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Mike Pettine on Bills' D approach: 'It's going to be an attack style'

By Jay Skurski

Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine met with the Western New York media for the first time this afternoon.

Here was his response when asked what the identity of the Bills' defense will be in 2013: "We're going to play smart, we're going to be tough, we're going to be relentless, we're going to put pressure on you. We're going to force quarterbacks, we're going to force offenses to make very quick decisions. We're going to take our best shot at you.

"We're not going to be a read-and-react defense. That is not in our vocablulary. I think in this league to be successful you have to be aggressive. I don't think you can be reckless, your aggresion has to be calculated, but if you want to sum up what we'll be, it's going to be an attack style."

Pettine was also asked what he envisoned for the Bills' base defense.

"We are a multiple front, multiple packages. We'll be in 3-4, we'll be in 4-3, we'll be in 46, if you can draw up a front, we'll probably be in it," he said. "The cornerstone of our system is its flexiiblity and its multiplicity, that you can mold it to your talent.

"Who is on the roster? What do they do well? That's what we are going to build the system around.

The way the league is trending with the spread offenses, you're in nickel defense, you're in sub defense more than you are in base anyway. I think it's getting to the point where your third-down defense is almost your base. We'll be as multiple in third down as we are in early downs. Offenses are too good to sit in one front and be categorized as a 3-4 or 4-3."

Doug Marrone not concerned with Nathaniel Hackett's experience

By Jay Skurski

Buffalo Bills head coach Doug Marrone had no doubt Nathaniel Hackett would be his offensive coordinator if he took a job in the NFL.

Marrone confirmed that yesterday when I asked him if he had interviewed anyone else for the position.

"No, I knew right away that if this was the situation, Nathaniel was the one I wanted to be with," he said.

In today's print edition, Hackett talks at length about his experience. 

I asked Marrone why he felt comfortable hiring an offensive coordinator who just turned 33 and has never called plays at the NFL. Here was his full response:

"When you look at Nate’s background, when you talk about experience, again it doesn’t fall into that criteria of what you’ve described as being in this league and coaching in this league as far as experience of whatever you may have to need. Five years, 10 years, I don’t know what your criteria is, but I can tell you what my thoughts were.

"My thoughts were obviously I’ve been in the same position before and hired Nathaniel at Syracuse, and I was looking for someone that had a background in the system that I believed in, what I wanted to do. And I had some of those same questions that you have, and then when I really researched it and started going around and I thought about -- everyone obviously knows my background and I worked for his dad at the New York Jets -- I realized that here is someone that has been around the system his whole life, that’s been around the locker rooms, that’s been around the schedules, that’s had access to things that not a lot of people do, with the training  tapes and things like that. Then after that going to Tampa Bay and being with coach Gruden, the same type of terminology. Because I don’t want to get locked into the parameters of 'hey, what is this system?'

"The terminology there, and then obviously comeing back up here to Buffalo, all those things and that type of experience I wanted to get first hand from Nathaniel when I brought him in. And I brought others in at that time, too, to interview for the offensive coordinator job. To me, it just jumped off that type of experience and how well it was."

Give Marrone credit. He was certainly prepared for the question. The coach also talked about the play-calling duties with the Bills.

"We worked through that all when we were at Syracuse, and I was extremely happy with where we were going and where we were developing," Marrone said. "So for me, personally, with my  beliefs on offense, it was very easy for me to make the decision that I wanted Nathaniel here. We've gone though three years together of the growing pains of what we want to do and where we want to be in an offensive system."

Bills want to re-sign defensive end Kyle Moore after knee surgery

By Tim Graham

While safety Jairus Byrd and left guard Andy Levitre have drawn most of the attention from the Buffalo Bills' unrestricted free-agent class, another interesting player is defensive end Kyle Moore.

The Bills want him back, said a source close to the team. The pass-rusher would be terrific for depth behind Mario Williams and Mark Anderson -- and capable as a starter.

Moore, who will be sidelined for a few weeks after having his knee scoped, had a bit of a breakout season as a backup pass-rusher.

