Orchard Park, NY – The Buffalo Bills today announced that Nathaniel Hackett has been hired as the team’s offensive coordinator.
Hackett re-joins the Bills’ coaching staff after spending the previous three years at Syracuse working with head coach Doug Marrone. He was the Orange’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks/tight ends coach from 2011-12 after one season as the school’s quarterbacks/passing game/tight ends coach.
The Orange offense set multiple school records in 2012 including yards per game (476.0), passing yards (3,757), touchdown passes (26), completions (295) and first downs (328). In 2012, Syracuse’s offense featured a 3,000 yard passer, 1,000 yard rusher and 1,000 yard receiver for the first time in a single-season in school history while generating 500 yards of offense or better in seven games.
Hackett helped guide QB Ryan Nassib to produce single-season and career records at Syracuse. Nassib stands as the Orange’s all-time leader in passing yards (9,190), completions (791) and attempts (1,312) and is second in touchdown passes (70). WR Alec Lemon caught a team-best 72 catches and led the BIG EAST in receiving yards (1,070) in 2012 while posting seven touchdown catches en route to becoming the school’s all-time leader in receptions (201) and finishing second in career receiving yards (2,596). In 2011, TE Nick Provo set a school record at his respective position with 51 catches, totaling 92 in his career.
In each of Hackett’s three years at Syracuse, the Orange offense bolstered a different running back that eclipsed the 1,000 yard barrier.
Before his three-year stint at Syracuse, Hackett spent four seasons in the NFL as an offensive quality control coach with the Buffalo Bills (2008-09) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2006-07).
Hackett worked as an assistant to the offensive and defensive coordinators at Stanford from 2003-04 after spending the spring of 2003 as the assistant linebackers coach at his alma mater, U.C. Davis.
A four-year letterwinner as a linebacker and long snapper at U.C. Davis from 1999-2002, Hackett helped the Aggies to a playoff appearance in each of his four seasons and to a 41-9 record.
COACH DOUG MARRONE COMMENTS ON NATHANIEL HACKETT
What makes you believe Nate Hackett is prepared to handle offensive coordinator duties in the NFL due to age, 33, and years of NFL experience, 4?
“I have worked closely with Nathaniel the past 3 years and the first thing that jumps out at you is his boundless enthusiasm. He has a genuine love and excitement for the game of football, offenses in particular, and that transcends into everything he does. Secondly, he has a great knowledge of offenses for someone his age. Having grown up as the son of coach, particularly the son of a good coach, has certainly served him well. He’s been surrounded by offensive-thinking football all his life and he’s absorbed it. It’s in his DNA. Finally, you hear coaches speak of “everyone being on the same page?” Well Nathaniel is on the same page with me when it comes to the offense, and it’s multiple variations, that we are looking to run here in Buffalo.”
Is this more of a choice due to the fact you’re familiar with Nathaniel and his work or do you feel he is the best offensive coordinator available to help the Buffalo Bills?
“I felt he was the best offensive coordinator available and that’s why I hired him. He did an outstanding job for us at Syracuse and I have tremendous confidence in him making the transition back to the NFL level. He’s our offensive coordinator because he’s earned it.”
Did you consider or interview any other candidates before deciding on Nathaniel?
“I’m a firm believer in doing your homework thoroughly. As I mentioned in my opening press conference, I pride myself on my work ethic and in putting my staff together, I’m looking at every variable possible. With that said, Nathaniel’s abilities and creativity arose to the forefront at a very early stage. I believe he’s going to be highly successful in our organization and our players are going to enjoy executing our offensive schemes.”
You ran an up-tempo, ‘K-gun’-like offense at Syracuse. Will that philosophy continue here? How much will the quarterback play into that decision?
“We will soon be in the process of looking at film of each player on our roster and his particular skill set. We will develop an offense that bests suits those skills sets.”
What will be the identity of the offense?
“We will have a foundation that enables us to put our players in the best position possible to win.”
Is Nathaniel’s hiring just another step closer to the team selecting Ryan Nassib in this year’s draft?
“I understand the rationale for the question, but hiring Nathaniel as our offensive coordinator has nothing to do with which players we will select in this year’s Draft.”
COMMENTS FROM NATHANIEL HACKETT
Coach Marrone said in his introductory press conference that he wanted coordinators with thorough NFL experience. You are 33 and have four years of experience at the NFL level. Do you feel that you have enough to run an NFL offense?
“Without a doubt. I think my experience in the NFL for those four years as a quality control guy working with a guy like Jon Gruden was really multiple, multiple years for any coach. The amount of projects and the amount of drawings that I did -- I think I summed up almost 20,000 past drawings that I created in working for him and all of those great coaches that were there. The foundation that was started to be built then was just amazing. To learn that much about the NFL in what we did there and then the biggest thing by far is to be with Coach Marrone.
