2:39pm: A league source tells Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk that the cause of the heated exchange between Marrone and team officials was the Bills’ decision to sign Kyle Orton so late in the preseason to a contract that suggests he may see playing time this season. As Florio points out, for Buffalo to have a good season, E.J. Manuel will likely need to play well, and bringing in a highly-paid veteran backup a week before the season begins may not be the best approach for building his confidence.
2:06pm: According to a report from Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com, Bills head coach Doug Marrone was recently involved in a “loud verbal altercation” with various members of the team’s front office, including director of player personnel Jim Monos. La Canfora reports that the incident between Marrone and Monos resulted in general manager Doug Whaley and team president Russ Brandon to get involved as well.
La Canfora continues by writing that Marrone has clashed with a few players during the preseason, and that the coach and the front office disagree about the value of certain players, and how they’re being used — that includes guard Kraig Urbik, whom the club reportedly shopped as trade bait recently. According to the CBSSports.com scribe, Marrone also has a “strained relationship” with Monos, and told team execs to “go ahead and fire me” during the aforementioned verbal spat.
While La Canfora’s report seems damning, a pair of Bills beat writers have suggested it may not be entirely accurate. Per Tim Graham of the Buffalo News (via Twitter), a source says Monos wasn’t even present for the reported altercation, and that Marrone’s “go ahead and fire me” comment was made over beers at another time, and was being laughed about in a matter of minutes.
Meanwhile, Joe Buscaglia of WGR 550 has a response from Marrone himself, who indicated that the report is “very much” overblown.
“Hey, did we have a discussion? Absolutely. I confirm that absolutely,” Marrone said. “Are we great? We talk every day, three times a day. We talk about a lot of things. We’re competitive and I couldn’t be happier with those guys, I really couldn’t. And then the thing about Jim is great, too, because I was one of the ones that recommended Jim to come here. So there’s a lot of things in that that I think I’ll probably catch a lot of heat on from my friends because it’s just not true.“
It makes sense that Marrone would deny, or at least downplay, any tension between him and the front office, so it’s hard to know exactly how much truth there is to La Canfora’s initial report. With expectations on the rise following the addition of wideout Sammy Watkins this offseason, another last-place season in 2014 might mean Marrone’s days in Buffalo are numbered, regardless of whether or not there’s friction amongst the team’s ranks.
As La Canfora notes, it’s also possible that a shake-up could be in the works when the sale process is finalized and the franchise’s new owners take over. However, Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula continues to look like the clear-cut favorite to buy the team, and La Canfora hears that a Pegula win would make it less likely that the franchise is overhauled immediately.