Bills head coach Doug Marrone is in Mobile this week to get his first look at some of the draft eligible talent at the Senior Bowl practices and check in with GM Doug Whaley and the scouting staff. Marrone is also working on filling a few roles on his coaching staff, most notably receivers coach. But he's planning to make an addition at quarterbacks coach as well.
"Obviously Nathaniel Hackett can do it all," Marrone told Buffalobills.com Monday. "I think it was very difficult for him this year with three quarterbacks that we had to get ready with Kevin Kolb getting injured. I think that was very difficult.
"He has a responsibility of being the offensive coordinator and calling the plays and that's a lot. Even though Nathaniel has voiced to me that it's not a problem and he can do it and there's no doubt in my mind that he can, it's my responsibility to bring people in that can help and support."
Hackett's dual role of offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach wasn't anything new to him. He had previously handled multiple coaching roles under Marrone at Syracuse. What he had not experienced before was getting three very inexperienced NFL quarterbacks ready to start an NFL game all in their first year in his offensive system.
First, Hackett had to get EJ Manuel ready for the season opener despite missing two of three weeks of practice leading up to the game. Manuel performed admirably in the Week 1 game against New England, which Buffalo lost by a narrow margin (23-21).
A month later he had to prepare Thad Lewis, who had only joined the team via trade in late August schooled up on enough of a game plan to face the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 6 after Manuel was sidelined with a knee injury. Lewis performed well staging a fourth quarter comeback to force overtime, though Buffalo ultimately lost the game (23-20).
Two weeks later he was tutoring rookie third-string quarterback Jeff Tuel to face one of the better defenses in football and then undefeated Kansas City. Tuel made some big plays, but had one costly error on an interception return for a touchdown as turnovers ultimately did Buffalo in on their most productive rushing day of the season (23-13).
Hackett's offense finished 19th in the NFL and was better than the other two offenses run by quarterbacks this season (NY Jets, Tampa Bay), and their quarterback position did not roll through three different players with one combined start of experience. In fact Buffalo's offense was ranked higher than that of three playoff teams in Carolina, Kansas City and San Francisco.
Buffalo's quarterback roster could see an addition in the offseason, but knowing how much more the current signal callers on the team still have to learn Marrone believes lessening the burden on Hackett will allow him to devote more time to devising effective solutions for the team's attack.