Doug Marrone has rebuilt a football team before—now he has been asked to do it again with the Buffalo Bills.
The new head coach will have plenty decisions ahead, such as hiring coordinators and choosing the base defensive alignment in which the Bills will run in the future. But above all, he must sort out the quarterback position if he plans to be successful in revitalizing the Western New York franchise.
Since Jim Kelly called it quits, the list of Bills quarterbacks is long, and the names conjure frightening memories for fans in Buffalo.
Experts say the NFL is a "quarterback-drive league," and although we tend to dismiss cliches because they're tired and overused phrases, there's some credence to that tired and overused phrase.
This was touched on briefly in an article I published about Marrone when news of his hire surfaced, but truthfully, quarterbacks ultimately make or break an NFL team.
Their general play can usually tell you, almost specifically, how good a team will be or how far they will advance in any given season.
Think about it.
Sure, there are outliers like Rex Grossman reaching the Super Bowl in 2006 or Matt Cassel leading the New England Patriots to an 11-5 record in 2008, but in the overwhelming majority of circumstances, describe to me how good a quarterback is, and I'll tell you a pretty narrow range of his team's success.
Wasn't the play of Ryan Fitzpatrick almost precisely indicative of a team that went 6-10 in consecutive years?
I'd say so.
According to Rotoworld.com, he is "due $7.25 million in bonus and salary money in 2013 and Buffalo could save roughly $500K against the salary cap" by releasing him.
However, all three of the Bills quarterbacks are impending free agents—will they let all of them (Tyler Thigpen, Tarvaris Jackson and Fitzpatrick) depart?
Maybe, but we must remember that, per this Associated Press report, Fitzpatrick and Marrone share the same agent, something that certainly could play into the veteran quarterback's future with the team.
Marrone would have to be downright insane to fully commit to the Harvard grad the way Chan Gailey did from 2011 on, but it's not an absolute lock that Fitzpatrick will be cut in the near future.
Thinking progressively, as Marrone should at the quarterback position, there will be plenty of signal-caller options, although none seem to be of the home-run variety.
The logical draft link with Marrone is to his quarterback at Syracuse, Ryan Nassib, a guy who drastically developed in his three seasons as the starter for the Orange.
Instead of opining on what I make of his skills or giving my projection as to what type of NFL quarterback I believe he'll be, decide for yourself.
While it's premature to say Nassib will definitely to land in Buffalo in April, with Marrone at the helm, the chance is undoubtedly greater.
Bills fans should do their homework on him over the next three months.
Other potential QB candidates include Geno Smith, Mike Glennon, Tajh Boyd and Tyler Wilson.
Then there are NFL vets who many believe will not be re-signed by their current teams—Alex Smith, Joe Flacco, Josh Freeman and Michael Vick—who could be on Marrone's radar.
At the very least, the new Buffalo head coach must thoroughly examine all the 2013 quarterback options and do everything in his power to obtain the guy he likes the most and believes will flourish in his system with the Bills.
Because when all is said and done, Marrone's coaching style, his coordinators, his on-field demeanor and everything else, in all likelihood, will not be the most vital factors in determining whether Buffalo can return to the playoffs—the quarterback will.