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Marrone exit represents substantial setback for Bills

And just like that, another wave of optimism crests too soon for the Buffalo Bills.

Doug Marrone opted out of his contract with the team on Wednesday, ending a promising year in Orchard Park on a sour note. Marrone, said to be widely respected in league circles, had just led the Bills to their first winning record in a decade. And now, he's gone.

It could get more painful if Marrone takes his $4 million in getaway money and lands in the Meadowlands with the Jets, a possibility posited by NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport. It will undoubtedly sting the Bills to get a twice-a-year reminder of The One That Got Away, even moreso if Marrone helps bring prosperity to the Jets.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Marrone is a free agent and the Bills have a huge hole to fill. One potential concern for Bills officials: Just how attractive is their job right now? With apologies to EJ Manuel, this is a team without a quarterback or a first-round pick as a result of the gutsy draft day trade with the Browns that landed Sammy Watkins.

Then there's the front office. A recent report connected the Bills to former general manager Bill Polian. If Polian returns to Buffalo, what does that mean for current GM Doug Whaley and CEO Russ Brandon? You can imagine a coaching candidate furrowing his brow at the thought of a potential power struggle above him.

The search is about to begin again to fill a position that's been a revolving door since Marv Levy left town in 1997. Wade Phillips. Gregg Williams. Mike Mularkey. Dick Jauron. Chan Gailey. And now, Marrone.

The Bills gained stability at the top when Terry and Kim Pegula bought the team this fall. Now the owners must find a way to instill stability across the franchise spectrum. Wednesday represented a setback on that front.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast previews this weekend's four Wild-Card matchups and predicts who will advance. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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