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Pitoniak: Marrone gets busy

 I'm still encountering Bills fans skeptical about the hire, and I get that. Thirteen years without a playoff appearance and a revolving door of head coaches make it difficult to believe that Doug Marrone will be any different from his uninspiring predecessors: Gregg Williams, Mike Mularkey, Dick Jauron and Chan Gailey.

                Only time will tell if the man who restored Syracuse football to some semblance of respectability will be able to end the post-season famine in Buffalo and return the lost luster to Bills football.

                Marrone clearly has hit the ground running since his introductory news conference Monday, signing Nathaniel Hackett as his offensive coordinator and Mike Pettine as his defensive boss.

                Hackett has only limited NFL coaching experience, including two years as an offensive quality control coach under Jauron (2008-09). But he did a good job calling plays for Marrone at Syracuse and played an integral role in the development of quarterback Ryan Nassib, who wound up breaking most of Donovan McNabb's school passing records and is projected as a second- or third-round pick in the upcoming NFL draft. Hackett will quickly discover that it's a little more complicated calling plays against more complex and talented NFL defenses, but he'll be able to lean on Marrone, who just five years ago served as the New Orleans Saints offensive coordinator, working with Pro Bowl QB Drew Brees.

                Of course, Hackett's first order of business will be addressing the quarterback void. I can't see Ryan Fitzpatrick being given another opportunity. I see the Bills acquiring a free agent (a la Alex Smith) as a stop-gap and drafting a quarterback. With Marrone and Hackett in place, the package deal rumors of bringing Nassib to One Bills Drive no longer are far-fetched. I can see them going defense with their No. 8 overall pick, then trading up in the second round to pick Nassib.

                The more significant hire - and one that will go a long way in determining Marrone's success - was Pettine, who was the highly regarded defensive coordinator of the Jets the past four seasons. His units ranked in the top 10 each of those seasons. Now, admittedly, some of the credit for New York's success on D belongs to the Jets defensive-minded head coach Rex Ryan. But Pettine spent 10 seasons working under Ryan (first in Baltimore and then, New York) and has learned his lessons well.

                Marrone believes in an attacking style on both sides of the ball and Pettine clearly is a disciple of that approach. The Bills have fielded historically bad defenses the past five seasons, which explains why they have just one winning record in the past decade. With the addition of coveted free agents Mario Williams and Mark Anderson last season, it was believed Buffalo would field a kick-butt defense that would translate into a playoff appearance. But the Bills woefully underachieved. Marrone is counting on Pettine to take the talent that is there and turn things around in a hurry.

                Interestingly, the Bills are built to run a 4-3 alignment and Pettine is more used to a 3-4. Buffalo's linebacking corps is weak, so I can't see a change in the type of defense. The big thing, though, beyond scheme, will be accountability. Pettine knows how to get the most out of his players. I'd be surprised if he doesn't whip this unit into shape in a hurry and helps it realize its potential.
               
 
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