Free agency is in full swing with the Bills nailing down three new players in the early going. Stay close to Buffalobills.com for updates throughout free agency. For now let’s get to your questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.
1 - Hi Chris,
Jim Schwartz is obviously a good good coach and the Bills Defense did some really good things last year under Mike Pettine. My question is how likely will Coach Schwartz try to “not fix what ain’t broke” and keep some/most of the good stuff from last year (even though they may not be his concepts) while adding his own flavor to improve thing that do need to be improved, like run defense for example?
Thanks in advance.
CB: In talking with coach Marrone about this during the offseason the way he’s explained it is Coach Schwartz is going to keep most of the terminology the same. The reason this isn’t a big burden for him is because he spent a couple of seasons as a defensive assistant under then Baltimore defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis. Mike Pettine also coached in Baltimore where the defensive system and terminology remained the same even after Marvin Lewis left to coach in Cincinnati. So a lot of the calls and checks will not only be the same, but sound the same.
As for the run defense Marrone is wholly confident that Schwartz, whose defenses have enjoyed tremendous success against the run, will dramatically improve the unit’s performance in this area as well as third down defense.
2 - Hey Chris, long time Bills fan.
Wondering if you could shed some light on a few things.
First with hiring a former head coach for D coordinator, what are the chances he stays longer than one season? Do you think this was something that was discussed in private between coach Marrone and Jim Schwartz? And if not how big of a problem would this be for Dough Marrone heading into his 3rd season.
Also with Todd Downing being a QBs coach, with out ever playing the position. Is this fair with all the pressure being put on EJ? I read that EJ really likes him but don’t we need experience there? Playing? To mentor EJ and the struggles that come along with being a QB..
CB: I don’t know that anyone can predict how long a coordinator is going to remain in his current post in the NFL. There are too many variables at work like the number of head coaching vacancies at the end of the year, how effective Schwartz is in his first year here, how successful the team is and coach Schwartz’s own personal aspirations.
Coach Marrone can’t have that kind of talk with Schwartz because no coach in the NFL is going to hold an assistant back from an opportunity at a head coaching job. That’s just not the way it works.
When you hire quality people that’s the risk you run, but I’d rather have the quality coach that’s in demand.
As for Todd Downing he has played the quarterback position. I cannot find his college background, but he did play semi-pro ball in the Mid-America League for the Minnesota Maulers and won a league title there in 2002 as their quarterback. So the position is not foreign to him at all.
I’d like to think coach Marrone’s track record of hiring assistants in the short time he’s been the Bills head coach should tell you he’s not going to hire someone who is not qualified to help the player at the most important position on the field.
3 - Chris,
I’ve seen several posts in which you referenced the “12th Man”. Does the team officially call its fans the 12th Man or is that just a personal reference? I’m having a huge argument with some Seahawk fan coworkers about whether anyone besides the Seahawks is officially allowed to use that term.
CB: The 12th Man was adopted by Bills fans long before the Seattle fans started using it. The first football outfit to coin the phrase however, was Texas A&M University. They’re credited with the first recorded use of the term in 1922 when coach Dana Bible was running out of players in the Dixie Classic against defending national champion Centre College. In the stands he noticed a student who tried out for the team, but did not make the varsity squad and promptly told him to suit up and be ready in case he was needed. The volunteer player, E. King Gill, ran to the locker room and suited up and got back out to the field. He never entered the game, but became known as the 12th man.
So the Aggies have got dibs on everybody, but concerning your argument the 12th Man was popularized in the late 80’s and early 90’s. In 1988 Bills fans set an all-time single-season NFL attendance record of 622,793. Fans were then honored as the ‘12th Man’ and inducted onto the Bills Wall of Fame in 1992.
4 – Hey Chris,
I ask you if Sammy Watkins, Jake Matthews, or Eric Ebron are there at nine which one helps EJ in his evolution more? Or do we go as we have in the past & pick up a O linemen later such as Z. Martin & go with a player like Mack if he is there seeing as the defense thing lingers.
Mr. T from Fort Myers via Nashville
CB: I think going by the best on the board approach that the Bills usually take it would be hard for me to think that Ebron or Matthews will be rated higher than Watkins. Most experts see him as a top five talent and I have not heard the same consensus for Matthews and certainly not for Ebron, though he is a special talent.
I think any one of those three would be of great help to Manuel in different ways, but GM Doug Whaley will take the player that helps the team the most. And that likely involves Manuel to some degree, but that’s the all-encompassing view a general manager has to take.
5 - Morning Chris, Happy Friday!
I was wondering how the Bills go about setting up their needs in free agency and the draft. I was wondering how much emphasis they put into the upcoming 2014 schedule? For instance, we will have to face guys like Calvin Johnson, Alshon Jeffrey and Brandon Marshall, receiving corps from Green Bay and Denver. Do they look at the defensive fronts, the AFC East is getting better defensively, not to mention teams like Houston and Detroit. So basically how much does that affect their decision making when it comes to the importance of positions that are needed for the team? Thanks for your hard work, and I hope you enjoyed Indy at the combine!
