By Mark Gaughan
Buffalo Bills General Manager Buddy Nix didn't have to do much studying to familiarize himself with Doug Marrone last week.
Nix has scouted Marrone's players in the Southeast for years. Marrone was an assistant at Georgia Tech from 1995 to 1999, at Georgia in 2000 and at Tennessee in 2001.
Nix also is long-time friends with Marrone's father-in-law, Boots Donnelly.
Donnelly went 140-87-1 as head coach at Middle Tennessee from 1979 to 1998. From 1984 to 1992, Nix coached 100 miles away, at Tennessee-Chattanooga. Both schools were playing I-AA football, Middle Tennessee in the Ohio Valley Conference, Chattanooga in the Southern Conference. (Middle Tennessee in 2000 moved up to the Sun Belt Conference. Chattanooga still is in the Southern Conference. Nix's UTC team faced Donnelly's MT team twice, and Donnelly's team won both meetings.)
"Doug was at Georgia Tech, Georgia and Tennessee," Nix said. "So I crossed paths with him a lot. I can’t even remember how many times.
"But Boots and I go way back. We coached against each other in the ‘80s. And we’ve played golf together. He started out at Austin Peay and then was at Middle [Tennessee] for a long time. Many years. Good guy. A good ol’ ball coach."
Bills President and Chief Executive Officer Russ Brandon also was relatively familiar with Marrone. Brandon, a Syracuse area native, is one of 28 people on the Syracuse University Sport Management Advisory Board. Syracuse offers a degree in sport management, and the board offers advisement to the program.
Nix stressed those connections were not important in the hiring of Marrone. The Bills had numerous connections, for instance, with former Arizona Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt, who they also interviewed for the job. They had connections to interviewees Ray Horton and Lovie Smith, too. Nix said the Bills simply liked Marrone best.
"Everybody wants to connect the dots," Nix said. "But the big thing was what Russ said, even though nobody wants to believe him. It makes too much sense. We got a guy that fit here and was the best guy for us. I don’t think there’s any question about that."