Entering this season, E.J. Manuel had a lot of pressure put on him, being a first-round pick and the fact the Bills have been looking for a franchise quarterback since Jim Kelly. The organization is in a 14-year playoff drought and need to win now. This belief was even more apparent when the Bills traded a future first round pick to get star wide receiver Sammy Watkins.
That wasn’t the only move the team made this offseason to help Manuel. They traded for Mike Williams, a big wide receiver to help in the red zone, and drafted three offensive linemen in hopes to give him time in the pocket.
So why pull the plug after only four weeks?
It is because people are fighting for their jobs from front office to the coaching staff. The only strong case these people can make to a new owner to keep their job is wins. Yes, EJ Manuel did not play great over four weeks but the coaching staff did not put him in a position to succeed.
This Buffalo Bills team has followed the blueprint of so many other teams that have made it to the playoffs without a quarterback like Drew Brees, Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. It is actually a rather simple formula built around a strong defense, an offense with a strong running game and a quarterback who can manage the game.
The Baltimore Ravens did it in 2001, winning a Super Bowl with Trent Dilfer at quarterback. The Pittsburgh Steelers did it in 2006, with a young Ben Rothlisberger leading the offense. Most recently, was last year’s Seattle Seahawks team who won with second-year pro Russell Wilson.
So what is the difference from those those three teams and Buffalo? They relied on their running game to move the ball and did not put pressure on the quarterback.
The playcalling the last two weeks for the Bills has put EJ Manuel in a position to fail. Against the Chargers Manuel threw the ball 39 times and followed it up with 44 more passing attempts against the Texans in Week 4.
How many games did the three Super Bowl quarterbacks listed above throw for 39 or more passing attempts in their Super Bowl season? It only happened one time, by Ben Rothlisberger in 2006.
The Bills coaching staff has failed EJ Manuel in their play-calling and unfortunately for him he ended up being the scapegoat. They stunted his development and put too much pressure on him too early.
Is the move to Kyle Orton going to equate to more wins this year? Probably. This offense needs a veteran quarterback and Orton will be the guy to get everyone playing at their full potential.
However this move only fixes the offense this year and if Orton does play well, the team could find themselves with a Ryan Fitzpatrick situation all over again. A veteran quarterback who at most is a two or three year fix but is not a long term solution.
If Doug Marrone and the Bills coaching staff put Manuel in a position to succeed by establishing the running game and not asking him to throw nearly 40 times a game, they probably would not have had to make the switch today.