Bills move fast on an offensive coordinator

January 15, 2018

Less than one week after the season came to an end in Jacksonville, the Buffalo Bills answered the first important question of the offseason. Was Rick Dennison going to be back for a second year as offensive coordinator? On Friday, the team announced it had “parted ways” with Dennison, and on Sunday they named Brian Daboll as his replacement.

The decision to move on from Dennison came as no surprise. I’ll spare you all the stats, but suffice to say the offense became worse under his guidance and really didn’t do anything well. The running game, which was a strength, became inconsistent and his change of the team’s blocking scheme proved to be a mistake. The passing game went from below average to worst in the league. In fairness, the blame shouldn’t solely be placed on Dennison. As general manager Brandon Beane remarked when asked to explain the problems on offense, “we all had a hand in the cookie jar”. Beane did trade away the best weapon in the passing game when he dealt Sammy Watkins to the Los Angeles Rams.

Sean McDermott was the person who hired Dennison and signed off on the change of their run blocking scheme as well as an overall scheme that didn’t seem to fit the skill set of Tyrod Taylor. For whatever reason or reasons, it didn’t work out and the Bills correctly opted to move on after one year.

As for Daboll, for all of you who tweeted and asked what I think of the hire, I’ll tell you. I don’t know. I can’t say I was excited when I heard the news, but my initial reaction was not "oh man, they picked the wrong guy". On the plus side, they have brought in a coach who has worked with one of the best coaches in NFL history in Bill Belichick, and one of the best college football coaches ever in Nick Saban.

Hopefully, some of their football genius has rubbed off on Daboll. The Saint Francis High School graduate has certainly been a part of winning and championship seasons, and overall has logged plenty of miles in terms of NFL coaching experience.

On the down side, you have his resume as an offensive coordinator. Daboll held that job in Cleveland (2009-2010), Miami (2011) and Kansas City (2012). The offenses he oversaw were pretty bad. I’m talking at, or near, the bottom of the league in scoring and passing yards. A sarcastic person would now point out he will fit right in with the Bills offense, but far be it for me to be that sarcastic person.  

It will be pointed out that Daboll was stuck with some average to below average quarterbacks over those four years as a play caller, but he isn’t exactly getting a prime situation here either. Which brings me to the next biggest question of the offseason: What is the Bills plan at quarterback? I don’t think the hiring of Daboll is connected to the future of Taylor. Some are suggesting this could mean the Bills will keep Taylor for one more year and draft his successor. If they do go that route, I think it would happen regardless of who the new offensive coordinator was. 

Beane and McDermott have three choices concerning the man who has been the Bills' starting quarterback the last three years. They can say Taylor is the long-term answer at the position and go all in on building an offense around him. They can look at Taylor as a bridge until they find their quarterback of the future or they can move on from him completely. I think they will pick the latter of those three choices, but I’m wrong all the time so don’t go by what I say.  

Even if they do keep Taylor around for another season, the bigger question remains whether or not the Bills can draft a player they identify as the potential long-term answer. Beane knows there’s a big hole that needs to be filled.

“You want a franchise quarterback. Everybody does,” Beane said during his season-ending press conference. “That’s one of the GM’s main jobs is to have a franchise quarterback. It's a quarterback league. Where you get it, I really don’t care. If you give me one, whether he’s on the street now, whether he’s a free agent, whether I draft him, I’ll take on anywhere.”

My guess is the Bills will do everything they can and use whatever assets they can to draft one in April. Now we can get to the most important, and still to be answered question about the new offensive coordinator. Can Brian Daboll develop a quarterback prospect? In 2009 in Cleveland, former first round pick Brady Quinn was in his third year. With Daboll as the coordinator, Quinn completed 53-percent of his passes and had eight touchdowns to go along with seven interceptions.

In 2010 rookie Colt McCoy, a third round pick, had eight starts, completed 60-percent of his passes, and threw for six touchdowns and nine interceptions. As it turns out, you could say there wasn’t much Daboll could do because neither guy was anything special no matter who coached them.

This past season at Alabama, Daboll inherited a starter in Jalen Hurts but Daboll did get some credit for making Hurts a little better as a passer. Backup Tua Tagovailoa lit up Georgia in the second half of the National Championship game, so maybe Daboll should get some credit for his development too.

Daboll has his work cut out for him. The last time Bills fans were happy with a play caller, outside of a brief stretch with Chan Gailey, was when Ted Marchibroda was overseeing the K-Gun offense. It didn’t hurt having a Hall of Fame quarterback around at the time. I like Daboll’s chances much better if Beane can find that franchise quarterback somewhere.