He stood tall at the podium in a dark and tidy suit, and spoke with a loud, commanding voice and fluidity like he had a teleprompter in his mind. While speaking, one couldn’t help but feel that the statements made by newly hired Bills generalissimo Doug Marrone were genuine. He seemed to truly care about re-establishing a winning culture in Buffalo, a place where he admitted to not spending much time, but did so in the surrounding area, and for once — for once — Bills fans had a right to feel genuinely optimistic about their future.
But who is he?
Critics of the Bills’ hire will point to his head coaching record at Syracuse University, a mere 25-25 in four years, and it features only one first place finish. But before Marrone, the team that now calls itself simply “Orange” wasn’t relevant at all. And they were never anywhere near a .500 record. Or a bowl game, for that matter.
Before his four years at Syracuse, he spent six in the NFL as an offensive line coach and offensive coordinator. The experience in the pros proved to be vital for Marrone’s offense at Syracuse, which was called by offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett (who will also be joining the Bills per Tim Graham), but Marrone had input in its construction.
The offense has many features to it, showing an impressive diversity that seemingly fits the talent on the roster to a tee. Marrone’s Syracuse offense had featured a high amount of snaps per game due to its up-tempo, no-huddle strategy, and it amalgamated several concepts that are old and new, many of which may be attributed to the dynamic offense that Sean Payton employs. Marrone learned from Payton during his three year stint (2006-08) with the Saints.
Old concepts as in West Coast Offense principles in the passing game, with an abundance of square-in and dig routes that help create Hi-Lo concepts that are prevalent in the NFL today (and have been for a long time) as well as the mesh concept, which features receivers running shallow crossing routes in opposite directions across the field. There’s also the good old Smash concept that everyone runs, and that consists of a hitch and corner route combination from two pass catchers. Then there’s the popular double-slants concept that is used everywhere, along with the stick concept (stick route + flat route).
And then there’s the recently popular NFL additions to the run game. The zone read that has taken the league by storm with the likes of Robert Griffin III and Cam Newton can also be seen in Marrone’s offense. He ran it with Ryan Nassib, who isn’t the first name to pop in many minds when one considers a zone-read quarterback — although he’s more mobile than given credit for. A flip of the ball by the quarterback to a jet sweep runner can also be seen in Marrone’s Syracuse offense at times.
Much of the above is ran from 11 personnel, consisting of one back and one tight end, and from several formations, such as Trips Bunch or Stacked Twin sets. It also comes with the quarterback under center or in shotgun set while taking three to five-step dropbacks.
Speaking of the quarterback, there’s been rumors that the Bills could be interested in Marrone’s now former Syracuse signal-caller. Nassib is one of the recent prospects to climb up draft boards after a strong senior season, and he possesses some of the tools that one looks for in a quarterback. One as in general manager Buddy Nix, who stated that he had been studying the Orange passer for “quite a while”.
“Nassib, we were looking at him for quite a while. He’s one of the quarterbacks out there that’s going to be drafted and we’ll be interested in,” Nix said.
If the Bills are indeed interested in him, which is to be expected, what will they be getting?
For one, they’ll be getting a competitor. It’s hard to not see Nassib as just that when watching him on the field. He’s tough, he will stand in the pocket, get lambasted, and stand right up. He will make the difficult throws and has a lot of experience — he’s a three-year starter — as both a quarterback, and with the concepts that he’ll be asked to execute at the NFL stage.
For instance, many quarterbacks come into the league struggling to get off their first read when dropping, back but not Nassib. He has shown on numerous occasions that he can go through multiple reads and find his target, be it the third option or fourth. On one play against Northwestern, he manipulated the pocket as he went through three reads prior to finding his outlet receiver to his near left.
He’s also likely to improve on a yearly basis, which is impressive and noteworthy because I studied his 2011 season and was not impressed with him as a passer. However, this year he made strides.
He showed a strong arm that enables him to work defensive backs down the field and the short-to-intermediate accuracy to thread the needle and find a receiver. Further, on numerous occasions, most notably a gorgeous throw against Rutgers that’s illustrated below, Nassib’s shown that he can throw with anticipation, whether it’s in the middle of the field (where some quarterbacks struggle due to it being clogged with defenders) or outside the hashes.
However, like any other quarterbacks, he has flaws. His major flaw is his footwork, which is probably the main reason he’s not considered a top prospect at his position. Poor footwork is something that also held back Ryan Fitzpatrick from becoming a better quarterback, but Fitzpatrick’s issue was what I believe to be chronic. It was something that, in short, was not going to be fixed with any coaching. Conversely, Nassib’s is not.
The issue with Nassib is that he doesn’t rotate his hips. This is problematic because it affects his arm strength — which is good but could be even better — and accuracy. When he plants his lead foot in the ground, he creates a very wide base, which is fine because his power is generated from his lower body. Once he does this, he doesn’t step through the throw and rotate his hips with any consistency. Instead, what he does is whip his back leg over, consequently never truly transferring his weight and power to his front foot and through the football.
Moreover, he has some mobility and can throw well on the run, but sometimes he runs into the problem of not squaring his hips when throwing the football. Last year, I wrote about how Andrew Luck does such a good job of squaring his hips prior to throwing on the move, which allows him to be more accurate when throwing down the field. Throwing downfield on the move is something that Nassib needs to be more accurate with and would be if he would square his hips when throwing.
Overall, footwork is a problem for many quarterbacks, and is one aspect of the position that the passer should always look to improve, which is what Nassib will have to do when he gets into the NFL. He has a lot of talent and is always making improvements as a passer — a quality that will have Nix continuing to come back to his tape.
His former head coach had quite a bit of praise for him after being hired by the Bills:
“I love him. He did an outstanding job for our football team. He’s really grown in the last couple of years; he put a lot of emphasis on the leadership role and really took over the team. He’s a player that has gotten quite a bit better during the year,” Marrone said of Nassib, via the NFL Network.
“He’s going to be playing in this league. I haven’t studied the draft, I haven’t gone through that; that’s down the road for me as far as the process of what I have to go through. But I do know that he’ll be in this league, so I’m excited for him.”
If the Bills have it their way, they’ll have a package of the dynamic , offensive-minded Doug Marrone and rising Ryan Nassib once April’s draft comes to a conclusion.
All credit for usage of snapshots comes from Draftbreakdown.com videos.