Buffalo's new offensive brain trust has two men well versed in designing offensive systems. Even better for the Bills, head coach Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett have put an offense together as a tandem before.
Marrone as a new head coach at Syracuse in 2009 was fresh off a three-year stint as an offensive coordinator with New Orleans. He also had a prior stop with the Jets where he helped design blocking schemes for the Jets prolific rushing attack at the time. With plans to develop a more comprehensive offense entering his second season with the Orange he hired Hackett to be his offensive coordinator at Syracuse in 2010.
The pair decided they would work together to further develop the identity of the Syracuse offense. Marrone and Hackett essentially isolated themselves in a room and didn't emerge until they formulated a system they felt would work for their team.
"Coach Marrone's philosophies, the way that he handles everything from a protection standpoint to the run, it was unbelievable learning from him and creating a system that first year," Nathaniel Hackett told Buffalobills.com.
"To learn that from him and to work with him very intimately on creating a system and all the things he wanted carried over from the NFL, it not only gave me the foundation in the pass protection and the run game, but just overall how to put everything together."
Marrone and Hackett chose to take a lot of different things from a lot of different systems that had consistent success in an effort to have the best of everything. The result was Syracuse's pro-style offense with elements of the West Coast system, a zone-stretch rushing attack, the ability to go no-huddle and just this past season the addition of the read option.
"He did an outstanding job for us at Syracuse," said Marrone of Hackett. "I have tremendous confidence in him making the transition back to the NFL level. He has a great knowledge of offenses having grown up the son of a good coach and it's served him well. He's been surrounded by offensive thinking football all his life and he's absorbed it."
Both men know they'll have to be flexible in adjusting the scheme they ran at Syracuse to the talents of the players they have now on their roster in Buffalo. Having worked together should only aid them in making the adjustments necessary to ensure the Bills offense has similar success.
"I think now we know, we feed off each other and we understand what we're both looking at from the pass game to the protection to the run game it's just going to make that transition so much easier," said Hackett. "The two of us because we've been through so much these past three years you just can't ask for anything better to work with a guy you've been with and understand what he needs and I know how to fulfill that. So it's going to be an exciting transition for us."
"You hear coaches speak of 'everyone being on the same page,'" said Marrone. "Nathaniel is on the same page with me when it comes to the offense, and it's multiple variations that we are looking to run here in Buffalo."
Marrone and Hackett at this point are not going to work on the offense's identity or the speed at which their offense will be run. That will come further down the line after player evaluations on tape are completed and basic installation has taken place.
"The first thing you create is that foundation. You have to get that foundation and get that language out to the players," said Hackett. "You have to let them understand what we're trying to accomplish. Once you get those plays in and they have the foundation and understand what we're trying to accomplish then you can now say, 'Hey let's talk about tempo.' You can speed it up or slow it down. It's really about a big evaluation right now and building a foundation with those guys and then seeing where it fits from an up tempo style."
For Marrone, their ability to adjust their offensive scheme to the talents of their players is part of what has him confident they will succeed when they have the football. The other part is the great faith he has in Hackett's abilities.
"His abilities and creativity rose to the forefront at a very early stage," said Marrone. "I believe he's going to be highly successful in our organization and our players are going to enjoy executing our offensive schemes."