The Buffalo Bills Quarterback Who Failed to Deliver in Year One

In his first season he won four games. FOUR. We took him in the first round and that’s all he could do? He was the Buffalo Bills quarterback who failed to deliver.

He had a completion percentage under 60 percent. Simply put, it wasn’t good enough. You won’t win many games in this league with a completion percentage like that.

On average, Buffalo’s quarterback completed about 18 passes per game. He should have done better in year one as he had a veteran wide receiver (in what turned out to be his final season in Buffalo) as well as a promising young receiver at his disposal.

In the division, he won one game. How can anyone accept that from their “franchise quarterback?” It was another year where the Buffalo Bills finished behind the likes of the New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins and New York Jets.

Yes, he threw for more touchdowns than interceptions and he had his moments where he looked good but how can he be trusted to lead our franchise? Let’s not forget that he lost to a team like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs were one of the worst teams in the league so what does that say about the Bills?

What if the Bills just pulled the plug on the quarterback and cut their losses?

It would have been one of the biggest mistakes in the history of the franchise.

(Rob Schwane/AP)
This article isn’t about EJ Manuel. (Rob Schwane/AP)

This article on the Buffalo Bills quarterback who failed to deliver in year one isn’t about EJ Manuel, it’s about Jim Kelly.

You know, the best quarterback in the history of the team. The man who led the Bills to a 101-69 record, multiple playoff appearances and four consecutive Super Bowls.The quarterback who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002. The one who is so beloved in Buffalo as shown at the Hall of Fame where he received a double standing ovation.

You get the point.

Everything listed above about Kelly’s rookie season in the NFL is true.

He led the Bills to four victories in 1986. His completion percentage was under sixty percent (it took Kelly five seasons to finally get over that threshold, by the way).

Kelly completed 18 passes per game with the likes of Jerry Butler (the veteran in his final season with the Bills) and a young receiver named Andre Reed on the roster.

In the AFC East, Kelly went 1-7 in his rookie season. He split the season series with the Colts, a team worse than the Bills, and went 0-6 against the likes of the Patriots, Jets and Dolphins.

Kelly’s Bills also lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1986. Tampa Bay finished 2-14 that year and were one of the worst franchises in the NFL.

It’s a good thing that Twitter didn’t exist in 1986. All we would have heard during and following the season is that Kelly wasn’t good enough.

During Manuel’s rookie season, plenty of critics came out to say that he isn’t the guy. They’d be all over Twitter after Manuel played poorly.

They showed their faces again after the Hall of Fame game with the Giants. Who cares that it was the first preseason game of the season and Manuel only played a few series. Some people believe that Manuel’s destiny has been written, but that’s not the case.

I can’t sit here and say that Manuel will have a career like Jim Kelly, but I also cannot say that he won’t.

Much like Kelly, Manuel won four games in his first season. He won the same amount of games with six fewer appearances.

Manuel’s completion percentage was also under 60 percent. Manuel’s 58.8% was pretty comparable to Kelly’s 59.4%.

Manuel completed 180 passes in 10 games. Exactly 18 completions per game on average. Kelly completed 285 passes over 16 games, about 17.8 completions per game. Manuel edged out Kelly in this category with a veteran in his last season on the team, Stevie Johnson, and a promising rookie in Robert Woods.

Manuel also led the Bills to win within the division in his rookie season. He defeated the New York Jets in his second matchup with the team. He also lost to the Jets and the Patriots once. Manuel finished the year 1-2 in the AFC East, which is a lot better than Kelly’s 1-7 record against the AFC East in 1986. And yes, just like Kelly, Manuel lost to the Buccaneers in his rookie season. Tampa Bay was one of the worst teams in the league in 1986 and 2013.

Don’t confuse the premise of this article. I’m not saying Manuel will have a career like Kelly’s, few quarterbacks have been so lucky. Simply put, stop with the overreactions. Manuel’s story as quarterback of the Buffalo Bills is just beginning.


About Ryan Talbot

Ryan Talbot is a life-long Bills fan. He was always Team Flutie, knows that Frank Wycheck's pass was thrown forward and once left a writing position because of Donte Whitner. Ryan has a wonderful wife and two awesome children.

30 Replies to “The Buffalo Bills Quarterback Who Failed to Deliver in Year One”

  1. Fantastic article . Sick of all these stupid people judging a guy off 10 games . Hes a kid . Let him play

  2. Very interesting comparison…who knows what the future holds for EJ? This piece SHOULD give some pause to the incessant nitpickers. Sadly, I don’t believe anything will sate the blood-lust of the nay-sayers but failure. The idiots who constantly bash Manuel’s every move don’t WANT him to succeed, they want to be “right” about him. “Those fans” are sadly common in Buffalo sports.

    • The naysayers could end up being correct, but Manuel certainly deserves the opportunity to prove them all wrong. Thanks for reading.

  3. Ej Manuel has some growing to do, physical progress to make, but the dudes heart is in the right place and he will be fine.

    • He says all the right things and seemed to put in a lot of work this offseason. Thanks for reading.

