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At a career crossroads, Doug Marrone must turn adversity into opportunity

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Buffalo Bills sold Doug Marrone to their fans as a progressive coach.

Now 26 games into his career, there it little evidence to suggest that is true.

Marrone bristled last week when asked whether he thinks he's a conservative coach, but the numbers don't lie. Earlier this week, The New York Times published an article on the Bills' fourth-down strategy. Amazingly, the Bills have faced fourth and 1 nine times this season -- and on every one have kicked a field goal or punted.

Largely because of that -- and the team's continued inability to fix its red-zone offense -- fan support for Marrone has whittled down to almost zero. Don't discount that.

Team President Russ Brandon can preach continuity all he wants, but he's a smart businessman, and above all else will recognize what a tough sell it will be to bring Marrone back if the Bills' current slide continues. New ownership is an ideal reason to make a coaching change -- if 15 straight seasons without a spot in the postseason isn't reason enough.

So Marrone is in a difficult spot. He might have to make the playoffs to save his job, and to do that the Bills may have to win their final six games -- a gargantuan task if there ever was one.

All of that was true before this week, when the lake-effect snowstorm that pulverized the Southtowns forced the Bills to cancel two straight practices and relocate here from Orchard Park.

Perhaps that explains why Marrone looked like this when addressing the media Friday:

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There is no denying that the Bills are at a competitive disadvantage for Monday's game. The loss of home-field advantage, the inability of players to maintain their usual workout and nutrition regiments and the mental strain that comes with being hundreds of miles away from their families during an emergency all are working against the Bills.

"We're not playing at home, we're not practicing at home and we're not going home at night to our families," Marrone said. "We all know the situation. I think it is what it is. No one is going to feel sorry for us. We've got to go out there and play, and when we play we've got to go out there and compete and win. That's what our job is. We understand that. As a coach, like I said before, I can't stand up here and say hey, 'this is a disadvantage, this is this, this is that.' It is what it is, and we've gotta go play."

But the Bills need to turn adversity into opportunity. Motivational ploys come in all shapes and sizes, and this can be one for the Bills.

"We understand what's going on," Marrone said. "We've got to man up and we've got to go after it."

If an "us-against-the-world" approach is what it takes for the Bills to save their season -- and possibly Marrone's job -- then it's a good time to start embracing it.

"We want to see how we can respond to this," tight end Scott Chandler said. "It's a little adversity. It can either bring us together or we can use it as an excuse. We want it to bring us together."

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