BBD Editor: Dan Hope
The Buffalo Bills wouldn’t have selected Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel with their first-round pick in this year’s draft if they intended to keep him on their bench for long. But if you thought that meant the Bills would make him an immediate starter this preseason? Not so fast.
Bills head coach Doug Marrone made it clear that the quarterback competition in Buffalo is still ongoing when he announced Wednesday that veteran Kevin Kolb, not Manuel, would be the team’s starting quarterback on Friday when the Bills play the Minnesota Vikings at Ralph Wilson Stadium for their second game of the preseason.
While Marrone confirmed Wednesday that the Bills still have a quarterback competition, he also stated that the decision to start Kolb should not be construed as a step back for Manuel.
“Just the one thing I hope everyone understands is not to read into this because we were very, very happy with EJ (Manuel)’s performance in the first game,” Marrone told the media following Wednesday’s practice.
Manuel seemed to take a lead in the competition during the team’s preseason opener versus the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. With Kolb sidelined due to a knee injury, Manuel played the entire first half and completed 16 of 21 pass attempts for 107 yards. He capped his solid first outing by leading a 92-yard drive in the final two minutes of the first half, highlighted by a 17-yard touchdown pass threaded between double coverage to tight end Dorin Dickerson.
Marrone said, however, that the plan was to start Kolb in Week 1 and Manuel in Week 2. Due to Kolb’s injury, the Bills decided to switch that plan, and in the interest of giving each man in the competition an equal opportunity, Kolb will get his chance to start Friday.
After a promising first start for Manuel, are the Bills making a mistake by taking him out of the starting lineup? Given a number of reactions on Twitter, it seems that a good amount of Bills fans disagree with the decision to start Kolb.
One definite drawback of starting Kolb is that Manuel will lose out on an opportunity to take in-game repetitions with the first-team offense. For a rookie quarterback potentially on track to start in Week 1, every opportunity to get snaps is an important one.
That said, it is going to take more than one game for Manuel to win the starting job. This is especially true given that Manuel’s first game was very much an up-and-down performance, although it ended on a high note.
Even though Manuel was limited to a simple game plan consisting mostly of throws of less than 10 yards, he had consistent trouble with underthrowing his receivers. As a result of both the gameplan and his failure to lead his receivers properly, he finished his first game with only 5.1 yards per passing attempt.
Manuel showed great poise and composure during the half-ending two-minute drill, and he showed the ability to make plays with his legs as well as his arm, but as the preseason progresses, he needs to be more accurate and stop staring down his receivers.
Given all of that, Manuel hasn’t won the starting quarterback job yet. Starting Kolb on Friday was the only conducive choice to keeping the quarterback situation truly competitive.
By giving Kolb his chance to start, the Bills can make it clear to Manuel that he still has to earn the starting job by outperforming Kolb. Had the Bills scrapped their original plan to start Kolb in one of the first two games, they would have made the the starting job Manuel’s to lose.
By keeping the competition as outwardly even as possible, the Bills put the pressure on both quarterbacks to perform day in and day out, whether in a practice or a game. Giving both quarterbacks a legitimate opportunity to start should, in theory, only make both quarterbacks better as each attempts to prove himself as the Bills’ top signal-caller.
Bills fans are ready for the team’s promising future to become the present, and that future is largely founded upon the beginning of the Manuel era in Buffalo.
The coaching staff, however, will start the quarterback in Week 1 that they believe gives the team the best chance to win in Week 1.
The only way to find out which quarterback is the team’s best option for the start of the 2013 season is by giving Kolb the chance to prove himself and get important repetitions of his own with the first-team offense.