Bill O'Brien and Buffalo Bills head coach Doug Marrone are longstanding friends who have led parallel coaching lives over the years. At Thursday's NFL Combine press conference, Marrone commented on his friendship with O'Brien and seeing him return to the NFL as a head coach.
"You see everyone grow and you see everyone grow in a profession and it's a gratifying experience to know that people out of your profession have integrity, have character, that work extremely hard and are able to be successful," Marrone said.
Both worked as Georgia Tech, where Marrone introduced O'Brien to his future wife Colleen. The two worked together as assistant coaches on offense before parting ways. After two more college coaching positions, O'Brien and Marrone reached the NFL as assistants. They moved up the ranks to offensive coordinator jobs, Marrone with the Saints and O'Brien with the Patriots.
Marrone and O'Brien both had their first head coaching jobs at the collegiate level before becoming first-time NFL head coaches within one season of each other. Marrone, who accepted the Bills head coaching position in January 2013, is happy to see his good friend join him in the NFL head coaching circle.
"He's been here before when he was with New England and he's been successful everywhere he's been," Marrone said. "He has a great work ethic and it's the same thing we're all here to make sure we get good players."
For coaches like O'Brien, Marrone thinks the transition from college to the NFL is relatively easy from a schedule standpoint. O'Brien will have more time to focus on coaching without having to worry about recruiting commitments. Having prior college experience before joining the NFL does have its advantages though, according to Marrone.
"I think the biggest insight that you gain is the origin of these players," Marrone said. "You're able to go back and go into high schools and into homes of players. We don't have that opportunity here when we get them at the NFL combine. But when you get into more of the background, when you're in their homes and you see the challenges that they have or the adversity that they had to overcome you also get a better sense of the different types of cultures depending on where you come from or where you have recruited in the country. So you can take those things and instill the things you believe in but then do it in a way that they can understand it and appreciate it and play their best for you."