Sources: Jets have strong interest in ex-Bills coach Doug Marrone

Doug Marrone has opted out of his contract with the Buffalo Bills, setting up the possibility of a homecoming with the New York Jets.

The Jets, searching for Rex Ryan's replacement, have interest in the Bronx native, according to sources. And the feeling is mutual. Marrone is a coaching free agent, meaning he has the ability to go wherever he wants. The Jets are expected to schedule an interview with Marrone.

The coaching search is in the early stages, as the Jets have interviewed only one candidate -- their running backs coach, Anthony Lynn. Even though they have interviews scheduled with at least two other candidates, the Jets could hire Marrone immediately. They're already in compliance with the Rooney Rule, having interviewed Lynn.

Jets owner Woody Johnson is familiar with Marrone, who was the team's offensive line coach from 2002-05 under Herm Edwards. He left for the New Orleans Saints when Edwards and his staff were fired after the 2005 season, but Marrone always spoke fondly of his experience in New York.

"This is pretty good news," Johnson told the New York Daily News. "I was shocked. It's been a long time since I've seen Doug and I have good memories of him."

Marrone grew up in the shadow of the Throgs Neck Bridge and used to say it gave him chills as he rode through the Bronx on the team bus on the way to the Jets' home games. In those days, the Jets trained on Long Island.

He coached the Buffalo Bills for only two seasons, finishing with a 15-17 record. On the surface, it's not good, but their 9-7 finish this season was the franchise's first winning season since 2004. Much like Ryan with the Jets, he was handcuffed by inconsistency and instability at the quarterback position. He started out with EJ Manuel and turned to journeyman Kyle Orton.

In a very indirect way, Marrone contributed to Ryan's demise, beating the Jets twice this season. The second meeting, Nov. 24, took place at Ford Field because of the snowstorm that paralyzed the Buffalo area. Despite having to postpone practices and traveling to Detroit to prepare for the game, the Bills routed the Jets, 38-3. Johnson was said to be impressed with how the Bills coped with the adversity and played so well.

Interestingly, one of the Jets' general manager candidates has a link to Marrone -- Philadelphia Eagles director of pro personnel Rick Mueller. He and Marrone worked together with the Saints from 2006 to 2008. The Jets are planning to interview Mueller early next week, so a Marrone-Mueller tandem isn't out of the question.