Moore was inactive for the first four games but started seven of the last eight at right defensive end for the injured Anderson. Moore made 24 tackles, three of them for losses. His three sacks ranked fourth on the Bills. rated Moore 26th in the NFL in "pass-rush productivity," a metric that factors sacks, quarterback hits and hurries divided by the number of pass-rushing snaps. PFF credited him with 23 hurries, tied for 30th in the league.

Video: Hackett says he, Marrone 'spoke the same language'

Nathaniel Hackett pursuing his Ph.D. in football

By Jay Skurski

Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett just turned 33 years old.

The majority of those years, however, have been spent in locker rooms. With long-time coach Paul Hackett as his father, Nate's been a student of the game since his formative years.

"When I was 8 years old, I remember being a ball with the Dallas Cowboys, just being in awe of Tom Landry," Nathaniel Hackett said today, in his first meeting with Bills reporters. "I've just always been around the players."

Hackett handled himself well in talking with reporters. The answer he gave to the first question asked of him lasted 690 words.

"I think the big thing is, you have to always want to learn. You have to be a historian of football," he said. "Technology these days, I can go back and look at 1984 cut-ups in black and white and try to learn how plays evolved. Watching the K-Gun from Jim Kelly from when I was here [as offensive quality control coach in 2008-09], looking at all that video. Joe Montana playing, who's a friend of our family, I mean you look at all those different things. You just want to keep pushing yourself to learn and learn. Almost like get your Ph.D. in football. I think that's something I've been very lucky to be a part of and be able to gain that experience through that time."

Hackett's first job in the NFL came with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers under coach Jon Gruden, as offensive quality control coach in the 2006 and '07 seasons.

"My two years there, they were very extreme. I like to think about it as it was the Harvard of football," he said. "When you're there and you have two years of NFL experience, I mean, it's amazing.  The amount of pass drawings I drew, I want to say I drew up about 15,000 pass plays.

 "Then going to the Bills, I got an opportunity to work with protections, with all kinds of different things, run game. As a quality control guy, a lot of people say, 'What is that?' I kind of looked at it as a coordinator in training, because you're responsible for making sure every single thing is perfect, from scripts, schedules, all the drawings.

"You can't just know the pass game. You can't just know this technique or that technique. You have to understand how the line works, how they draw things, how they're going to be looked at. Because if you draw something wrong, they're going to look at you and say, 'Well, that line was right there. That's what you wanted me to do.'

"So I think when you're doing that and you're doing that every week, watching all the film, breaking it down, getting everything ready, you understand the pressure to get it ready for those coaches. I think that just leads you into this kind of a role."

While Ray Lewis heads to the Super Bowl, a mother grieves

By Tim Graham

AKRON, Ohio -- Thirteen years ago next week, Richard Lollar and Jacinth Baker were knifed to death outside an Atlanta nightclub.

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis and two associates were charged in the double murder. Lewis pleaded guilty to obstruction, a misdemeanor, for his testimony. He was the only suspect convicted of anything in the case.

Lewis since has flourished on the football field. He was selected for 13 Pro Bowls. He's a spokesman for video games, shoes and sports drinks. He has been glorified as an NFL icon and will be celebrated as he concludes his decorated career in Super Bowl XLVII.

In the frozen ground at Glendale Cemetery -- 21 miles away from where Lewis' bronze bust will be on display five years from now at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio -- Lollar's body is buried beneath a modest placard. Baker is buried in nearby Greenlawn Memorial Park.

Priscilla Lollar didn't attend her oldest son's funeral and couldn't bear to visit his gravesite.

She went for the first time Wednesday. The Buffalo News was there.

Priscilla Lollar and Master Lollar, who was 8 years old when his 24-year-old brother was slain, crunched across a dusty carpet of snow and cast their eyes downward on Section 19A, Lot 1, Grave 3.

They stood close together and swayed. Master Lollar had been to Richard's resting place only once before.

"We come to tell you we love you," Priscilla Lollar said in a sing-song voice.

She soon broke down. Tears froze near the corners of her eyes. She fought the urge to paw under his headstone.

