As stated last week, I believe Thad Lewis remains the better quarterback option for Buffalo. The Bills’ finale is at Gillette Stadium, a place where the Bills have yet to win a game. If the Bills want to win, they need a healthy option at quarterback. Right now, that’s Lewis. Manuel lobbied for the start, which is what you want to see, but Marrone felt he wasn’t ready to go.
“I mean you have a player, he’s telling me he’s ready to go, whatever we have to do it’s going to get better. That’s why I think it’s difficult to say from the field, you see the little things, like the lateral stability not being where I’d like it to be. That’s what it came down to. The ability to vertically move is there, it’s the lateral stability. He has an LCL (sprain) and we feel our quarterback is going to have to move laterally at some point during this game.”
I appreciate Marrone looking out for Manuel, but hopefully this teaches our coach a lesson. He took ‘Belly Speak’ to a new level this week by sending out mixed signals about who would be starting at quarterback against the Patriots*.
On December 18th, Marrone said he was “110% confident” that EJ Manuel will be starting the game against the Patriots*. By Monday, Marrone’s stance changed to “wait and see.” Tuesday gave us a brief statement that EJ managed to “get through practice” and Wednesday was an off-day.
When Thursday rolled around and EJ had another day of “practice”, Marrone put out some classic Belly-Boy schtick at his presser. “Well now, you know there a lot of factors that go into this decision,” blah, blah, blah. Then that was followed up with “we want to be sure we have the person in the game that gives us the best chance to win the game.” My translation: Thad Lewis will get the start.
Why? Not a thing has changed in the last week, except maybe EJ’s knee is another week along in the healing process. Does he desperately need the experience? No doubt.
What trumps what here? If Lewis is more game ready, as I believe he is at this point, why NOT go with the hot hand? Though he didn’t light up the world against Miami, his passes were a thing of beauty and he won another divisional game for the Bills.
Thad Lewis also showed better ability in going through his progressions in a more precise and efficient manner than EJ does AT THIS POINT. I emphasize that for the people who think I don’t believe in EJ. That would be an incorrect assumption.
I do think EJ is capable of being the franchise QB we hope he will become, but as I stated in my last blog entry, Manuel was a project that the coaching staff was probably hoping to sit behind Kolb this year and learn.
Fans who are already calling EJ a “bust” are dead wrong from this old fan’s viewpoint. His rookie year is not nearly as bad as some are making it out to be. Every rookie goes through struggles, so Bills fans should be careful not to destroy EJ’s budding self-confidence. Calling him out as a bust at this point is an egregious mistake, and does nothing but put more pressure on him. He’s already put too much pressure on himself this season, in my opinion anyway.
Just look at former first-round pick JP Losman. There’s a chance that Losman may have developed into a better quarterback if he had a stronger offensive line. It didn’t help him to be barraged by fans that expected him to be Pro Bowl material by his second year. I often wonder if the proper care and nurturing would have helped JP become a solid NFL quarterback.
This is also why I believe that the Bills would be better off letting Thad have this last shot this season against the Patriots*. The team as a whole played inspired football behind Lewis last week. Let’s see if they can do it again against the Patriots.
Thad also made a couple of impressive audibles at the line of scrimmage against the Dolphins last week. You can tell at this point in his development, the game has slowed down more for Thad than EJ. Manuel may need a full off-season of work at One Bills Drive, both rehabbing his knees and becoming more comfortable in his role as a leader and effective quarterback.
Next season, Manuel needs to come to training camp ready to roll. I do agree with Marrone about the difficulty of finishing college, getting ready for the combine, the draft, the OTAs, training camp, and then playing a grueling long 16 week season. It takes a toll on first-year players. Simply put, it’s not easy to transition from college to the pros.
With Manuel out, Lewis gets the opportunity to make a statement for the Bills and himself. If Lewis defeats the Patriots* it would solidify this young man as a premium backup quarterback. A win over the Patriots may actually make people consider Lewis as a quarterback 1A option of sorts.
Sunday’s game will give us all a curious glimpse into the future. Are the Bills going to get rolled by Tom Brady & Co. yet again? Will there be yet another last second heart breaker when the game slips away from the Bills? Will the Bills show up to play, or will their minds be halfway to whatever destination they have awaiting them after their exit interview is over? There are plenty of questions about the Bills, and we’ll get our answers by Sunday evening.
The Bills managed to create a nightmare for the Dollies in complicating their chances at a postseason. Now it’s time to throw a wrench into the Patriots’ bye. Marrone was right when he stated in a presser this week that there are countless reasons why the Bills desperately need to win this game against the Patriots*.
What would a victory by the Bills over the Patriots* mean? A lot. It’d give the players, coaching staff and front office optimism in the off-season.
A win over the Patriots may be even more important for the fan base. Finishing the season on a three game win streak, two against divisional opponents, and ending up with a winning record in the division would do a great deal to restore the faith of the fan base that this team is finally going in the right direction.
No one would have believed it seventeen weeks ago, but Buffalo’s best chance of defeating the Patriots is with Thad Lewis.