Every year when the Hall Of Fame Game comes around a certain type of fan gets very excited and declares that football is back. I get that and even feel it to a certain extent. It only gets me so far though before I remember that it really isn't back. NFL football returns in September when the best players play and there is no more talk of vanilla schemes and battles for the 53rd spot on the roster. Mind you, I'm not telling you not enjoy that stuff. If you're into trying to pick out which guys have a shot to rise up and surprise by making the roster, that's cool. I tend to get overwhelmed by something else that has become a sad annual tradition.
Arguing about how much the performance of the quarterback matters in these games. Heck, there is even a burgeoning disagreement out there about how E.J. Manuel looks in practice and whether or not that matters at all. It's so familiar and depressing. The Bills have had a question mark at quarterback for 10 seasons now and new coaches, coordinators and schemes regularly enough that there is always something to be unsettled about.
As we watched Andre Reed get inducted into the Pro Football Hall Of Fame Saturday night, reminiscing was tough to avoid. Watching old highlights and thinking about those great Bills teams is fun and can be quite emotional. Man, what I wouldn't give to really know I don't need to care how the offense looks in August. The comfort an established quarterback gives fans is enormous.
We have so little to go on with Manuel that some are hanging on every throw, practice or fake game, and trying to find a place where we can feel good about the position. I know it's a trap because how he plays in September is all that matters and what I'm seeing now may mean nothing in the way of indicating how that will go. Coaches will tell you about no game plans and fans will remind one another about uneven competition due to starters playing against back ups and on and on it goes.
Yeah but Jeff Tuel just looks like he has more command.
Shoot me. It really is something, the way the conversation develops around the quarterback. The narrative tends to skew towards the negative mostly because that's what we're used to. The longer we go without seeing Manuel look the part the more comfortable we get talking like he never will. The thing about that is he hasn't played a real game since last season. His last game, a win in Jacksonville, is overshadowed by the fact that he ended up hurt for a 3rd time and missed the final 2 games. As the offseason wore on it felt like many of us ended up dwelling on the bad games or moments Manuel had and not any of the good ones.
So here we are, beginning another season of hoping, at long last, the quarterback of the Bills delivers us from 6-10 and into a playoff race. We'll try to use whatever clues practice and pre season games offer us. When he looks good, we'll allow that little voice in the back of our heads to say maybe. When he looks bad, we'll hope that using practice and fake games as a way to determine how good he might be really is utterly pointless.
You feel tangled up in knots yet?
September is the time to start drawing those conclusions.
I don't know man, that Dixon kid has a pretty good arm.