NFL Team Report - Buffalo Bills - INSIDE SLANT

The Buffalo Bills announced that Doug Marrone exercised an option clause in his contract and resigned as the team's head coach.

"We are disappointed that Coach Marrone will no longer be an important part of our organization," Bills owner Terry Pegula said in a statement. "We thank him for all of his hard work and leadership during his tenure and wish him and his family the best with the next chapter in their lives.

"We will now begin the important process of conducting a thorough search for a new head coach as we continue to strive to reach our goal of returning to the playoffs and bringing a championship to Buffalo for our fans."

There was immediate speculation that former Bills general manager Bill Polian, a contributor finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015, will return to Buffalo to oversee football operations.

Polian currently works as an analyst on SiriusXM NFL Radio and ESPN. During an appearance on SiriusXM Monday night, Polian was asked about rumors of his return. He never said he hadn't been contacted, and only said, "I'm on the air now, and I will be on ESPN this weekend." Speculation last weekend said Polian could be in Buffalo Monday.

Bills defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who was Detroit's head coach for five seasons, could be a candidate to replace Marrone. If Polian is hired, he is said to like former Bills quarterback Frank Reich, who was San Diego's offensive coordinator this past season.

Marrone had the clause written into his four-year, $16 million contract to protect him in the event that owner Ralph Wilson passed way. Wilson died on March 25, so the clause became active when the season ended. His three-day option would have expired at midnight Wednesday.

The terms of the contract will result in Marrone being paid his $4 million salary in 2015 with no offset should he find another job. It is believed Marrone was trying to get a contract extension during the three-day window.

Speculation immediately centered on the opening with the Jets, where Marrone was offensive line coach from 2002-2005 as well as the fact he is from the Bronx and grew up as a Jets fan.

At his post-season press conference Monday, Marrone was asked about the clause, and said, "I will tell you this - and my background has been the same and you guys can look into it - I do not discuss my contract and that's my rule; I never have and never will."

Marrone led the Bills to a 9-7 record in his second season with the team. That was the team's first winning season since 2004 and leaves him with an overall record of 15-17 with the Bills. In four previous seasons as head coach at Syracuse, his record was 25-23.

His departure was met with shock by several Bills players, who expressed their feelings on Twitter.

Running back C.J. Spiller wrote, "How quickly things can change just had a team meeting Monday and wasn't given a heads up, but guess that's how this business works."

Wrote center Eric Wood, "Wow ... That caught me off guard for sure."

Finally, safety Aaron Williams wrote, "Lost all respect!! Completely pissed off, but not gonna let it ruin my New Years."

--There were not a lot of smiles at locker clean-out day Monday, which was nothing new in Buffalo.

After all, this day has occurred for the Bills for 15 years in a row before wild-card weekend, the longest active playoff drought in the league.

Yes, the Bills were pleased that they defeated New England in the season finale, their first victory at Gillette Stadium in 13 tries. And it was a good feeling to have produced the first winning record (9-7) since 2004 and just the second in this millennium.