After all the dust settled with the SEC firings and hirings, most would say that the majority of the league did pretty well with their head coaching vacancies. Kentucky got Mark Stoops, Arkansas pissed of the Big Ten, and Auburn re-hired Gus Malzahn while playing “Baby Come Back” over their stadium loudspeakers. Even the once-mighty Tennessee did pretty well, hiring Cincy’s Butch Jones away from the loving embrace of southern Ohio. I mean, really, there’s not even a Hofbrauhaus in Knoxville. So well done there.
But a name that never really popped up on the radar this year was Syracuse’s Doug Marrone. Marrone, who was hired by the Orange after a seven-year stretch of 26-57 (sub-33%), had a decent four-year run in New York, but never really gave the underachieving school a “break out” season, like Kansas State this year. In fact, he went exactly 50%, at 25-25. This year was pretty good, at 8-5 with a bowl win over the imploding WVU Mountaineers.
Why mention Doug Marrone? Because the struggling Buffalo Bills, home to Stevie Johnson, just hired him as their head coach after firing the last guy in December. Wait, what? A guy whose name wasn’t even mentioned all of a sudden gets an NFL job? That’s like the Charlotte Bobcats hiring the assistant coach of a struggling college team to be their head coach. Which they did. But Marrone goes from relatively anonymous Big East/ACC coach to suddenly well-paid professional coach, and he was never even mentioned in SEC searches.
So what makes Marrone good enough for a professional team? Plenty of schools can win half their games in a four-year span. He has some NFL experience as a coordinator, and is from New York, but four years of just “good” coaching at a BCS school, his first head coaching gig, don’t seem to make a super-solid resume.
All I’m saying is, if the Buffalo Bills hired a guy that was never even mentioned in Kentucky’s, or other SEC schools’, coaching search, we should consider ourselves lucky for getting a jump on things. Marrone is probably a good coach, or they wouldn’t have hired him, but it’s hard to imagine hiring a .500 NCAA guy to coach your professional ballclub. The coaching search is an arcane, confusing thing, and this is a lesson: I bet a lot of Kentucky fans, myself included, might have been disappointed if we’d hired Doug Marrone. Turns out, he’s good enough for an NFL team… or, you know, at least a shot with one.
For our part, though, we’re pretty happy with Stoops.