Buffalo Bills general manager Doug Whaley was incredibly candid with media Wednesday, saying that his franchise is “almost in quarterback purgatory,” as it’s good enough to not pick near the top of the draft in the coming years but not good enough to actually compete for a Super Bowl.
Don’t believe it? Let’s ask Bills insider Brent Axe to sum up quarterback E.J. Manuel’s play on Wednesday into one word.
“Can I combine ‘hot mess’ into one word?” Axe asked on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “That’s really the best way to describe E.J. Manuel. He’s overthrowing open receivers during routine drills with no defense on wide receivers. He’s overthrowing open receivers that have defense on them. He’s under-throwing running backs and receivers just on those short screen passes. And now let’s add in the fact that a brand-new thing on the E.J. Manual docket is he’s fumbling a lot of snaps during training camp as well. He just doesn’t look confident. I think he knows he’s got to show something in this camp. I think he’s pressing, and I think he just has not looked good at all.
“And the thing is, when you’re ready to just pull the plug completely and just say, ‘This guy is not going to do it,’ he’ll make a good throw,” Axe continued. “He had a horrible practice today and then in one play right at the end of practice, he threaded the needle and threw a great pass to Sammy Watkins. But those are the ones that stand out because they’re few and far between at this point. So Manuel just does not look like somebody who’s out to win what is a very open quarterback competition in Buffalo. I mean, this thing’s wide open right now.”
In fact, Buffalo’s starting quarterback this year could be Tyrod Taylor, who has at least looked solid in camp. That’s more than you can say for Manuel, who completed just 58.0 percent of his passes for 838 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions in five games last season.
Still, is there a sense in Buffalo that Doug Marrone may have been too quick with the hook when it came to Manuel? Is there a sense that Manuel, 25, would have been better off playing through his mistakes and continuing to develop as a quarterback?
“No question,” Axe said. “I think that was a Doug Marrone ego move to kind of show the front office and flex his muscle quote-unquote who was in charge of the football team. I’ll say this: Doug Whaley even admitted today that the plan was that Kevin Kolb was going to be ahead of E.J. Manuel. Kevin Kolb was essentially going to be sent out there to keep the seat warm until E.J. was ready and then Kolb got yet another concussion, his career ends and E.J.’s thrown out there early.
“So E.J., it seems like he’s always just been a step behind in his development because it was rushed,” Axe continued. “He gets benched four games into the year last year, and look, it worked. Kyle Orton goes out there and at the end of the season, that team’s 9-7. But there was a sentiment that . . . they made that move a little too early, and there’s also a sentiment that he’s never recovered from that. They really can’t blame the kid that somebody completely puts a huge stop in his development. But now you’ve got a new coaching staff, a new coordinator, everything’s new – and some of the same opinions are coming out here. So maybe this is more on E.J. than it is anybody.”