MOBILE, Ala. -- You know Doug Marrone would love to keep defensive coordinator Mike Pettine on his coaching staff. You also know Marrone respects the fact there are only 32 men on the planet who are at the very top of the football coaching profession - as head men in the NFL.
So it was no surprise that Marrone praised Pettine's worthiness as a head-coaching candidate today. Pettine has interviewed for the head job with the Cleveland Browns. The Browns intend to give him a second interview, according to numerous reports (not the least of which was Pettine's daughter). But the Browns also have interviewed Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. He's in the Super Bowl. Cleveland reportedly is interested in Denver offensive coordinator Adam Gase. He is yet to interview with the team and won't be available to interview, presuming he's interested, until after the Super Bowl. Because Cleveland already has held one interview with Quinn, NFL rules allow the Browns to give him a second interview this week.
"Obviously he’s very well respected throughout the league," Marrone said of Pettine. "I think in this league when you go out there and you’re putting together a scheme and you’re productive and successful at it, I think you’re going to get recognized."
"Obviously it’s well earned for Mike," Marrone said. "We’re happy for him. It’s deserving."
Marrone said he has had lengthy discussions with team president Russ Brandon and general manager Doug Whaley about what to do if Pettine leaves for Cleveland.
"For us, when we first were contacted about it, obviously myself Doug Whaley and Russ sat down for long periods of time and discussed the what ifs," Marrone said. "What if he goes? We have a lot of things in place if that happens. Obviously it’s very late in the process. We’re kind of in the same boat - just wait and see."
Cleveland will be the last of seven teams that fired head coaches to pick a new man. The other six teams already are assembling their staffs. Who would be available to Buffalo? One option would be to aim for continuity and promote from within. Bills secondary coach Donnie Henderson has served three prior seasons as an NFL coordinator.
Marrone was not about to speculate on who might replace Pettine. But he did say he would not look to make any major schematic change if he had to find a new coordinator. The Bills' defense ranked 10th in yards allowed and 20th in points allowed. It improved over the previous year in every statistical category.
"We’ve had some of the players be successful," Marrone said. "Would there be some type of changes? Any time you make a move, there’s some type of changes? Would it be dramatic changes? I don’t think that would be fair to our players."