  4. Pingback: The Buffalo Bills Quarterback Who Failed to Deliver in Year One – My Buffalo Sports

  5. Pingback: The Buffalo Bills Quarterback Who Failed to Deliver in Year One –

  6. I had a big smile on my face when I clicked on your article! I knew exactly who you were talking about. I remember that 4-12 season. One of those wins was against Kelly’s beloved Pittsburg Steelers. This was also Marv Levy’s first win as the new head coach of the Buffalo Bills. I remember Kelly’s interview after the game. He was so excited that he had beat his beloved Pittsburg Steelers. If I remember correctly, Jim’s first three seasons were 4-12, 7-8 (Strike Season–one game was cancelled and three other games were played with non-union players–Jim’s actual record was 6-6 ) and then his first playoff season of 10-6 (beat the Jets at home to win the AFC East Title and bring down the goal posts!). It took Kelly three seasons to get to the playoffs. In this world of instant gratification, there is no understanding of the joy that comes with having patience and faith as you watch someone use determination to make steady progress over time. As teachers, we get that, but the corporate world doesn’t. Now days, success to be instant, overnight. What a shame. Thanks for a great article Ryan. Your keeping Bills fans honest. For the record, I am NOT writing off EJ after one season and then 10 attempts in the first pre-season game of his second season. I choose patience and faith as I anticipate a fantastic season!! Already starting my chants! E-J! E-J! E-J!

  7. How many injuries did Kelly suffer in his first season? Manual had 3…. Preseason game one… sure its one game, but the scrambling QB didn’t look like he wanted to move. I’m not even going to say its all him, who in the front office decided it was a good decision to bring on 2 rookies and 1 guy that has about the same amount of starts? As for Kolb, should’ve just kept him on the sidelines so to not give him any more concussions than he already had so he could help coach the new guys. The front office certainly needs a shake up. As for Manual, I hope I am wrong about his career bombing, despite the fact that he was a mediocre QB even in college, but I am not holding my breath…

    • The injuries are certainly different, but this article was simply to point out that he had some similarities with the best QB in franchise history.

      As for calling Manuel mediocre, he went 25-6 in college and 4-0 in bowl games. I certainly wouldn’t call that mediocre.

  8. I guess I’m an idiot. I don’t like the way his throws look in the air. They’re either lasers or lobs. I want to see a QB that can put the ball where he wants to during a game. Remember all those fades that landed 7 yds out of bounds? All those open receivers not seen? The knee injuries that happened every other time he scrambled that put the likes of Tuel into starting games? This isn’t want you want to see in a franchise QB.

    He might find a way to improve all these things, he might not. I very much want him to succeed. One thing is certain. Manuel didn’t come in with the resume that Kelly had. He has not shown himself to have the mind and arm of an NFL champion. Therefore, he deserves the criticism.

    This article is very good and I don’t want to bash the author. I am however getting really tired of being labeled as stupid, impatient, disloyal, and worse for believing my lying eyes.

    • My intent certainly wasn’t to label people as “stupid, disloyal and worse.” It’s simply to preach patience. All I’m asking is that he gets the 2014 season. Two of Manuel’s best games came in his final stint of the season in terms of completion percentage and YPA.

  9. The only thing that you’re not mentioning, is that Jim had a few years under his belt in the USFL before putting up those numbers with the Bills. He was 26 and putting up those numbers while EJ is 24 and has growing to do. Regardless of all else, I agree with the premise. 10 games does not make a full career, give him a shot to be good.

    • Mentioning the time Jim spent in the USFL was originally in the article, but I decided at the last minute to remove it. It certainly helped Jim become a better QB.

  10. Kelly played in an era when receivers were pounded all over the field. Now you can’t sneeze on a receiver or a QB. Completions are much easier in today’s NFL. Lets never compair EJ to Kelly again.

    • The era was certainly different, but the similarities mentioned are still worth mentioning when comparing EJ and Kelly.

  11. You sure made the most of those similarities, excellent article, thanks! I am so excited to see how EJ develops this season, and Jeff Tuel as well – I see a little Tom Brady – similarities in that guy when it comes to being drafted late / undrafted and how he seems to be extremely determined.

    • Thank you for reading! I’m also excited to see Manuel’s growth this season. Tuel has a terrific NFL skill-set, so it’ll also be interesting to see his development.

  12. You know what other starting QBs failed to deliver in year one with the Bills? Todd Collins … J.P. Losman … Alex Van Pelt … Rob Johnson … oof.

  13. JK signed as a Bill on Aug 18, 1986 following two 2-14 seasons. No training camp. Worst team in the league. Head coach fired 9 games into his rookie year. He made the offense immediately better and more significantly showed he could take and give a punch.

    Maybe someday EJ will earn a comparison to Kelly. IMHO that hasn’t happened yet. Not even close.

    • Steve,

      Kelly also had two grooming years in the USFL between college and the pros that certainly helped with his development. This article isn’t to say that EJ deserves to be compared to Kelly as a player, it’s that they had some similarities in their first NFL season.

  14. EJ might be able to get over 60% now that Stevie Johnson isn’t around to drop the ball on 3rd down (or any critical moment in the game)

  15. Great article! Ej needs to be given time to develop. I BILLeive he will show growth and turn into a very solid starter someday. And while it’s cool to show this comparison to another bills great, to appreciate patience. I also recognise those stats look similar to many more qbs that have failed in the league, than HOFers. So yes I’m all for patience and letting him develop, but I’m not gunna rest my head at night just bc there have been others who started slow and came on strong.

    If it were any other franchise I believe the fans would give him time. But this franchise? With this roster? These fans have been waiting soo long to be relevant again,and to be great! So I hope he gets it together soon bc with a new owner looming around the corner I feel we could give up on him pretty quickly given these circumstances :/

  16. I loved this article. But unfortunately, our fans are ready to lynch anyone who doesn’t help us right away. I didn’t realize you were talking about Kelly at first and thought you were going to go on and on about how bad EJ was. I like how you did that in the beginning of the article. I just want EJ to get a fair shake at being our starter before I make my conclusion on whether or not he should be our starter. He’s built to be a tough QB. I’m sure he learned his lesson last season with trying to get extra yards. This is our time #billsfam.