DECISION TO TAKE REINS FROM MANUEL IS AUTOMATIC
I swear to God that I almost wrote a column last night about how the Buffalo Bills should bench quarterback EJ Manuel. I honestly did. Now, after tthe big news today that the Bills ARE benching EJ Manuel, I can instead write a column about how the Bills are making the right choice. It's basically the same column, only I don't come off looking as smart as I would have if I had written it BEFORE they actually did it.
Seriously though, with apologies to EJ Manuel fans, this is a move that had to be made. It shocks and surprises me that they made it, but I am glad they did. Bills fans who truly want their team to win games now should also be happy with the move.
Why am I surprised that the Bills made the move to Kyle Orton? Because no NFL coaching staff, scouting department, GM and directot of player personnel like to admit that they were completely wrong. Benching Manuel and naming a career backup like Kyle Orton as your new full time starter is as much of an admission that the whole staff that made the decision to draft Manuel 16th overall in the 2013 draft, as you will ever see in this league. Turning to Orton after four games is admitting that they all have egg on their faces, and it is time to wipe it off with a towel and move on.
The thing is, I don't think you would see the move being made if not for the upcoming ownership change in mid October. Bills fans should consider themselves lucky for that being the case.
The fact that Manuel is not the Bills "QB of the future" should be obvious by now. As much so as it should have been obvious that Ryan Fitzpatrick is nothing more than a backup quarterback. The Bills got that one wrong when they signed Fitzy to an overpriced contract extension, and immediately Fitzpatrick went 1-8 the remainder of that season, and was gone two years later. This time, the Bills got it right.
EJ Manuel is Christian Ponder. He is a guy who the Bills reached for based on potential. After one and a quarter seasons, it was obvious that potential was something Manuel was never going to achieve. This is a young quarterback that looked better in his first month of his career than he has looked in the first month of his second season. That is NOT supposed to happen! A quarterback is suppoed to have learned something from his rookie season, which was shaky in itself.
It was obvious that EJ Manuel had not learned at all. He was making the same mistakes now that he was making last year. He was inaccurate last year, and is just as inaccurate or worse this year. He also never runs anymore. The Bills billed themselves as a "read-option" offense with Manuel, but since Manuel never kept the ball on those read-option plays, teams had lost respect for his ability to carry the ball, thus negating the efficiency of those plays.
The Texans game was a perfect example. This was a winnable game, if not for Manuel and the coaching staff. Manuel threw for 225 yards on 21 completions. He attempted 44 passes. If you take away the 80 yard touchdown pass to Mike Williams, which was a fluke exception, that means that Manuel averaged 6.9 yards per completion, but more alarming, only 3.3 yards per attempt! That is incredibly pathetic for an NFL quarterback. That means that even the worst starting running back in the NFL averages more yards per carry than Manuel averages every time he drops back to pass. And that has been consistent with EJ. He had taken the name "Captain Checkdown" from Trent Edwards.
A change had to be made. Manuel has shown no signs of improvement and doesn't show any signs that the chances are good that he ever will. The main question now though is: Is Kyle Orton the right guy to turn to?
Orton is a career backup. Orton is a guy who was, for all intents and purposes, retired. The Bills had to coax him out of retirement when it finally became obvious to them that they were also wrong about Jeff Tuel.
You know how everyone loves to rip Tim Tebow for being the worst quarterback to ever take snaps in the NFL? How everyone loves to make fun of Tebow? Joke and laugh and say how horrible he is and was as a quarterback in the NFL? Well, Orton is the quarterback whose ineffectiveness got him benched in favor of Tebow in the 2012 season, when Tebow then took the same Broncos team to the AFC semi-finals!
Kyle Orton is no Johnny Unitas. However, he is no EJ Manuel either. At the very least, he is a competent NFL quarterback, who should be able to utilize the offensive weapons the Bills have assembled far better than Manuel was able to.
That is all the Bills need Orton to do. If he can come into the lineup and just make a handful of throws a game. Throws that would fall incomplete with Manuel at QB, then the Bills will win games. For Doug Whaley. For Doug Marrone. For the Bills...the future is NOW!!! And that means Kyle Orton.