Capitals

AP Sources: Syracuse's Marrone to take over Bills

AP Sources: Syracuse's Marrone to take over Bills

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Doug Marrone is set to try to turn around an NFL team after improving a college program down the road.

Marrone reached an agreement to become the Buffalo Bills' new coach Sunday, three people familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press. One person said the sides were still putting the finishing touches on the contract for Marrone to sign.

The people spoke on the condition of anonymity because there has not been an official announcement.

Marrone will replace Chan Gailey, who was fired Dec. 31, a day after the Bills closed their second consecutive season with a 6-10 record and extended the NFL's longest active playoff drought to 13 seasons. The 48-year-old Marrone, who is from the Bronx, went 25-25 in four seasons at Syracuse.

ESPN.com first reported early Sunday that Marrone would be leaving the Orange to become the Bills' next coach.

Syracuse was 26-57 over a seven-year period before Marrone took over at his alma mater. The Orange finished this season 8-5, winning six of their last seven games, including a 38-14 victory over West Virginia in the Pinstripe Bowl.

A person who had a role in hiring Marrone in Syracuse, speaking on condition of anonymity because the move had not been announced, said Orange officials had been made aware the coach was leaving for the NFL.

Now, he's set for another challenge two hours down the New York State Thruway. He'll be taking over a team that has not had a winning record since 2004, is on its fifth head coach since 2001, and closed last season by losing seven of its final 10 games.

The Syracuse job was Marrone's first as a head coach. He has seven years of NFL experience; Marrone spent 2006-08 as the New Orleans Saints' offensive coordinator and was the New York Jets' offensive line coach from 2002-05.

Marrone's arrival in New Orleans coincided with the Saints' addition of Drew Brees. Though head coach Sean Payton called the plays on game day, Marrone helped oversee an offense that led the NFL in yards in 2006 and `08. In 2007, the Saints set a league record with 440 completions.

The Bills' perennially weak offense could certainly use a boost. And he's got work to do improving a high-priced but underachieving defense.

One of Marrone's first decisions on offense will be determining the future of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who took a big step back in his third season as starter, and a year after signing a five-year, $59 million contract extension. Buffalo finished 19th in the NFL in yards gained and 21st in points scored this season.

Fitzpatrick, who shares the same agent as Marrone, is due a $3 million roster bonus in March.

General manager Buddy Nix has already said he plans to select a quarterback in the draft in April. He also hasn't ruled out the possibility of acquiring one in free agency or through a trade.

One draft candidate could be Syracuse senior Ryan Nassib, who is projected to be a second- or third-round pick.

The Bills defense performed well below the high expectations that were created in March, when Buffalo signed defensive end Mario Williams to a six-year, $100 million contract. The defense instead proved porous and incohesive in finishing among the NFL's worst. Buffalo allowed 435 points - the second-most in team history.

The Bills opened their coaching search Tuesday, when newly promoted President Russ Brandon and several executives traveled to Arizona, where they interviewed candidates. They met with former Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt and current Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton. The Bills also interviewed Oregon coach Chip Kelly and former Bears coach Lovie Smith.

Marrone had also interviewed with the Cleveland Browns for their vacancy.

---

AP Sports Writer John Kekis in Syracuse, N.Y., contributed to this report.

---

Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Quick Links

3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

You may think this was an ugly four-game road trip for the Caps, but with a 3-2 win in Buffalo on Monday, Washington managed to earn five out of a possible eight points.

Here is why the Caps beat the Sabres and managed to save the road swing.

A missed high-stick (maybe) from Ovechkin

Ovechkin scored the first goal of the game in the second period as he deflected a high-shot from Christian Djoos down past goalie Chad Johnson. But did the deflection come on a high stick? The play was reviewed and the goal was ultimately upheld. According to the NHL, it was determined that "video review supported the Referee's call on the ice that Alex Ovechkin's stick was at or below the height of the crossbar when he tipped the puck into the Buffalo net."

NBC Sports Washington analyst Alan May broke the play down during the second intermission and made his case for why the NHL actually got the call wrong.

Was that a high stick? I don't know. As compelling an argument as May made, it still looks inconclusive which means the review made the right call. What surprises me is that the referee did not disallow the goal on the initial call.

Whether the review is truly inconclusive or flat out wrong, Washington was fortunate to walk away from this sequence with the goal.

MORE CAPITALS: BIZARRE SEQUENCE LEADS TO CAPS SCORING AND GETTING PENALIZED AT THE SAME TIME

A centimeter of ice

Hockey is a game of inches and it took less than an inch to put Washington up 2-0. When an Evgeny Kuznetsov shot hit off the boards and bounced back to the front of the net, it sparked a scrum next to goalie Chad Johnson. Eventually, John Carlson was able to get a swipe on the puck sending it trickling to the goal line, but Kyle Okposo was there waiting and appeared to kick it out to safety just before it crossed. A review triggered by the Situation Room, however, revealed that the puck had just barely managed to cross the goal line before Okposo got to it.

Here's the view the NHL released after the review:

Philipp Grubauer's third period

After dominating the first 40 minutes of the game and taking a 2-0 lead, Buffalo predictably made a late push in the third period with two goals to pull within one. Washington outshot the Sabres in the first and second periods, but Buffalo reversed that trend in a big way in the third as they outshot the Caps 17-6. Grubauer turned aside 15 of those shots and was impressive after barely being tested in the first two periods.

RELATED: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF THE GAME FROM CAPS-SABRE

Quick Links

3 stars of the game: Caps knock out the punchless Sabres

3 stars of the game: Caps knock out the punchless Sabres

Coming off an ugly 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, a Buffalo Sabres team missing star Jack Eichel was just what the doctor ordered for the Caps to get back on track. Washington dominated the first two periods and then survived a late surge from Buffalo for the 3-2 win.

After battling to a scoreless first, Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson spotted Washington a 2-0 lead in the second. They then held on in the third period as Buffalo began to tilt the ice in their favor, with Evgeny Kuznetsov scoring the empty-netter to put this game out of reach. Evander Kane would pull Buffalo within one, but with only three seconds left it was too little, too late.

Here are the three stars of the game:

1. Alex Ovechkin: Ovechkin opened up the scoring in the second period as he deflected down an innocent shot from Christian Djoos past Chad Johnson.

Ovechkin also set a physical tone as he battled with defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen all game long. After taking a high elbow from Ristolainen early in the game Ovechkin skated up to Ristolainen prior to the faceoff on his next shift and let him know that it was on. 

2. John Carlson: Carlson had a hand in both of Washington's first two goals. He recorded a secondary assist on Ovechkin's goal as he made a blue line pass to Djoos which Djoos fired on net and Ovechkin deflected. Carlson then managed to hit the puck past the goal line in a scrum next to Johnson. It looked initially like Kyle Okposo had managed to kick out the puck just before it crossed, but Carlson was awarded the goal as a review showed the puck had completely crossed the line.

3. Philipp Grubauer: A Sabres team that ranks last in the NHL in scoring and that was also without its leading scorer did not test Grubauer much in the first two periods. Facing a 2-0 deficit, however, Buffalo made a third period push to try to tie the game, but Grubauer was up to the task as he turned aside 15 of the 17 shots he faced in the final 20 minutes. He finished with 32 total saves on the night.