EJ's Expectations

Somebody asked me yesterday if I was worried about EJ Manuel starting this week for the Buffalo Bills at quarterback. My answer was simple: No.

With Manuel’s preseason, I would not have been that shocked if he won the job from the beginning, anyways. If Rex Ryan would have announced Manuel as the day one starter I would have been surprised like everyone else. But it would’ve only been surprising that he beat out Matt Cassel, in the same way we were somewhat surprised Tyrod Taylor won the job over the veteran. Don’t get me wrong, I have been pleased with Taylor at quarterback thus far, but I don’t think he has done anything drastic to separate himself from Manuel.

Manuel started last year 2-2 and was benched for Kyle Orton. Taylor started this year 2-2 (with way more weapons, even though many were injured) and was praised for being our savior. I know that Taylor has since won another game and did so offensively on his own. This is less a complaint about Taylor’s pedestal then it is about Manuel’s unfairly dug grave.

I guess it just seems to me that there is this near consensus that Manuel is washed up, now to be a career backup. But that’s unfair. He hasn’t had a chance to play since week four of last season. He was supposed to play all of last season. He should have played all of last season. But the positive of him being benched for Orton was that he’d finally have a veteran to sit behind and learn from. And he probably did just that. He got to learn from Cassel, too. But he hasn’t been given a chance to show what he has learned. He’s simply been relegated to handing the ball off when the Bills are blowing out an opponent or Taylor gets yanked to the ground by his collar.

If there is a silver lining it’s that expectations are finally low for Manuel. He’s no longer the first drafted quarterback. He’s not the franchise figure. He’s no longer compared against other first round quarterbacks like Andrew Luck. Now he’s compared against whatever the heck we got in return for Cassel when we jumped in the deep end with Manuel as our backup. He’s not the next fifteen years of Buffalo Bills football. He’s now just a guy everybody is hoping doesn’t screw up too, too bad.

Well, I’m hoping he does really well. And I’m expecting it. I’ve been a Manuel champion since the day we drafted him. I think he has consistently gotten the raw end of the deal. I also think he has the potential to be a really great quarterback. And whether it’s by default or not, it seems he is finally getting the chance he deserves to prove that. Or at least prove to almost everyone except me that he isn’t just a practice dummy for the running backs to receive their handoffs from.

Goodluck, EJ. Prove me right. Actually, no. Prove them wrong.