Doug Marrone is leaving the Buffalo Bills after only two seasons as the head coach, the team announced Wednesday. Marrone had an opt-out clause in his contract in the event of a change in Bills ownership. Terry and Kim Pegula became the new owners of the team in October following founder Ralph Wilson Jr.'s death in March.
"We are disappointed that Coach Marrone will no longer be an important part of our organization," Bills' owner Terry Pegula said in a statement. "We thank him for all of his hard work and leadership during his tenure and wish him and his family the best with the next chapter in their lives."
When Marrone arrived in Buffalo, he inherited a team that had gone 6-10 or worse each of the previous four years. He didn't fare any better in his first season, going 6-10 with rookie quarterback EJ Manuel at the controls. However, the Bills improved on both sides of the ball in 2014 in large part due to Marrone's decision to bench Manuel for veteran Kyle Orton. Finishing at 9-7, Buffalo enjoyed its first non-losing season since 2004 and remained in the playoff race until the final two weeks of the season.
Marrone will reportedly keep his $4 million 2015 salary without it counting against any future salary in another position, per Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen of ESPN, while Schefter reports that the Jets are favorites to land Marrone, a Bronx native.
Marrone had the wins and the proof of team improvement. What he didn't have was much support in the front office. Marrone and general manager Doug Whaley got into a public shouting match during the preseason, and their tense relationship is rumored to be "beyond repair."
With Orton deciding to retire, the quarterback position is a huge question mark for next season. Manuel is the only quarterback currently under contract with the Bills, and given his struggles in his second year, he may not be the answer. Now, the team will also be looking for a new head coach in its rebuilding effort.
Prior to Buffalo, Marrone served four years as head coach of the Syracuse Orange football team. There, he twice produced eight-win seasons, though his overall record was 25-25. Before that, Marrone worked as either an offensive coordinator or a position coach for multiple NFL teams and college programs, including a three-year stint as the New Orleans Saints' OC from 2006-08. With five other head coaching positions open, it's possible Marrone proved enough in his short tenure in Buffalo to earn a chance at another gig in the NFL.