Coach Marrone is a very well respected coach throughout the NFL. His experience with the offenses is just amazing. To learn that from him first-hand and to work with him very intimately on creating a system while we were there at Syracuse learning all the things that he wanted carried over from the NFL. It not only gave me the foundation in the pass protection and the run game, but just overall how to put everything together to correspond with that—protect the quarterback and run the ball.
I think that when you have a guy like Doug Marrone or a guy like Jon Gruden, the different people that I have worked with like Alex Van Pelt -- it is amazing how much you can learn if you want to absorb it. That was something that I wanted to do. I wanted to absorb as much as I could and that is what has gotten me to this point right now.”
What kind of offense do you think you will be running? Will it be a pro-style? Will it be up-tempo/k-gun like you ran at Syracuse?
“I think the critical part is to create the foundation. Start from the ground and create a nomenclature to have a system and a language that the players believe in. Once you find that out and you create that then you find out what players do well within that foundation. From that point you get to change your tempo, you get to change what you do and really work to what they do best. I think right now the biggest part is the foundation and then evaluating the players to see what they can do within that foundation and then from the tempo standpoint, you go from there.”
Are you going to advocate for the Bills to draft Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib? You mentioned after the Pinstripe Bowl that if you were an NFL coach you would want him to run your team.
“Ryan Nassib is a talented player. He was a pleasure to work with while I was at Syracuse. I think right now it is about evaluating our Buffalo Bills team first.”
You worked with QB Ryan Fitzpatrick your last season in Buffalo. Do you think he should remain on the roster in 2013 and would you want to work with him again?
“I really enjoyed working with Ryan during my time with the Bills a few of years ago and we have kept up a great relationship since then. I think once again right now it is about evaluating everyone here and seeing what he has done these past couple of years that I have been gone. And then we can go from there and see what everybody in the building really believes in at every position.”
Talk about your responsibilities with the Bills when you were a quality control coach.
“As a quality control coach you are in charge of everything. You are kind of the foundation. Not trying to use the same words, but it is all about the foundation. You are the foundation of putting a system together. You act as almost a coordinator in practice. You are there. You have to understand protections, you have to understand run game, you have to understand pass game because you are the one responsible for drawing every one of those things. You are responsible for putting that up in front of the team and all of the players know that you are the one that drew that. So you are the one that has to do all the scouting. You have to understand all the defenses. You have to present everything to the coaches. While I was here that is what I was responsible for. That is what I had to do to make sure that the coaches had everything in line for them for how they represent what they want to accomplish. I had to take it from what they wanted to do and put it into a good format for the players to see and understand. Really from that standpoint it was a lot of hours and a lot of things to do.”
What makes you think things will be different for the Bills under Doug Marrone?
“ I think Doug Marrone has been amazing to work for. What he did, and I was lucky to be part of it, but what he did at Syracuse from entering into a team that was 116th out of however many there are (in the NCAA). The first year I was there to actually go to a bowl game and win a bowl game that was amazing. The way he instills the ability to win. The confidence in players when they did not know if they had it and he was able to put that into them to make them feel powerful and feel confident. I think that is what he does the best. That is why he is here and that is why he has been successful.”
What are your thoughts regarding analytics? Do you use numbers to help you as a play caller, talent evaluator and as a teacher?
“I think the first part is to believe in what you are trying to accomplish. Believe in your system. Believe in your foundation. Believe in the answers you have to everything. The statistics and all of the analysis that you do for a whole week is really just to try to get you in the best positions as well as you can. As a coach you want to put the guys in the best position, but as a coach you cannot control everything that is going to happen. You cannot control what a defensive guy might have in that week. You can never see everything, but you can prepare them for everything. You can prepare them for what they might see and hope they react to anything new. I think that statistics are a great thing that can help guide you into the right direction, but coaching the players and having the players go in that right direction is what is so critical. Analytics are valuable but you do not want them to make you feel great or you do not want them to make you feel bad. You want them to kind of just guide you in the right direction.”
Do you incorporate analytics into your game preparation?
“Yes. Quite a bit but it is one of those things that you do so much that I have learned that it is something guys lean on too much. I think the way you approach it is by saying ‘Hey guys, this is what might happen and this is the possibility of it, but still be ready because they have also shown this and this other stuff might happen. You have to be ready to play your game.’ I think that is how you use the analytics to your advantage, but you do not use them as a crutch. That is critical.”
What are your thoughts on RB C.J. Spiller? Do you think he can handle the role of a feature back? You also worked with RB Fred Jackson. How do you plan to split the workload between the two guys?
“Right now at this point just getting here, the biggest thing is to just evaluate these guys. Evaluate this whole team and then find out what they do well. Really continue to do it over, over and over again because if that is what they do well then that is what everybody wants to see and especially myself. I think right now we all have to get a great feel on what each guy can individually do well and then continue that.”