The Buffalo media have been discussing the demeanor of Buffalo Bills Coach Doug Marrone the last three weeks, both publicly and privately. It has been brought on by Marrone’s curt and dismissive responses to questions that seek a bit more than a one word response. The opinion among some is that Marrone is under some type of pressure other than winning a football game.

I can’t begin to ponder if Marrone is under an unseen pressure or dealing with any issues other than “is EJ Manuel good enough to be a starter in the NFL”? However, having witnessed the last eleven Buffalo Bills coaches deal with the media I can offer an opinion as to whether Marrone is any different.

The very first Bills Coach I had an opportunity to interview was Chuck Knox. Knox was a no-nonsense guy who never had to deal with the types of pressures today’s coaches face with the ever present microscope of the media. When Knox felt the interview or media session was over, it was over and he would just walk away.

Next was Kay Stephenson, a real gentlemen who would try and answer each question thoughtfully and intelligently. Everyone liked Stephenson, but he didn’t have a very good football team to coach in the early 1980’s.

Hank Bullough took over after Stephenson and from a reporters standpoint he was one of my all-time favorites to interview. Bullough is known for lines like “take the sails out of our winds”, but he was down right funny at times. I vividly remember him being asked if he thought his team would play as poorly as they did after a lopsided defeat and his response was “I would have forfeited the game if I thought we would play that bad!”

Then there was Marv Levy who was set the standard for dealing with the media. Levy was professional, thoughtful and intelligent, but he didn’t suffer fools. If a reporter asked a stupid question Levy would let him know it in his own way. There was also a few times when Levy would lose his temper and scold a reporter if he felt he crossed the line. One such time was in 1992 when Levy was asked if Bruce Smith had a drug problem and he screamed at the offending reporter in front of a room full of media. Levy shouted “No, no you’re wrong, you’re wrong!” It was so sudden and forceful that the offending reporter practically crawled out of the room with his microphone dragging on the floor.

Wade Phillips followed Levy and his “good old boy” style won everyone over, for a while. Phillip’s got himself in trouble one night by proclaiming that both the Bills and Colts were out of the playoff picture before they met on Monday night football. The Colts won and did make the playoffs that year. Then there was this one, “Chris Watson… he’s not a punt returner he’s a punt catcher and that’s basically what we have to live with.”  Yes, a “punt catcher” and despite Phillips coaching the team to a 29-19 record and two playoff appearances he was fired and remembered for his “sayings”.

Gregg Williams was a coach who came to Buffalo and tried to establish that he was the boss, to both players and media alike. Williams got off on a bit of a bad start in both departments, but as time went on I found him to be an engaging guy. Greg Williams tried to use the media at times to send messages to players, which is not unheard of, but all-in-all a pretty straight shooter.

Mike Mularkey was next and he wasn’t here long, just two seasons. Doug Marrone reminds me of Mike Mularkey in the way they both speak to the media, calm and yet dismissive at times. Mularkey was an intelligent guy who would try and explain his responses, but overall very much a middle of the road, vanilla interview.

Dick Jauron may have been the “nicest” Coach the Bills have had in the past 34 years. Jauron would thoughtfully answer every question and rarely showed any signs of anger or intolerance with the press. Jauron was so passive at times in interviews that fans read him as not being tough enough in his coaching style with players. Like so many of the Bills coaches Jauron was fired for lack of wins, but he was a class gentlemen.

Perry Fewell was here for less than a season, but one of the most enjoyable Bills Coaches ever to stand at the podium. Fewell answered every question straight forward and with plenty of humor. It would have been nice to see Fewell get a chance for more than just seven games.

Chan Gailey was another Bills Coach, like Phillips, that had a laid back style. That southern accent made him very likeable and he seemed to really try and answer every question honestly. Gailey liked his players and it showed, often refusing to be critical in anyway, which frustrated reporters and the fans. However, my guess is today there would be many reporters would like to have more of that Gailey charm after dealing with Doug Marrone for the past year.

I have only interviewed Doug Marrone once, but watch his media sessions almost daily. I enjoy Marrone’s direct approach, although at times his “word play” with reporters becoming tiring. My guess is Marrone does not enjoy his daily sessions with the beat reporters and tires quickly of having to explain his actions or decisions. The book on Marrone from the Syracuse media was that he is “thinned skinned” and that is an accurate portrayal. Not a good quality for a coach who is in only his second season as a NFL head coach and worse yet going through a sale of the team. Perhaps a few more wins under his belt will allow Marrone to relax with the media and feel more secure at the podium. Problem is he only has one season to get that done.


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