Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib ran Doug Marrone's offense effectively in the Big East Conference, but how well would he produce with the same offense in the NFL? That is the $1,000,000 question that everyone connected to the Buffalo Bills franchise is asking in the final days leading up to the 2013 NFL draft.
Now that Marrone has assumed the head coaching job in Buffalo, and brought his offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett with him from Syracuse, does Nassib wind up coming along for the ride as well?
The three parties worked well together with the Orange. During the 2012 season, Nassib threw for 3,749 yards, with 26 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He completed 62.4 percent of his passes (identical percentage for the last two years at Syracuse) and had a QB passer rating of 143.3.
The Syracuse offense averaged 289 passing yards per game (No. 29 in FBS rankings), to go along with 187.2 rushing yards per game (No. 40 in FBS) and scored an average of 30 points per game (No. 56 in FBS). Of course, those numbers were against Big East defenses, which isn't exactly what Nassib or Marrone will face in the NFL.
Geno Smith versus Ryan Nassib: Which One to Draft and Head-to-Head Results
One of the interesting dilemmas for Buffalo in the upcoming draft is over which quarterback the team should select to run Marrone's offense? The Bills are rumored to be interested in West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, who topped Nassib's numbers by throwing for an amazing 42 touchdowns to only six interceptions.
But when Nassib and Smith met on three different occasions in college, it was Nassib and Syracuse that defeated Smith and West Virginia all three times. In 2010, Syracuse won 19-14, in 2011 it was 49-23 and last year in the Pinstripe Bowl it was 38-14. Don't think the outcome of those games is lost on Marrone. If Smith is available to the Bills when they are on the clock at No. 8 and Buffalo passes on him, it could very well be a reflection on Marrone's first-hand knowledge of facing the Mountaineers' QB.
If you combine all three of Smith's starts against Syracuse, they resulted in pedestrian numbers, (five touchdowns, five interceptions and an average of 239 passing yards per game). You're probably wondering how Nassib did in those same three games? Fair enough. Nassib threw for seven touchdowns, one interception and averaged 140 yards per game. It is safe to say that Nassib's targets at Syracuse paled in comparison to Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.
There are a few NFL analysts that believe Nassib is the best quarterback in the draft. An article from BuffaloBills.com notes that NFL Films analyst Greg Cosell went on record with the assessment that Nassib graded out as his top-rated quarterback in the 2013 draft class. Cosell stated that Nassib has the necessary arm strength to play in Buffalo as well as offering strong accuracy and location with his passing.
Ultimately the Bills have to figure out exactly when to draft Nassib, assuming that he is the quarterback that they want to invest in. He would be a major reach to draft with the No. 8 overall pick, but he might be gone by the time the Bills are again on the clock with the No. 41 pick. So, Buddy Nix may be forced to trade back into the bottom of the first round or the top of the second round to secure Nassib.
What Kind of Offense Did Doug Marrone and Nate Hackett Run at Syracuse?
For a better idea of the kind of offense that Marrone and Hackett ran at Syracuse, the best way to share it is to let you watch some performances courtesy of YouTube videos. First video is the Syracuse game vs USC, which was the second game of the 2012 season for Syracuse. This game featured Nassib versus another key quarterback from the 2013 draft class, Matt Barkley. USC won the contest 42-29.
Syracuse ran their hurry-up offense against the Trojans, but the offensive line had trouble protecting Nassib throughout the game. The USC pressure forced Nassib into scrambling around in the pocket and trying to make plays on the run. More often than not, the results weren't favorable. Nassib was hurt by a couple of dropped passes.
All told, Syracuse ran 87 plays in the game compared to just 63 for USC. Syracuse had a nice balance in their attack with 46 passes (for 322 yards) and 41 rushes (for 133 yards). Nassib completed 30-of-46 passes for 322 yards. He threw two touchdowns, two interceptions, and ran it in for one touchdown.
The next game to check out is Syracuse's 11th game of the year, when Syracuse beat Missouri on the road, 31-27. Syracuse was trailing 17-10 coming into the fourth quarter, but Nassib led the offense on three touchdown drives in the fourth quarter to earn a 31-27 comeback win.
In this game, the Syracuse offense again featured a balanced attack, as they passed the ball 40 times (for 385 yards) and ran the ball 36 times (for 123 yards). They ran 76 plays, holding a slight edge over Missouri, who ran 71 plays.
