The Jets' search for a new head coach took an interesting twist late Wednesday when former Jets offensive line coach Doug Marrone opted out of his contract as the Bills' head coach. According to a source, Marrone now is among the top candidates to replace Rex Ryan, who was fired Monday.
Marrone had a clause in his contract that gave him until midnight Wednesday to opt out. He exercised it, thereby making himself available to any other club looking for a head coach.
The Jets did not comment publicly about Marrone's availability, nor did newly hired consultants Charley Casserly and Ron Wolf, who have kept a low profile as they try to fill the coach and general manager vacancies created by the firings of Ryan and GM John Idzik.
But Jets owner Woody Johnson had high regard for Marrone when he was the team's line coach from 2002-05. He is coming off a solid year with the Bills, who went 9-7 in Marrone's second year as coach, their first winning season since 2004.
Buffalo routed the Jets twice -- 43-23 at MetLife Stadium on Oct. 26 and 38-3 at Detroit's Ford Field on Nov. 24. The Bills had little practice time before that game because of a midweek blizzard that forced it to be moved.
The Jets can move quickly on signing Marrone to a contract if he indeed is their top choice. NFL rules stipulate that all teams hiring a head coach must abide by the "Rooney Rule" and interview at least one minority candidate. The Jets fulfilled that requirement when they interviewed their running backs coach Anthony Lynn, who is African-American, on Wednesday.
The Jets have five other coaches on their radar: Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable, who are scheduled to be interviewed this weekend; Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, Ravens offensive coordinator and former Texans head coach Gary Kubiak, and Chargers offensive coordinator Frank Reich. Marrone now joins that list, and could be at the top of it.
Marrone, who grew up in the Bronx, is a highly regarded offensive coach, something that fits the Jets' needs. They have had defensive-oriented head coaches since Bill Parcells replaced Rich Kotite in 1997. Parcells was followed by Al Groh, Herman Edwards and Eric Mangini before Ryan's hiring in 2009.
Former center Kevin Mawae, one of Marrone's best players during his days as the Jets' offensive line coach, endorsed Marrone's candidacy.
"I'd play for Marrone anytime!" Mawae wrote on his Twitter account Wednesday night. "5 years as my OL coach with @nyjets ranks w/ the best of them!"
Mawae then tweeted references to his other offensive line coaches, including Howard Mudd, Mike Munchak, Bill Muir and Jim McNally.
Ryan is expected to interview for the Falcons' and 49ers' vacant head-coaching jobs.
Reich, a former Jets quarterback, is expected to be considered for the Bills' head-coaching job. The former Bills backup quarterback staged the biggest comeback in playoff history when he rallied them from a 35-3 halftime deficit to a 41-38 overtime win over Houston on Jan. 3, 1993. He replaced the injured Jim Kelly to orchestrate thedramatic comeback in the wild-card round.
The Buffalo opening came about because of a clause that Marrone had negotiated into his contract as a result of an ownership change after Ralph Wilson died. New Bills owner Terry Pegula said in a statement that he will begin a search for a new coach immediately.
"We are disappointed that coach Marrone will no longer be an important part of our organization," Pegula said. "We thank him for all of his hard work and leadership during his tenure and wish him and his family the best with the next chapter in their lives. We will now begin the important process of conducting a thorough search for a new head coach as we continue to strive to reach our goal of returning to the playoffs and bringing a championship to Buffalo for our fans."
With Kimberley A. Martin