Go Bills! Jillian
CB: We did enjoy Indy very much. Glad you watched our coverage of the NFL combine. Your question is a good one. Typically opponents in a given year do not impact their decision making all that much in free agency and the draft. Teams like Chicago and Green Bay, which the Bills see only once every four years is not what you usually base your personnel decisions on.
That being said I do know that some moves are made with a team’s division opponents in mind. You’re facing those teams every season, twice a season and you have to beat them to win your division and get to the postseason. So the personnel make-up and strengths of teams like New England, the Jets and Miami could play a role in some decision making.
Again it’s not an overwhelming factor, but those teams are taken into consideration knowing they stand in the way of a playoff berth.
Tags: 12th Man, 2014 NFL draft, Doug Marrone, Eric Ebron, Fan Friday, Jake Matthews, Jim Schwartz, Mike Pettine, Sammy Watkins, Todd Downing
Posted in Inside the Bills
As we profiled in Bills Focus on the video side of Buffalobills.com today, Buffalo’s new quarterbacks coach Todd Downing and Senior offensive assistant Jim Hostler both have experience tutoring rookie quarterbacks, who were first round picks and seen as the future franchise quarterback. Both also had to guide those QBs through injury affected rookie seasons. It was part of what made Downing and Hostler appealing to head coach Doug Marrone.
“It was part of the process,” Marrone told Buffalobills.com. “It was part of thinking about what do the Buffalo Bills need? I think that was the main thing. For us we want people that have that type of experience because they’ll foresee maybe some of the challenges that they have working with younger quarterbacks. If something seems like a challenge and someone is in the room saying they went through this with Stafford or Alex Smith and you’re like, ‘Okay it’s normal.’ And you’re not in a panic mode.”
Marrone was most impressed by how he saw Downing interact with the quarterbacks at the Senior Bowl in 2013, one of whom was EJ Manuel. And once Manuel spoke highly of Downing he was convinced.
“When I thought about Todd Downing I remember watching him at the Senior Bowl and watching him interact with EJ and I remember talking EJ about his experience at the Senior Bowl and who coached him,” said Marrone. “He mentioned Todd’s name and what their relationship was like and that was important for me because we were going to hire a quarterback coach and I wanted EJ as well as our other quarterbacks to feel comfortable in that type of setting where they didn’t have any barriers of communication. It was already set so that put us ahead of the game.”
Downing has worked with both Manuel and Thad Lewis having had him on his roster in Detroit last year before the Bills acquired him via trade.
Tags: Doug Marrone, EJ Manuel, Jim Hostler, Thad Lewis, Todd Downing
Posted in Inside the Bills
Bills new quarterbacks coach Todd Downing has already worked with EJ Manuel before, so he’s confident the two can hit the ground running when the young QB returns for offseason workouts. In reviewing Manuel’s rookie game tape from the 2013 season, Downing made the follow observations.
“Certainly EJ had a couple of things to battle—playing right away as a rookie and playing with some injuries that were tough for him,” Downing said. “We saw him a couple of times in crossover games, when we were in Detroit and watching Buffalo play Cleveland and things like that. I think you see EJ on that natural progression or curve for a young quarterback. There are some things he has to learn to see, he’ll do that. I think he’s on that natural upswing and I’m excited to work with him.”
Tags: EJ Manuel, Todd Downing
Posted in Inside the Bills
There are a number of different people that coaches in the NFL talk to when they have an assistant coaching candidate they’re interested in, but have never worked with before. While head coach Doug Marrone had some fellow coaches he could talk to about quarterbacks coach Todd Downing, Marrone went the extra step and talked to a couple of quarterbacks about him as well.
Marrone first talked to his own quarterback EJ Manuel about Downing after he had spent a week with him at the Senior Bowl last year. There was one other NFL signal caller Marrone consulted too.
“I had a lot of information about Todd when we talked to EJ,” said Marrone. “Watching Todd out there on the field… (I also) talked to Matthew Stafford about Todd and he had great things to say. I’m really looking forward to him coming in and mentoring all of our quarterbacks mostly because they’re all young.”
EJ Manuel mentioned that coach Marrone had talked to him prior to hiring coach Downing as well.
“They mentioned to me who they were talking to, and they told they were thinking about hiring coach Downing and I said I thought he was a great coach,” said Manuel.
Tags: Doug Marrone, EJ Manuel, Todd Downing
Posted in Inside the Bills
With Todd Downing having agreed to terms to become the new quarterbacks coach of the Buffalo Bills, it’s obvious that he has worked with Thad Lewis before as the two worked together all offseason in 2013 before Lewis was traded to Buffalo at the end of the preseason. But Downing has also coached EJ Manuel.
Downing and the Detroit Lions staff coached Manuel at the Senior Bowl last year. Downing worked with Manuel all week and got a good feel for his abilities as a signal caller. So there is at least some small measure of working together before that the two can work with as Downing joins the staff.
Tags: EJ Manuel, Thad Lewis, Todd Downing
Posted in Inside the Bills