Any disappointment Greg Roman had about not getting the Buffalo Bills’ head-coaching job didn’t last long.
Shortly after Rex Ryan accepted that position, he brought Roman in as his offensive coordinator.
“It didn’t take a whole lot of cajoling because Rex is somebody I have a lot of respect for,” Roman said. “I think we both felt if we ever got together at some point, it would be pretty good.”
Bills fans must hope so, because their team’s offense was pretty bad a season ago.
Roman will set about trying to fix a unit that finished 26th in total yardage and 25th in rushing yards per game – setting a franchise low for a 16-game season with just 1,482.
Every offensive coordinator will say how they want to establish the run, but fixing that category is a reasonable expectation based on Roman’s track record. In four years as offensive coordinator in San Francisco, the 49ers finished seventh, third, third and fourth in rushing yards.
“The greatest predictor of future events is the past,” Roman said. “We could have been No. 1 in the league in rushing in San Francisco every year if that was my goal. … But my goal is to win, and I think you’ve got to strike a commensurate level of balance to do so in this league.”
Roman came away from his initial interview with co-owners Terry and Kim Pegula impressed with their commitment to winning.
“It was very positive on a lot of fronts,” he said. “The passion of the city of Buffalo, you can’t manufacture it. It’s not something you can just go purchase. It’s real. It’s a level that’s unlike any other place, really.
“So that’s a pretty unique opportunity, because that means something to me. If we get this going the way we want to, I can only imagine what it will be like here in Buffalo.”
Roman said he wants to build an offense that reflects the spirit of the city.
“Being smart, tough and making Buffalo a place that nobody wants to come in December, January,” he said. “If you can exert your will at the line of scrimmage, it’s going to open a lot of other things in the offense.
“To simply say, ‘we’re just going to run the football.’ Well, nobody simply runs the football. But we want to run the football to a level where people respect and fear us in our ability to do so. That will help everything else in the offense open up and help us control the game – which is ultimately what we want to do.”
Of course, to do so, Ryan and Roman have to solve a riddle that has befuddled so many NFL teams: How do you build an organization that can challenge for championships without a franchise quarterback on the roster?
The organizational stance on 2013 first-round draft pick EJ Manuel has been that he’ll get a chance to prove he can still be that player. Roman said this week that Manuel, like every other player, will have a “clean slate” with him. But he also wasn’t about to give an in-depth scouting report of Manuel.
“I think he’s done some good things and displayed some good traits. We just have to get his level of consistency a little greater,” Roman said. “What they might have been asked to do in the past is really not relevant to what we may or may not ask them to do. For me to pontificate about this, that and the other, it’s a little premature.”
Not surprisingly, Roman spoke highly of the talent he’s inheriting with the Bills.
“I think we’ve got a very good nucleus of talent on this roster,” he said. “That was also a definite selling point for me.”
Other topics Roman touched on during his introductory news conference with Western New York reporters this week:
• Running back C.J. Spiller, an impending unrestricted free agent.
“I think C.J. is a dynamic back,” Roman said. “He’s a playmaker, a pretty versatile guy. He’s had a lot of success in this league and we’ll just have to see how it all plays out. It’s an exciting process we’re going through now, going through all the personnel.”
• Wide receiver Sammy Watkins.
“Very positive leading up to the draft,” Roman said. “I thought he had a pretty solid rookie season. … From what I’ve gathered from him, meeting him, he’s just going to look to improve as time goes on. That’s what we’re looking for. I’m very excited to work with him.”
• His preference between mobile offensive linemen or the big space-eaters preferred by former coach Doug Marrone and his staff.
“I want to eat the whole pie,” he said. “I want guys that are big, strong, fast, can run, can pull, can pass-protect, can run block. I want it all.”
Next to finding a quarterback, rebuilding the offensive line might be Roman’s biggest challenge. The Bills will likely be looking for two new starters at guard, and also need better play from center Eric Wood and tackles Cordy Glenn and Seantrel Henderson in 2015 – especially given Roman’s stated desire to run the ball.
“Every game’s a little bit different,” he said. “Some games you’re going to be real run heavy. Some games, hey, they might put nine up … and you’ve got to find other ways. I think we’ve got some guys in this offense that are here in the building right now on our roster who are going to really thrive with the situations they’re going to be put in.”