"I want to see if he's in there," Priscilla Lollar wailed. "I don't know. I don't know.

"I never seen him in no casket or anything. So I don't know. Now I want to see what's up under here. I want to see if he's in there or anything.

"I want him to come on back home! I just want him to come home!"

Lewis and two members of his entourage, Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting, were charged with double-murder.

Baker's blood was found in Lewis' $3,000-a-day limousine. The suit Lewis was wearing that night never has been found. Witnesses reportedly said they saw Lewis at least throw a punch in the melee and then coached everyone in the limo to stay quiet. The witnesses later altered their testimonies.

As the trial unraveled on the prosecution's case, Lewis was offered a deal. He pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor in exchange for testifying against Oakley and Sweeting. Lewis was unconvincing, and both suspects were acquitted.

Nobody was convicted of killing Richard Lollar or Jacinth Baker.

"Ray Lewis?" Priscilla Lollar said. "You never know what's going on in people's minds, you know? I don't know. I don't know what would go through his mind.

"I've quit trying to figure out what people think a long time ago because you'll be so far off. You think there's a common answer for everything, but it's not, you know? One question could have a thousand answers to it, and you would be wrong trying to think of it.

"I wouldn't know. Some people are evil, and I think he's an ..."

Her voice trailed off.

"I don't know," she continued. "He's an uncaring person."

There's more of this story to tell.

To read about Lewis' role in the murder case and how his actions since that tragic night still haunt two families while he prepares to ride off into the NFL sunset, see Sunday's Buffalo News.

Doug Marrone's assistants set to meet the media

By Jay Skurski

The Buffalo Bills will hold a pair of press conferences over the next two days to introduce some of new coach Doug Marrone's staff to the Western New York media.

First up at noon Thursday will be the offensive and special teams coaches, including offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Nathaniel Hackett, special teams coordinator Danny Crossman, tight ends coach Greg Adkins, special teams assistant John Anselmo, wide receivers coach Ike Hilliard, offensive line coach Pat Morris and running backs coach Tyrone Wheatley.

At noon Friday, the defensive coaches will be introduced, including defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, linebackers coach Chuck Driesbach, defensive backs coach Donnie Henderson, linebackers coach Jim O'Neil and defensive line coach Anthony Weaver.

Buddy Nix looking for a QB who can get it done late

By Jay Skurski

One of the biggest knocks against Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is his record in fourth-quarter comeback situations.

As researched by Scott Kacsmar, and published earlier this month on this blog by Tim Graham, Fitzpatrick is 2-11 over the last two seasons in those situations. A winning drive is defined as one that begins in the fourth quarter with the quarterback’s team trailing by eight points or less.

Continue reading "Buddy Nix looking for a QB who can get it done late" »

Significant Bills records set in 2012

There were 42 Buffalo Bills team or individual records that were either established, tied or extended in the 2012 regular season. Some of those were good, a few more were bad, and some weren't worth mentioning. Here are the most noteworthy records from the 2012 season.

The good

- The Bills set a team record for first downs in a game when they recorded 35 against New England on Nov. 11, breaking the team record of 34 set on Sept. 18, 2011 against Oakland.

- The specials teams return units had a great season, setting team records for highest punt return average (26 returns for 445 yards, an average of 17.1 yards per return) and highest kick return average (42 returns for 1,136 yards, an average of 27.1 yards per return). That broke team records from 2008 for punt return average (15.5) and 2005 for kick return average (26.6).

Continue reading "Significant Bills records set in 2012" »

UPDATED: Chan Gailey's assistant coaches starting to land new gigs

By Tim Graham

The Senior Bowl isn't merely about scouting college prospects for the upcoming draft.

Perhaps more significant for the NFL landscape is that Mobile, Ala., turns into a job fair for unemployed coaches.

Not much has happened for the Buffalo Bills assistants who served under Chan Gailey, but names are starting to pop up in reports here and there.

Continue reading "UPDATED: Chan Gailey's assistant coaches starting to land new gigs" »

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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |