It can get pretty tough to find new ways to tell the world that you think the Buffalo Bills suck. I’m not trying to start out negative, I’m just saying after a while, it gets boring to write the same shit even though the Bills deserve it. I assure you, I’d rather write nice things about the Bills than bad things. However, I’m not gonna shill for the sake of my own creative well-being.
I have a sense that a lot of fans feel the same way. They want to move on from the garbage we’ve endured since 2000. They want to be positive and are (mostly) smart fans who know how this can get accomplished. We know our weaknesses and they start at QB. We all know the string of names. The disappointments. The supposed heir apparents to Jim Kelly. They are horrible relationships gone bad. We are fricken desperate, jilted lovers.
This entire offseason was built around one thing: Getting a franchise QB.
Buddy Nix talked about finding that guy when Ryan Fitzpatrick was still starting games. All of the local draft coverage was about the QBs in the draft. A good QB is drawing power, something for fans to grab onto as hope that the franchise will turn around. EJ Manuel is that hope. He’s probably the most important draft pick the Bills have had in the last 10 years because he’s about to fill the need for the most important position on this team. If he fails, the Bills franchise is set back 2-3 years. If he succeeds, they are set at the position for the next decade. And that’s the thing… It is about the future. It is about 3 years down the road and not this year.
I know fans are as giddy as a school boy ready to lose his virginity on prom night when it comes to seeing this guy. But I think they are going to have to wait. Maybe even a year or two. I know that may suck for some. It sucks for me, too. You think I wanna blog about Kevin Kolb? I’d rather see the unknown perform than watch some retread QB.
I can already predict the narrative in October if the Bills are 0-4 and going nowhere.
Butch from the East Side will call up and say that the Bills need to see if this guy Manuel can play. The radio host will respond with a list of rookie 1st round QBs who played right away and were successful. Of course, they were all within the last two years and not the previous 70, but who’s counting at this point?
Jerry Sullivan will write a piece about how Manuel reminds him of the next Cam Newton or Jim Kelly because of the way he practices and argue that you can’t have a 1st round QB sit on the bench. I’m sure he’ll use the quote Peyton Manning had years ago about how great it was for his career to start from day 1. It is all about baptism by fire. You can’t learn to be an NFL QB while carrying a clipboard.
I assure you, this will happen. It happened this past year when the Sabres drafted Mikhail Grigorenko. I saw people saying he should be on the first line and that he can’t learn anymore in the QMJHL. I saw some talk about how Hecht was standing in the way of greatness.It was all BS. Just some people couldn’t admit that maybe he wasn’t ready for the NHL.
Unlike Darcy/Lindy who pretty much made it out that #25 was going to contribute right away, the Bills seem to be going the route that EJ Manuel is a project. Buddy Nix pretty much said so when talking about how other guys (Nassib and Barkley) were more polished now, but Manuel had the bigger payoff down the road. I think this was the main reason why they signed Jackson and Kolb (and those signings are why I had them picking him in my mock draft). They don’t want to hurry this guy.
Now, I haven’t watched too many FSU games this season, but from talking to those who have, including FSU bloggers, he doesn’t seem like someone who can start from day 1. The offense at FSU was pretty much a zone-read where EJ made one read and either passed the ball or ran. The Bills aren’t running anything close to a zone-read as they are running their variation of the West Coast Offense which relies on reading defenses quickly and going vertical or horizontal in the passing lanes. This offense won’t translate to FSU’s system. This could be a Tim Tebow or Steve McNair situation. Both guys needed to sit when they got to the NFL because they came from gimmick offenses.
McNair played in a shotgun offense at Alcorn State which was a variation of the spread, but in 1994, the NFL didn’t do things like that. McNair only started 6 games during his first two years, mostly at the end of the season in meaningless games. The Oilers/Titans were scrutinized for being so slow with him, but it ultimately paid off.
I did a piece a few years ago about 1st round picks and if playing right away helped or hurt them.
From 1990-1994: 10 QBs were taken in the 1st round. Nine were busts and 3 of them started from day one. Drew Bledsoe was the only breakout player from that group. Nine of them started at least one game during their rookie year. Andre Ware was the only guy who didn’t start his rookie year.
From 1995-1999: Ten QBs were picked and six of them were busts (with Daunte Culpeper being possibly 7). Nine of the 10 QBs started at least one game during their rookie season. Only two QBs started on opening day (Manning and Leaf).
From 2000-2004: 12 QBs were selected. 7 of them were busts. 2 of the 3 QBs (Palmer and Rivers) didn’t start one game during their rookie seasons but went on to have decent careers. Five of the QBs chosen were starting within the first month of the season, but four of them ended up as busts (Carr, Harrington, Boller, Leftwich). Two of the four QBs who started less than 7 games during their rookie seasons went on to have stellar NFL careers (Vick and Eli Manning).
From 2005-2010: 15 QBs were taken. 8 of them were busts (although Sam Bradford is close). Seven of the QBs started from day 1, with three of them being busts (Alex Smith, Mark Sanchez and Vince Young). Only 2 of the QBs (Jason Campbell and Aaron Rodgers) didn’t start a game during their rookie year. Of the 15 QBs, 10 of them started more than six games during their rookie years.
From 2011-2012: 8 QBs were selected in the 1st round, with just Blaine Gabbert looking the worse of the 8. Of the 8 picks, only Jake Locker didn’t start any games during the season. However, the other draft picks started at least 10 games with 6 of them starting opening day.
Obviously, the trend is that more rookie QBs start from day 1 now than during the 90s or even during the early part of the 2000s. This is probably mostly due to pressure from fans and upper management to start these guys right away. It could also be that some of these guys were ready. And that’s the point in all of this: you have to look at the individual and not the trends. Each player is different. The situations and offense they’re coming from have to be considered in the equation of when they should start.
The Bills will obviously do the whole “All positions are up for grabs” bit, but we have to put into perspective what they are doing and try to be patient. You don’t wanna jeopardize the guy, especially as a rookie coming into a completely new offense.
In other words, you have to put your confidence in Buddy Nix and Doug Marrone when it comes to knowing the time to unleash EJ3. Don’t do it out of desperation or to serve the draft gods. Do it when he is actually ready. Yes, I know we are months away from training camp and Manuel could win the job outright. I may even be throwing cold water on him starting right away too quickly, but I’m just putting it out there that patience may be the best virtue here.
I know that stance may suck because Bills fans have waited so long, but you have to think of the future. The Bills aren’t going anywhere this year. Why rush EJ if he’s not ready? Let him pay his dues and learn under Kolb/Jackson and get his reps in practice. The Bills may have found their franchise guy after this weekend’s draft, but we may not know what he brings to the table until after next year’s draft.
I can handle it..can you?