HOUSTON -- Friends are the people you can tease without consequence. That's always been my motto as least, and it seems to be one shared by Houston Texans head coach Bill O'Brien and Buffalo Bills head coach Doug Marrone.
"He's a liar, I never liked that guy," Marrone said.
"You want me to respond to that?" O'Brien said. "Now you know why he doesn’t have many friends. You’re starting to figure that out."
They've known each other since 1995, when O'Brien joined Georgia Tech's staff as a graduate assistant. Marrone was the team's director of football operations. O'Brien's wife introduced Marrone to his wife before either of them knew O'Brien. Marrone later returned the favor, introducing O'Brien and his wife Colleen.
Marrone doesn't remember that introduction, though.
"I probably didn't think Colleen would ever like him," Marrone said. "I couldn't believe she liked him."
Said O'Brien: "His wife is a lot cooler than him."
The two young coaches spent hours together, seeing each other more than they saw their wives.
"Hours were not, you didn’t even question the hours," O'Brien said. "You were in at five in the morning and stayed there until the work got done. Doug was the line coach and I was the running backs coach, so we did a lot of work together. ... That taught us a lot about coaching."
"I don't think either of us could have gone through that alone," Marrone said.
They grew together, becoming position coaches at Georgia Tech before heading in separate directions to pursue their dreams. When Marrone became the New York Jets' offensive line coach in 2002, O'Brien was Georgia Tech's offensive coordinator. When O'Brien made a surprising move to become an offensive assistant with the Patriots in 2007, Marrone was the New Orleans' Saints offensive coordinator, the job that led the way to his first head coaching job.
They overlapped as college head coaches for one season. Marrone was Syracuse's head coach from 2009 to 2012, while O'Brien led Penn State in 2012 and 2013.
O'Brien called Marrone "blunt" this week. It's a word many use to describe O'Brien, too, part of why they clicked.
"In all seriousness, that’s why he’s a good friend," O'Brien said. "He is a good friend, but you have to know him. You have to know him really well to be his friend because he’s very direct and he tells you the truth. I think that’s why the both of us are friends."
Still, the jabs are fun.
"I was a scholarship player at Syracuse," Marrone said. "Bill went to Brown. He's from Massachusetts and went to some hoity toity prep school. I went to high school in the Bronx."
Countered O'Brien: "He’s a Yankees fan and I’m a Red Sox fan. I’ll put it to you that way."
Suddenly, he remembered where he was.
"Although I do like the Astros," O'Brien said. "I don’t want to get in trouble."