This is the next in a series analyzing the Buffalo Bills' most significant questions entering the offseason. Part 8: What's next for offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier?
Another round of NFL head-coaching changes is all but officially over.
For the Buffalo Bills, not only does that mean Sean McDermott becomes their first head coach since 2013 to remain with them beyond two seasons, it also means they’ll be going at least one more year with Brian Daboll as their offensive coordinator and Leslie Frazier as their defensive coordinator.
Neither Daboll nor Frazier received so much as a nibble from any of the eight teams that replaced head coaches since the end of the 2018 season.
There was speculation Daboll, after only one season with the Bills, would at least draw some interest simply because of the overwhelming trend in the league of giving the top job to those who coach offense. According to TheBigLead.com, 20 of the NFL’s 32 head coaches have offensive backgrounds, while 12 emanate from the defensive side. The data presumes that multiple media reports that have the Cincinnati Bengals hiring Los Angeles Rams quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor to replace Marvin Lewis and the Miami Dolphins hiring New England Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores to replace Adam Gase are correct.
It’s fair to say Daboll’s credentials stacked up with those of the six first-time head coaches hired. Besides his 11 seasons on Bill Belichick’s Patriots staff, Daboll also spent 2017 as Nick Saban’s OC for Alabama’s run to a national championship.
Nevertheless, that didn’t stop the Green Bay Packers from going with Matt LaFleur after only two NFL seasons as an OC with the Tennessee Titans and Rams or the Arizona Cardinals going with Kliff Kingsbury after he went from a head coach with a 35-40 record at Texas Tech to OC at USC, from where he resigned almost as quickly as he arrived to join the Cards.
It didn’t stop the Cleveland Browns from promoting Freddie Kitchens to head coach after he spent only the final eight games of last season as a first-time offensive coordinator or the Bengals from possibly hiring Taylor after he spent the past two years as the Rams’ quarterbacks coach and assistant wide receivers coach.
Besides the Bills and the Crimson Tide, Daboll has been an offensive coordinator for the Browns, Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs. On the plus side, he has extensive exposure to the Patriots-Tom Brady dynasty and ranks as one of the better former Belichick assistants when it comes to communicating with players. The biggest negative, some league insiders say, is the fact the Bills were 6-10 in ’18 and their offense ranked 30th in total yards and 31st in passing yards.
Rookie quarterback Josh Allen showed solid progress as a passer, but there are those within the NFL who believe he needs to make far bigger strides with his throwing – while becoming less dependent on his running – and the Bills must win more games to make Daboll a more attractive candidate next year.
That could be asking too much on a team that’s expected to undergo a major overhaul of its offensive line (which will be guided by a new coach after Juan Castillo’s dismissal) and its pass-catching corps.
But Daboll could do his resume huge favors if he’s able to successfully guide Allen and the rest of the offense through the likely turbulence ahead.
Meanwhile, Frazier’s four seasons as head coach of the Minnesota Vikings (2010-13) would figure to work to his advantage, along with helping the Bills – despite their many shortcomings elsewhere – having the No. 2 overall defense in the NFL in yards allowed and the league’s top pass defense.
His biggest negative is timing. Except for Miami and Denver (which hired former Chicago Bears DC Vic Fangio), teams seeking new coaches clearly wanted someone who make their offenses (and especially their quarterbacks) better. Depending on how things go during the 2019 season, that trend could very well continue.
The Bills’ greatest benefit in retaining Frazier is the ability to maintain coaching continuity with the player they project will be a longtime star on defense, rookie middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, and a secondary that includes the highly talented trio of safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer and cornerback Tre’Davious White.