changing lineup at the quarterback position.
"It was having to shift between the different quarterbacks," Hackett said. "When you have different quarterbacks that play they're all so unique. They all do things completely different and they're all different kinds of players. So I think it was the transition between all the quarterbacks. I think we had a total of five changes.
"It's really trying to kind of switching your mindset to what that guy does good and we had to move that back and forth. I think being able to organize everything, I think that comes with how well you organize yourself. I think we did a good job with that."
Ranked 28th in passing, their aerial attack is obviously something they want to improve moving into the 2014 campaign. That's why having a quarterbacks coach who can devote his full attention to making Manuel better in every aspect of his game is seen as such a crucial move.
"What coach Marrone has always taught me is you never want to stay the same. You always want to try to get better and better," Hackett said. "You never want to plateau. I think that's why this position is going to be critical and it's going to help me do more from a coordinating standpoint. It's going to mean more to have somebody with EJ even more and be right there for him. It'll also allow me to branch out to the other positions and work more with the other players."
Hackett said they've been interviewing candidates for about a week now, and he feels that he along with coach Marrone have learned a lot about each of the quarterback coaching candidates. Buffalo's offensive coordinator said they're not necessarily looking for a quarterbacks coach who has experience playing at the NFL level.
"No, I think it's about how the guy communicates," said Hackett. "I think that's so important in this business. It's how you communicate the game plan and how you're able to capture the players and earn their trust and describe things and let them understand that they're going to learn and get better from that guy. I think that's what we're always trying to look for in the interview process.
"There are guys that have played that bring some things and there are sometimes other things they struggle with. Then you might look at a guy that hasn't played that brings something and might not have that true experience, but has seen a lot of other stuff. Everybody has some goods and bads and you have to kind of see what fits your staff the best and makes that cohesion even better."