Dennison Out; Tale of the Tape on Possible Replacements


The Buffalo Bills have officially parted ways with Rick Dennison after one season. This move seemed inevitable and one that really shows that General Manager Brandon Beane and Head Coach Sean McDermott are not going to tolerate mediocrity.

While the offense did lack weapons to fully operate an efficient passing attack, one would have expected Dennison to at the very least command a top-ten rushing offense considering his lineage, the talent at the position in LeSean McCoy, and the team’s recent domination in that department.

Instead, the outside zone run game failed the first quarter of the season, which prompted the staff to incorporate more gap/man schemes around week four, and even more during their week six bye. But the lack of practice time spent repping the running game really showed in their inability to adjust to defenses. This aspect often goes unnoticed. In prior years, the staff spent an enormous amount of time repping the run game and the multitude of concepts and line calls. The run game was what they hung their hat on. That wasn’t the case with Dennison. His run game was, generally speaking, more simple and relied on defenders to lose their discipline in order to bust big runs rather than purely dominating the line of scrimmage, something the Bills took pride in under former coordinators Greg Roman and Anthony Lynn.

Dennison’s inability to get his run game going with the tools he had at his disposal was the reason he was fired. I don’t think it was the game plans, the fragmented play calling at times, or even the ineffective passing game. I believe there were some legitimate reasons why those things didn’t run smoothly. It was his inability maintain efficiency on the ground.


Rick Dennison is out, and the Bills may not be done in that regard. The future status of some offensive players is up for discussion. But before any of those decisions are made, the organization needs to hire a new coordinator.

A few names that are consistently being linked to GM Beane and HC McDermott are prior coworkers Mike McCoy, Rob Chudzinksi, and the recently fired Mike Shula.


All have ties to the Bills brass in some capacity and all have called plays in the NFL. After experiencing what Rex Ryan did to the Bills’ defense in the prior years and what Dennison did this season, it got me wondering about what kind of run game systems the potential coordinators scheme. This is incredibly important when you consider the traits that the current linemen have and what they have been most successful executing.

The following statistics are according to SportsInfo Solutions (SIS). SIS charts every NFL (and FBS) game and tracks advanced stats from every angle. They work with several NFL teams and are the data provider for Football Outsiders. They have created an advanced database that allows you to filter data on dozens of levels from personnel packages to route types, run types, coverage types, and more. According to their analysts, the aforementioned coaches’ run games broke down into the following buckets:


Mike McCoy

Oct 22, 2017; Carson, CA, USA; Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy looks on from the field before the game against the Los Angeles Chargers at StubHub Center. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The Broncos fired McCoy in late November, so these statistics won’t paint the entire picture, but it appears that McCoy’s run game, which was ranked 23rd in rush rank DVOA, broke down in the following manner:


Inside Zone: 25.5%

Power: 14.9%

Lead: 11.3%

Outside Zone: 10.2.%

Counter: 6.6%

Zone Read Handoff: 3.8%

Sweep: 2.5%

Trap: 1.5%

Stretch: 1.3%

Zone Read Keeper: 0.2%

**According to Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News, Mccoy will not be Buffalo’s offensive coordinator.

Rob Chudzinski

Dec 7, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam talks with Indianapolis Colts assistant coach Rob Chudzinski before a game at FirstEnergy Stadium. Chudzinski was formerly the Cleveland Browns head coach. Mandatory Credit: Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports

Under the direction of Rob Chudzinski, the Colts’ offense ranked 24th in rush DVOA (FO). The offensive unit was downright terrible personnel-wise. Statistics won’t truly show how he changed the entire offense to fit quarterback Jacoby Brissett‘s skill-set in early September.


Chudzinski was without his Franchise QB, Andrew Luck, had to piece together an offensive line, and had very fews explosive weapons apart from WR T.Y. Hilton.


Inside Zone: 31.7%

Outside Zone: 21.7%

Lead: 11.1%

Power: 4.3%

Stretch: 3.7%

Counter: 3.7%

Zone Read Handoff: 3.7%

Zone Read Keeper: 0.9%

Sweep: 0.7%

Trap: 0.2%

Mike Shula

Jul 25, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator Mike Shula talks with head coach Ron Rivera during training camp at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The former Panthers offensive coordinator Mike Shula may not even be considered a candidate, but I think he should be, given his ties to Beane and McDermott and for what he has done in Carolina. He has operated a forward-thinking offensive scheme.


This includes the 11th-ranked rush DVOA (FO), which incorporated many run and pass concepts from QB Cam Newton‘s time in Auburn under HC Gus Malzahn.


Power: 16.8%

Inside Zone: 14.1%

Zone Read Handoff: 8.4%

Zone Read Keeper: 5.0%

Counter: 5.0%

Lead: 4.8%

Outside Zone: 4.2%

Sweep: 2.9%

Trap: 1.5%

Stretch: 1.0%

I will admit this is box score scouting and a very narrow-minded way to look at these candidates, some of whom may or may not even be available or interview for the job. Their playbooks are designed for their personnel, so the concepts called for those teams may not even be what they run for the Bills if hired.

But then again, maybe it does give you some insight as to what to expect if one of them is hired. It is something that Bills fans will be heavily interested in once the new coordinator is named.

Whose offensive run game philosophy fits the Bills personnel best?