So, former Syracuse football coach Doug Marrone is heading down the Thruway to Buffalo to coach the Buffalo Bills. Just think, about two months ago, there were quite a few people around central New York who questioned whether or not he was the right person to lead the Orange. Winning six of the last seven games of the year apparently was enough to make people forget about the collapse of last year’s team, going 0-5 down the stretch. Add the end of last year to the beginning of this year, and Marrone had a 2-9 stretch spanning his third and fourth years at the helm of the program. Hardly the resume of a guy about to be interviewed by multiple NFL franchises for a multi-million dollar coaching contract.
Marrone’s meteoric, and in my opinion, somewhat shocking rise to prominence is a terrific example of the somewhat slight difference between mediocrity and excellence, between being the chosen one and just one in the crowd. Let’s face it: Marrone was not going to have a line of NFL teams clamoring to hire him three and three-quarters through his tenure at SU. They can talk all they want about his reputation as an offensive mind, his leadership skills and his love of his alma mater. Quite honestly, nobody would have cared about that if this year ended at say, 6-7. That was a real possibility until the last game of the regular season. So no, Coach Marrone, it’s a little premature to say that you have turned the program around. You were 8-5 and won the Pinstripe Bowl two years ago (sound familiar?), only to have a losing record, five straight losses and no bowl game the next year. If your goal was to use your tenure at SU to springboard into the NFL, you are a success. If your goal was to restore SU to a consistent winner poised to re-emerge on the national stage as it was in the late '80s until the early 2000s, you have fallen short. Nobody hopes that SU does climb that mountain more than me, speaking as a proud SU grad.
The lesson in this for all of us is that we are only as good as our last game, our last test, last presentation, etc. Wherever we currently find ourselves, the situation can quickly change in either direction. Timing is indeed everything. For Marrone, it landed him in the NFL. For Paul Pasqualoni eight years before (and with a much more impressive winning percentage), timing led to him being clumsily fired. The difference between hot commodity and also ran is sometimes quite negligible. That’s why it is so important to maximize the opportunities that are presented to us when the time is right. Our fortune can change rapidly depending on timing and opportunity. At the midpoint of this school year, I encourage all of our students to seize every opportunity to improve their situation. By doing this, they can ensure that they will be ready to capitalize on any fortuitous timing that comes their way. I just wish Marrone had seen that opportunity at SU. Here’s to hoping Coach Shaffer does. Go Orange!