This Week
  • The largest shareholder of IEC Electronics Corp. targets board.

  • Sandra Doorley is Monroe County's first female district attorney.

  • Margaret Rosenfeld runs the team-building efforts of HumanGrid.

  • After a slow start, area homebuilders are ending the year on an upbeat note.

  • Viewpoint Systems has been known to keep a close eye on its customers.

  • A recent visit to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam was an eye-opener for RIT students.

On Sports

Marrone deserves to return next year as Bills head coach

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Rochester Business Journal
December 19, 2014

Buffalo’s stunning victory against the Green Bay Packers last Sunday is another indication that the team is making significant strides. With a victory against the hapless Oakland Raiders this week, the Bills can secure their first winning record since 2004 and keep their remote playoff hopes alive. And, who knows, they might even reach 10 wins should the New England Patriots clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs this Sunday and decide to play Tom Brady and the rest of their starters sparingly in the regular-season finale against Buffalo in Foxboro, Mass. on Dec. 28.

No matter what transpires between now and then, I believe Doug Marrone deserves to return as Bills head coach next season. Yes, his ultra-conservative approach and game-management skills prompt much head scratching. But the team is improving, and he can continue to grow along with it.

The Bills appear to be following the blueprint Marrone mapped out during his four years coaching Syracuse University. Inheriting a program that had lost 37 of its previous 47 games and had become the dregs of college football, Marrone guided the Orange to two bowl victories before shuffling west down the Thruway to Buffalo. It was a football resurrection, to be sure, masterminded by a coach who jokingly referred to himself as “Saint Doug.”

Rebuilding projects don’t always move as swiftly as we would like, and I completely understand the frustration of Bills fans, who have been forced to watch the NFL’s version of the movie “Groundhog Day” for close to a generation. But progress is being made. It really is. The Bills clearly have a Super Bowl-caliber defense, but their offense remains anemic. While Kyle Orton is an upgrade over skittish, second-year quarterback EJ Manuel, the journeyman doesn’t appear to be a playoff-caliber signal caller. There aren’t a lot of replacement options out there, but I can see the Bills taking a chance on one of the veteran quarterbacks who may become available in free agency or via trade.

There have been rumors that new Bills owner Terry Pegula will bring in a football “czar” after the season to do a thorough and objective analysis of the organization. I’ve long championed Bill Polian, the architect of the Bills’ Super Bowl teams of the early 1990s, to be that guy. If he is brought aboard, that would bode well for Marrone—a football lifer whom Polian respects greatly. Again, Marrone has many flaws and the jury’s still out regarding how good an NFL head coach he will become, but it makes no sense to continue the game of coaching roulette that’s seen the Bills go through six coaches since the turn of the century.

•    Speaking of Pegula, his Buffalo Sabres also have been showing signs of life. Although they were thrashed by the Winnipeg Jets, 5-1, Tuesday, they’ve won 10 of their last 14 National Hockey League games. This recent prosperity has some Sabres fans upset because they were hoping a team in full-scale rebuilding mode would tank this season in order to be in position to draft either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel, two super prospects who’ve conjured comparisons to Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux. It’s still too early to tell whether this recent hot streak is a tease or a sign of legitimate improvement under coach Ted Nolan, but why not enjoy the ride?

•    Happy to hear that Nancy Lopez will return to Rochester and chair the 2015 Toyota Danielle Downey Classic next July at Brook-Lea Country Club. The tournament is part of the Symetra Tour, which develops players for the LPGA. Lopez was a three-time winner and huge fan favorite at Rochester’s LPGA events. A schedule conflict prevented her from attending the final Wegmans LPGA tournament in Rochester this summer, and she felt terrible about that. It’s also nice that the tournament will honor the memory of Downey, a Spencerport native and golf phenom who was killed in a car crash last year at age 33.

•    This clearly appears to be a down year for Syracuse basketball and its Hall of Fame coach, Jim Boeheim. With a 6-3 record, the Orange men are off to their worst start since stumbling to a 5-4 beginning during the 1996-97 season. They finished 19-13 that season and wound up going to the NIT, just a year after reaching the national championship game behind Greece-Athena graduate John Wallace’s heroics. That marked only the second time in Boeheim’s 39 years that his team failed to win at least 20 games in a season. Given the inexperience of this year’s team, coupled with its outside shooting woes and lack of quality depth, I believe SU will have a tough time winning 20 and making the NCAA tournament. Boeheim has proven me wrong before, but he has his work cut out for him this winter.

•    Back in October, I wrote a column about my favorite sports malapropisms, and a bunch of you responded with some of your favorites. Frank Bilovsky offered two that had me grinning from ear to ear. The first, from former Phillies manager Frank Lucchesi: “They’re not going to make a scrapgoat out of me.” The second, from former Villanova basketball coach Jack Kraft: “That was the nail that broke the coffin’s back.” Paul Hartwick reminded me of this one from Bills legend Bruce Smith: “I abhor racism and I condone bigotry.” And Tim Fennell provided yet another Yogi Berra-ism: “I didn’t say most of the things I said.” Keep ’em coming. I love adding to that list.

Award-winning columnist and best-selling author Scott Pitoniak will be signing copies of his new book, “100 Things Syracuse Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die,” Saturday, Dec. 20, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Barnes & Noble in Greece and from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Pittsford Barnes & Noble.

12/19/14 (c) 2014 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.


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