Herman Edwards knew it was not an easy room for Doug Marrone to walk into when he was hired as the Jets' offensive line coach in 2002.
This was a veteran line that included Kevin Mawae, Jason Fabini and Randy Thomas that would be working with a first-year NFL assistant who was taking over for Bill Muir, one of the most respected line coaches in the league. Marrone had never coached in the NFL and was coming to the Jets after 10 seasons at the college level.
"We had an established coach [in Muir] who decided to leave [for Tampa], and now you're looking at a new guy," Edwards said, recalling his first dealings with Marrone. "That's a tough spot, you're talking about the offensive line, the smartest guys on the team, you've got Kevin Mawae, Jason Fabini, some veteran guys in there. But he was a great hire for us. He did a fabulous job."
Marrone is now under consideration for the job Edwards held from 2001-06. Jets owner Woody Johnson, along with consultants Charley Casserly and Ron Wolf, interviewed Marrone on Saturday, and the meeting was said to have gone very well, according to a person familiar with the Jets' situation. But Marrone didn't do enough to get the job at that point, and the interview process continues Wednesday with Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and Chargers offensive coordinator Frank Reich, a former NFL quarterback.
Edwards isn't pushing for Marrone -- or any of the other candidates, for that matter -- but the former Jets coach is in a good position to vouch for a candidate who has come across as the most polarizing figure among those under consideration. Marrone, who opted out of his Bills contract after two seasons, has been criticized by some of his former players for not being loyal to the team and for being too conservative on offense. One of Marrone's former assistants at Syracuse, Bob Casullo, called Marrone "self-centered, selfish and greedy" during a radio interview Monday in Syracuse.
"[Marrone] has got some experience being a head coach, and that's the saving grace," said Edwards, an NFL analyst for ESPN. "If you have no experience being a head coach and you walk in there [in the New York market], you better be pretty mentally grounded. Everything you do is magnified, and the players watch you, as well. It's like that with anybody, but especially in New York. Doug has been a head coach and he's coached there. He saw what transpired when I was there. There were some good times, but there were some bad times, too."
Edwards had been a longtime assistant coach before taking the Jets' head-coaching job. He found out quickly that everything was bigger in New York. And not only always better.
"It's about adversity," said Edwards, a former NFL defensive back. "I'm pretty grounded, so I get it. You play as long as I played and you watched some of the greatest coaches go through it. Hey, it happens to all the great coaches, and how you handle it makes you a better coach. You lose three in a row, it's like a walking death sentence. Everybody's waiting to see how you do it. The players are watching. Everybody's watching. OK, what are you going to do now? That's the uniqueness of coaching in New York."
Edwards said Marrone is willing to make the tough decisions. "This year, it was critical when he made the quarterback change when EJ Manuel didn't work out," Edwards said.
Marrone replaced Manuel with veteran Kyle Orton, and the Bills wound up 9-7 for their first winning season since 2004. "You have to make some hard decisions, and it literally changed their season," Edwards said.
Marrone has been described as thin-skinned in his dealings with the media in Buffalo, something he'd have to overcome in the hypercritical New York market.
"Doug is familiar with New York," Edwards said of the Bronx native. "It's a question of can he handle not so much the football stuff, but the stuff that's off the field, and that's the media. That's a job in and of itself. That's for any coach in New York. You've got to be good on your feet, and you have to have answers where there's logic to what you're saying. If not, they're gonna get you. I liked it that way.
"But what you have to understand is that you can't listen to people outside the building. If you start paying attention to that and that starts changing your personality, the players see it and that affects your team. When you're winning, it's fine. But it's hard to win a game in that league."
Whether Marrone or another candidate gets the job, Edwards has one piece of advice: Be ready for something you've never experienced.
"Coaching in New York," he said, "it's a different animal."