Last year, it took Doug Marrone four games to realize that EJ Manuel was not a quality NFL starter. There was some backlash at Buffalo's former head coach but behind Kyle Orton and a stout defense, the Buffalo Bills finished with a winning record for the first time since 2004. Shortly after the end of the season, Orton retired. Two days later, on New Year's Eve, Marrone opted out of his deal and took $4 million in guaranteed money with him. Marrone probably felt as though he could land a head coaching job elsewhere, but it gave a strong impression that Marrone did not want to coach a team with Manuel as his quarterback. Marrone was wrong about landing elsewhere as a head coach, but he was 100 percent correct about Manuel.
After Sunday's loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, it's painfully apparent that Manuel is not a starting caliber NFL quarterback. There are no excuses left for Manuel. Injuries are a part of the game and yes, that pass interference call on Nickell Robey late in the game was atrocious, but if the Bills had average quarterback play on Sunday, the game would never have been in question.
Manuel was solely responsible for 20 of Jacksonville's 34 points. The quarterback was hit hard by Aaron Colvin after falling behind 7-3 and he coughed up the ball. Chris Clemons picked up the ball on the play to push Jacksonville's lead to 14-3.
On his next play, he made a throw that no NFL quarterback should make. Manuel tried to connect with Robert Woods but somehow missed the fact that Telvin Smith was reading the play the entire time. Not seeing Smith simply proves that Manuel doesn't have the vision to be a quality NFL quarterback. It was the easiest interception that Smith will probably ever make and it resulted in another Jaguars touchdown.
It didn't take long for Manuel to complete the trifecta. Four plays later, Manuel was intercepted by former Bills linebacker Paul Posluszny on another poor decision. T.J. Yeldon and the Jaguars took advantage of the short field and extended their lead to 27-3. Manuel's inability to read defenses put the Bills in a deep hole. Somewhere, GM Doug Whaley was preparing a statement about how he still thought trading Matt Cassel was a good idea.
It would have been easy for the Bills to call it a day but they did show fight after falling behind 24 points and Manuel made some really good throws along the way. His touchdown pass to Robert Woods was absolutely perfect, yet frustrating at the same time. How is it that he can occasionally throw such a perfect pass, yet he short hops a 5-7 yard throw?
Later, he connected deep with Marcus Easley. A great throw? Absolutely. Yet, there were passes to LeSean McCoy in the flat that he couldn't complete. The consistency simple isn't there with Manuel. For every great pass, there are multiple short hops, high passes or dangerous throws that put his receivers at risk of being hurt. His timing on throws is also among the worst in the league. Manuel cannot anticipate where his receivers will be and this leads to him holding the ball too long. This usually results in a sack or a late and dangerous throw.
Sunday may have been Manuel's last chance to prove that he could start in the NFL and he failed miserably. Doug Marrone may not ever get another NFL head coaching job, but he also knew that Manuel would probably lead to his eventual downfall in Buffalo. It's hard to argue with Marrone's decision to opt out after seeing Manuel on the field on Sunday.