Oh Maron! It's Marrone

Thursday, December 11, 2008

ESPN this evening, is confirming that Doug Marrone will be the new head football coach at Syracuse University. Marrone, who as of this writing is skulking the sidelines of Soldier Field as the offensive coordinator/offensive line coach of the New Orleans Saints (the Saints are playing the Chicago Bears) had been on Syracuse's radar for some time. There is a supposed press conference to introduce Marrone set up for Friday, but Syracuse Athletic Director Dr. Daryl Gross continues to maintain that he "...has not offered the job." Regardless, the word seems to be out that this Syracuse Alum will be leading the Orange after one of the most futile periods of their existence.

Doug Marrone's hiring will most likely come with mixed feelings for Syracuse fans due to the other names that had come up in the coaching search before him, and the fact that the hiring process took Daryl Gross so long to complete. Dr. Gross' first choice seemed to be UCONN head football coach Randy Edsall; a Syracue alum in his own right, who had already experienced a reasonable amount of success leading a fl edging program. Next, Gross focused on East Carolina head coach Skip Holtz. After several days of heated anticipation, Holtz finally announced today that he would not accept the Syracuse post. That seemingly left Gross reeling for a fallback option; one that some felt would logically lead to Buffalo head coach Turner Gill, who managed to impress Auburn with his ability to coach a once miserable program to a MAC Championship. Gill, it seems now, is not the man for the job.

Doug Marrone was born and raised in the Bronx, a traditional recruiting stronghold for Syracuse until recently. He was an offensive guard, lettering for three years at Syracuse from 1983-1985. Between 1991 and 2002 Marrone coached in various offensive capacities in the college ranks, most notably with Georgia Tech, Georgia, and Tennessee. Later he moved on to the pros, spending three seasons with the New York Jets as offensive line coach, and he has been with Sean Payton in New Orleans since Payton's hiring in the same capacity. It has to be encouraging to the Orange faithful that New Orleans has one of the more dynamic offenses in the NFL, but that comes with one caveat: he does not call the plays; a duty belongs to Payton. So without the head coaching experience, the lack of play calling experience, and the significant time he's spent away from the college game, some Syracuse fans could be hesitant to greet this hiring with open arms. Additionally, Marrone doesn't have the big name that some felt was necessary to provide a jump-start to the lackluster recruiting that the program has become accustomed to over the past few years.

If nothing else, the 44 year old Marrone will represent someone who feels a tremendous amount of passion and enthusiasm for the tradition rich Syracuse program. Rich Cimini of the New York Daily News recalls a story that Marrone told him about his playing days at the 'Cuse: In 1984 Syracuse coach Dick MacPherson was trying to rally his troops on the eve of a game with a heavily favored Nebraska team. He asked all players to write an essay on why Syracuse was going to win. Marrone took this task to heart and wrote an emotional essay that was several pages long, well into the night, demonstrating that he truly relished the opportunity to express his love for the Syracuse program and the game of football. I'll have you know that Syracuse did in fact beat the Cornhuskers 17-9.

Whether or not Doug Marrone is successful lifting the Syracuse program out of the doldrums, Orange fans can rest comfortably knowing that they now have one of their own roaming the sidelines of the Carrier Dome. They know that he will pour his heart and soul into his work as head coach. Most importantly, they know he is the "anti-Greg Robinson," at least in the sense of his prior connection to Syracuse. But if things don't work out for Marrone, one can rest assured that Daryl Gross may have to look for a new job as well.