John Anselmo couldn't hold his tongue any longer.
The Bills special teams assistant said he had been bothered by the recent personal attacks on Doug Marrone. But the tipping point came Monday when their former Syracuse colleague Bob Casullo blasted Marrone as "self-centered, selfish and greedy'' in an ESPN radio interview.
Casullo's comments were the latest in what Anselmo labeled an agenda-driven "character assassination'' of Marrone, one of the perceived front-runners to succeed Rex Ryan as Jets coach. But unlike the unnamed sources who have called the former Bills coach a thin-skinned control freak, Anselmo had no problem putting his name to his words.
"He's as sincere as you can get and as honest as you can get,'' Anselmo said by phone from Buffalo.
The Freeport native's history with Marrone dates to 1995 at Georgia Tech. Casullo coached there, too, and like Anselmo, followed Marrone to Syracuse in 2009. But the picture Casullo painted of Marrone is far different from the hard-working, highly organized and considerate coach Anselmo described.
"He's the kind of guy you want to work for,'' said Anselmo, who had a 151-38 record in 16 seasons as Nassau Community College's coach.
The Jets on Wedneday interviewed two more head-coaching prospects with ties to the metropolitan area, Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles (Elizabeth, New Jersey) and Chargers offensive coordinator Frank Reich (also a Freeport native).
The team also announced it will meet with a seventh GM candidate -- Bucs director of player personnel Jon Robinson, who spent 12 years with the Patriots. According to nfl.com, the interview will be today.
Contrary to some reports, Marrone's interview with the Jets went well, sources said. But opting out of his Bills contract raised questions about his character, and many saw Casullo's comments as confirmation.
But according to Anselmo, integrity is one of Marrone's strongest virtues. The two talk every day, he said, and it's his understanding that Marrone's opting out had more to do with new ownership and the Bills organization's desire to bring in a "football czar.''
Anselmo also said, "I know that he wanted to get extensions for his assistants, and I don't think that was in the plans. And that irked him.''
Anselmo insisted Marrone was undecided about his future when he addressed his players at their final team meeting on the morning of Dec. 29. Once their exit interviews were over, players quickly left town.
"How do you reach out to 53 people?'' Anselmo said. "You do it via text message, I guess.''
As for Marrone's coaching acumen, Anselmo said that when they came to Syracuse, the program was rated "118 out of 120 in terms of where we stood in the BCS.''
Syracuse's previous coach, Greg Robinson, had a 10-37 record from 2005-08. Marrone went 25-25 in four years, going 8-5 in 2010 and 2012 and winning the Pinstripe Bowl in both seasons.
The decision to speak on the record wasn't difficult for Anselmo.
"I saw a friend of mine getting hammered,'' he said. "I don't think anybody wants to hear people tell lies about you and you can't defend yourself. To call him greedy, to say he was looking for his next job -- that's all garbage.''
According to Anselmo, Marrone told Casullo on a few occasions to "treat the kids better.'' But during the second-to-last game of Syracuse's 2010 season, Anselmo said Casullo "was screaming and yelling at the punter and kickoff guy on the sideline. Doug saw it. After the game he approached him about it and Bob went off and Doug fired him. That's the bottom line.''
Casullo vehemently denied that account.
"That is a totally false statement on John Anselmo's part,'' he said Wednesday night by phone from Florida.
Casullo declined to comment further on the situation, saying: "If Doug Marrone wants to discuss it one-on-one, that's the only way I'll discuss it.''
Anselmo remains firmly planted in Marrone's corner. He has no doubt that his former boss could have success with the Jets, who went 4-12 and missed the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season.
"Do I think he's up for a rebuilding job? Definitely,'' Anselmo said. "That's what he's done. He has a plan, he has a vision and he knows how to go about it. There's absolutely no doubt in my mind that he can rebuild a team. He's done it twice.''