Black Monday has come and gone and there are plenty of open head coaching jobs in the NFL. It's no surprise (to me, at least) that former Syracuse Orange and Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone is getting an interview for most of them.
Marrone has been mentioned as being in the running for the Browns, Giants, Eagles and Dolphins and that's just so far. It's almost a certainly that he'll be a head coach again, if not this year than the next.
It's also no surprise that a lot of people have pretty negative opinions about Saint Doug. He left Syracuse four seasons after calling it his "dream job" and then walked away from the Bills ("another dream opportunity") after two years with a hefty buyout. Rumors swirled about Marrone's icy demeanor and his reputation even led to one reporter purposefully trying to convince the New York Jets not to hire him as if Marrone had crapped on the guy's lawn.
A couple years later, two things seem pretty clear to me.
1. Doug Marrone's fan reputation is in the toilet (though this ESPN piece does much to try and repair it).
2. Doug Marrone's reputation in NFL front office circles is still stellar.
And why shouldn't it be? Say what you will about how he left Buffalo but he turned them into a winner before he left. And you can question his work at Syracuse but he took a program that was so bad it would be an insult to dumpster fires to refer to it as a dumpster fire and turned it into a respectable team that went to bowl games regularly.
That second one is what I always think about when I see Syracuse fans trash Marrone. Once the initial shock of his departure wore off and we had a chance to look at the big picture, I haven't thought ill of Marrone since. Especially considering what happened after he left and the program slid back into the basement, the value of what he did at SU in four years cannot be overstated.
I get the whole "he called it his dream job" complaint. That ended up biting Doug in the ass, no doubt. But at the same time, we're all complicit in that because we are dumb enough as sports fans to believe a coach when they say this is the place they want to be for the rest of their career.
We're the same idiots who heard Dino Babers say he considers Syracuse "a destination job" and thought to ourselves, "Yes! He's gonna stay forever!" And when Dino Babers gets us back to 8-wins in three years and leaves to take a Big 12 or Big 10 job, we'll curse his name and call him a liar. Despite the fact that we all knew, he and us, that it's just something a coach says because that's how the game is played and we all play our part.
You're not mad at Doug Marrone for duping you. You're mad at you for duping yourself.
All of this is to say that I think most of us, even if we don't like the way Doug Marrone left, we understand his value. Especially when it comes to what he did at Syracuse. So that's what was so surprising to me when I read Poliquin's HOT TAEK this week.
Some folks insist that Ringo Starr remains the luckiest man alive. But then, they don't know Doug Marrone, who has somehow ridden a 25-25 record (that included 11 wins over Akron, Colgate, Maine, Rhode Island, Stony Brook, Temple, Toledo, Tulane and Wake Forest) at Syracuse University and a 15-17 record in his two-season drive-by with the Buffalo Bills to Ming vase status.
That's right. Doug Marrone, the SU player-turned-SU coach-turned-SU expat, is apparently coveted. But while it's true that he returned both his alma mater and the Bills to respectability — a feat he famously insisted nudged him toward sainthood — it's also true that his Orange once lost to Connecticut 56-31 and one of his Buffalo clubs ranked 30th in a 32-team league in touchdowns scored.
Et tu, Budde?
I understand why someone who doesn't follow Syracuse would look at Doug's 25-25 record and think, "Why is that a big deal?" But the idea that someone could actively watch what came before Doug, see the mess he had to clean up and then wonder what the big deal is about 25-25...you either weren't paying attention or you're lying.
It will be lost to time just how bad Syracuse's football program was under Greg Robinson but those of us who were there (except for Bud, apparently) know that the fact that Marrone got them back to a bowl game in Year 2 was a minor miracle and the fact that he got them to the point where they could beat an SEC team on the road and a Big 12 team in a bowl game by his fourth is worthy of sainthood in some circles (I can cherry-pick wins to make my point, too).
The fact is, in the last 20 years of Syracuse Football, Doug Marrone isn't even near the top of the list of people who deserve our shit. Paul Pasqualoni oversaw the program's transition from perennial bowl team to mediocrity. Greg Robinson poured gasoline on that mediocrity, lit it on fire and peed on the ashes. DOC Gross hired Greg Robinson and worried more about #BRAND and uniform colors than doing the things needed to turn SU around. Scott Shafer dropped the ball that Marrone had re-shaped and gifted to him.
What's Doug Marrone's crime? He's maybe not a nice guy? He's a bit of an enigma? He plays things close to his chest? Well give me a mean coach who goes 8-5 over a great guy who goes 4-8 every year for the rest of my Syracuse fandom life. If it was about how nice you were to reporters, Greg Robinson would have a banner hanging in the Carrier Dome rafters. If it was about saying the right things, Scott Shafer would still be employed.
Doug Marrone wasn't good at saying the right things and he wasn't always that nice. All he did was win enough football games that the NFL deemed him successful enough to take a chance on. What a monster.
You're free to think what you like of Doug Marrone and root against him in his quest to be a head coach again. But if you're going to root against him because of what he did at Syracuse, I just don't know what you want. The magical Football Jim Boeheim doesn't exist and it's not Doug Marrone's fault you convinced yourself he was it. Ultimately, he's just another coach in a field of many. Most of them don't win. He did (at least enough). Given everything that SU Football has been through, and is currently going through, I'd say he deserves an appreciation for at least that.