Nassib threw for 385 yards, two touchdowns and had one interception.
Obviously Coach Marrone and Coach Hackett ran an offense that suited their personnel. They hurried up to the line of scrimmage, and got plays off quickly. The offense tired out the defense, and just as importantly, prevented the defense from substituting players that specialized on third downs.
The attack requires the opposing defensive personnel to be in shape. If they are not, they will have to sit out a certain number of snaps or alternate series to catch their breath.
So, What Will Coach Marrone and Hackett Do With the Buffalo Offensive Personnel?
When this was submitted for publication, the Bills' offense currently features the following personnel:
Kevin Kolb and Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback, Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller at running back, Stevie Johnson, Brad Smith, T.J. Graham and Marcus Easley at wide receiver and Scott Chandler (rehabbing from an ACL injury) at tight end. The offensive line has Eric Wood, Cordy Glenn, Chris Hairston, Erik Pears, Kraig Urbik and Zebrie Sanders returning from 2012.
The Bills will more than likely draft a rookie quarterback in the 2013 draft, because GM Buddy Nix has promised the fanbase that he would finally draft one this year. If Nix winds up passing on every quarterback at the draft, he will have a public relations nightmare on his hands. The rookie will be brought in and have a chance to compete at camp with Kolb and Jackson to see who will be the Week One starter.
One rookie and two veterans competing in camp for the starting job was the exact scenario that the Seattle Seahawks faced in 2012. Bills fans can only hope that they can duplicate Seattle's results.
If Nassib winds up being drafted and is named as the starter for Buffalo in 2013, at least he will have some playmakers on offense in Spiller, Jackson and Johnson. Nassib would be blessed to have a solid running game to lean on, that will take a tremendous amount of pressure off his shoulders.
For now, the Bills intend to run a similar offense that they used at Syracuse. It will be the hurry-up offense, which Bills fans will recognize as the old K-Gun offense that Jim Kelly ran so well back when the Bills were annual contenders.
The 2013 Buffalo Bills offense will be built on the following principles:
Buffalo will use a diverse number of formations designed to confuse the defense as to what play they actually want to run. This offense has the ability to run the same play out of different formations, which makes the offense less predictable.
The Bills want to create an up-tempo or hurry-up offense, assuming that the personnel can execute it effectively. If they can't, the end result is that the defense is back out on the field quickly, with minimal rest.
Will the Bills draft Ryan Nassib, and if so, when?
The offense will hurry to the line of scrimmage and call a play from there. The quarterback can make adjustments to the play call based on the defensive personnel on the field, or how the defense is lining up prior to the snap. This style also allows Buffalo to dictate what kind of personnel the defense can afford to keep on the field. If the Bills can tire out their defensive linemen, that will be a huge advantage for the offense.
This offense will feature principles of the West Coast offense, specifically designed to take advantage of the skills of Buffalo's offensive personnel.
The Bills' offense under Marrone and Hackett will also use an analytical approach to study opposing defenses tendencies. The unit will be coached to counter the various nuances thrown at them every week, in addition to being prepared for any new wrinkles or surprises defenses throw at them.
One unique feature is that offensive coordinator Hackett is also serving as quarterback coach in 2013. By wearing both hats, Hackett's goal is to make sure that nothing gets lost in translation. His ideas will go directly to the quarterback, with no middle man involved that could potentially misinterpret what he wants to accomplish.
Assuming that the Bills wind up drafting Nassib, he already has been running this offense under Marrone and Hackett for the past three years. That is a huge advantage Nassib holds over veterans Kolb and Jackson. If Nassib is not named the starter, he at least can teach the starter how to run Hackett's offense.
This situation is very similar to what happened in Miami last year, when the rookie Ryan Tannehill beat out veteran quarterback Matt Moore and David Garrard for the starting job. A huge plus for Tannehill was that he played for offensive coordinator Mike Sherman at Texas A&M, and ultimately was named the starter during training camp.
If you recall how Pete Carroll used Russell Wilson in Seattle last year, he only allowed his rookie QB to use a limited portion of the playbook in the first half of the season. As the season wore on and Wilson became more comfortable in the offense, Carroll opened up the offense for Wilson to start spreading his wings. That could very well be a developmental pattern for the Bills and Nassib in 2013.
We will learn if the reunion will become a reality over the span of the next 10 or 11 days.
Thanks for checking out the presentation. Follow me on Twitter: @DanVanWie