The Buffalo Bills have become one of just two NFL teams that have a designated assistant coach with game management in his job title.
Marc Lubick was promoted Wednesday to the position of assistant wide receivers and game-management coach. The only other team that has an assistant with a game-management title is the Philadelphia Eagles.
Virtually all NFL teams have an aide designated to help with some game-management tasks, in particular replay review. The idea is not new. In 2004, when Herman Edwards was head coach of the New York Jets, he made veteran assistant Dick Curl his game-day management adviser (without the title).
Still, the Bills’ designation of the 42-year-old Lubick to the new role shows head coach Sean McDermott recognizes the growing need to improve certain aspects of game-day decision making.
The importance of good clock management and taking advantage of every timeout available is seen in the competitiveness of NFL games. In 2019, 68% of games (174 of 256) were within one score in the fourth quarter, tied for the fifth-most such games in a single season in NFL history.
Meanwhile, 52.3% of games were decided by eight or fewer points, also tied for the fifth-most in any season.
Lubick is the son of respected former college coach Sonny Lubick, who led the Colorado State program for 15 years. Marc Lubick has 11 years of NFL experience. He joined McDermott’s staff in 2017 as quality control and assistant QB coach. The past two seasons, he served as defensive assistant and defense special projects aide.
Like most NFL head coaches, McDermott has been second-guessed for some game-day decisions during his tenure. He’s 3 of 12 on replay challenges the past three years.
Most recently, there were questionable game-management decisions in the playoff loss at Houston in January.
In scoring position late in the first half and coming out of a timeout, the Bills called a run into the line by Frank Gore. It was stuffed. It appeared to be an audible by Josh Allen, but it left only enough time for a low-percentage end zone throw before the Bills kicked a field goal.
Late in regulation, McDermott opted to go for it on fourth and 27 rather than try to pin the Texans deep and perhaps get better field position. A completion short of the sticks might have been almost as good as a punt, but Allen took a 19-yard sack.
The Bills’ defense wound up forcing a punt, and the offense managed to get a tying field goal to force overtime. But better field position would have given them a better shot at the end zone.
The Week 16 loss to New England contained some timeout issues. The Bills were late to make a defensive substitution, forcing McDermott to call timeout with the Pats on the Bills’ 2-yard line. The Bills had to use their second timeout with 3:39 remaining in the game after an incomplete deep pass intended for Robert Foster had already stopped the clock. The Bills might have squeezed out another possession in the game with those timeouts.
The Bills also had time-management issues at the end of halves in the Cleveland, Denver and Baltimore games.
The Eagles last year appointed fifth-year aide Ryan Paganetti to the title of assistant linebackers and game-management coach. Among the widely reported duties of Paganetti, who has an economics degree from Dartmouth, is that he confers with head coach Doug Pederson on many fourth-down decisions.
In Carolina last year, Sam Mills held the title of game-management aide under Ron Rivera. Mills has moved with Rivera to Washington this year and is defensive line coach.
In Cincinnati, quarterbacks coach Dan Pitcher is tasked with being a clock-management assistant during the game, although it’s not part of his official title. In Washington last season under head coach Jay Gruden, aide Matt Cavanaugh was tasked with helping clock management during two-minute drill situations.
In Baltimore last year, Matt Weiss was the designated game-management adviser to John Harbaugh, with the title of football strategy coordinator and receivers coach.
The Bills’ coaching roster now numbers 22, not counting the strength and conditioning staff. Eight teams have at least 22, with San Francisco having the most with 24.