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Bills should make it Manuel's job to lose

Doug Marrone wants to have a competition for the job of starting quarterback.  I completely understand that but I totally disagree with it. It should be EJ Manuel's job to lose.
Marrone's main mission  through the off season OTA's and at training camp as well, should be giving Manuel a steady diet of reps to see if he can handle the number one spot.  Manuel was drafted to be the franchise quarterback the Bills have been searching for since Jim Kelly retired following the 1996 season.  Therefore, Marrone and his Offensive Coordinator, Nathaniel Hackett, should devote most of their energy and effort to developing the Florida State product.
I'm excited at the prospect of watching Manuel this summer, both at practice and in pre-season games.  I've looked on with envy as numerous teams have entrusted rookies to their starting quarterback job in recent years and have watched them flourish while we sit and wonder when the Bills turn will come.  I have absolutely no desire to watch Kevin Kolb or Tarvaris Jackson run this offense as a stop gap QB.  
Marrone's main mission should be to accurately judge Manuel's talents and decide whether or not he can be ready by opening day.  Splitting reps with Kolb and jackson won't help that process.  Manuel needs as much time on the field and as many snaps as he can possibly get, with the starters and not the second or third string.  
One of Manuel's strengths is said to be his football smarts.  Manuel reportedly wowed teams during interviews at the combine with his knowledge of the game.  During the Senior Bowl, Manuel earned rave reviews for how quickly he picked up the offense being taught to the South squad by the Detroit Lions coaching staff.  
The Bills certainly have a strong running game to help out a rookie quarterback and my guess is this coaching staff will put the ball in the hands of CJ Spiller more often than the previous staff did.  As far as the passing game, Manuel has Stevie Johnson who has proven he can get open against the top corners in the NFL.  After Johnson however, the receiving corps is loaded with questions.  Can TJ Graham take a big step up in year two? Can Robert Woods make an impact as a rookie?  Can Marquise Goodwin's lightning fast speed create problems for opposing defenses? Will Scott Chandler be back healthy and ready to go?  
Manuel's chances to start from day one might also improve based on the work of the defense this summer.  If new coordinator Mike Pettine can transform what was an historically bad group the last two years into at least an average unit, that could help cover up for some rookie mistakes.  
As I said, I would give the majority of the reps to Manuel which Marrone doesn't appear to be ready to do.  At the very least, I would cut the competition down to two by training camp.  Marrone can use all of the workouts prior to St. John Fisher to basically choose between Kolb and Jackson and the winner can go head to head with Manuel at camp.  Its kind of like the primary before a general election.  
Perhaps the Bills QB competition will play out as Seattle’s did last summer.  Following the Seahawks three day rookie minicamp last spring, Pete Carroll announced there would be a three way competition at training camp among incumbent Tarvaris Jackson, free agent pickup Matt Flynn and third round draft choice Russell Wilson.
When camp opened, the three QB’s took turns handling the number one job with Jackson getting it on day one, Flynn and day two and Wilson on day three.  The reps at practice were split almost in thirds.

The turning point came in the third pre-season game when it was Flynn’s turn to start.  But an elbow injury prevented him from playing so Wilson stepped in and led six consecutive scoring drives.  The competition had ended.  The rookie was named the starter that weekend. 
According to Clare Farnsworth of Seahawks.com, the team kept “training wheels” on the offense early in the regular season but the more they let Wilson do, the more he did, and did well.  You know where the story went from there.
It used to be when you drafted a quarterback, you’d wait several years before he was ready to take over the starting job.  That is no longer the case in the NFL.
If you look at the projected starting QB’s for the other 31 teams in the league, you will find 13 of those 31 started from day one of their rookie season.  In no particular order they are: Mark Sanchez, Ryan Tannehill, Andy Dalton, Joe Flacco, Brandon Weedon, Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, Mathew Stafford, Sam Bradford and Russell Wilson.
Seven led their team into the playoffs as a rookie starter while six did not.  None of those 13 teams made the playoffs the season prior to drafting their quarterback of the future.  The 1998 Indianapolis Colts with Peyton Manning, are the only team that did not improve its win total from the previous season.
Sanchez, Dalton, Flacco, Luck, Griffin, Ryan and Wilson are the seven who made the playoffs in their first season and they combined for a 35 win improvement from their teams previous season.  Tannehill, Weedon, Newton, Stafford and Bradford all led their teams to at least a one game improvement from the year before while not qualifying for the post season. If you combine the records of the 13 quarterbacks, it comes to 101-98.
If you look at all of their statistics from their rookie seasons, you will find six of the quarterbacks completing 60% or more of their passes while the other seven had a completion rate between 50 and 59%. The group averaged more than 33 hundred yards passing with 17 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. 
There are seven other quarterbacks who took over the starting job for their club at some point during their rookie year.  That group wasn’t nearly as successful as the rookies who started from day one.  Only one of the seven signal callers led their team to the playoffs(Ben Roethlisberger) while the other six missed out(Alex Smith, Blaine Gabbert, Eli Manning, Josh Freeman, Jay Cutler and Christian Ponder). Roethlisberger went 13-0 as a starter in his rookie year while the rest of that group combined to go just 14-37.
20 of the 31 projected starting quarterbacks for the 2013 season, started at some point as a rookie.  Of the remaining 11, six took over in year two,(Brady, Locker, Vick, Palmer, Kapernick and Brees) one in year three(Rivers) and the remaining three didn’t start until their fourth season(Romo, Rodgers and Schaub).  If Matt Flynn wins the job in Oakland, he would finally be the number one guy in his 6th season in the NFL.

Name compl. % pass yds TD/INT W-L
Mark Sanchez 53% 2444 12/20 9-6
Ryan Tannehill 58% 3294 12/13 7-9
Andy Dalton 58% 3398 20/13 9-7
Joe Flacco 60% 2971 14/12 11-5
Brandon Weedon 57% 3385 14/17 5-10
Peyton Manning 56% 3739 26/28 3-13
Andrew Luck 54% 4374 23/18 11-5
Robert Griffin III 65% 3200 20/5 9-6
Matt Ryan 61% 3440 16/11 11-5
Cam Newton 60% 4051 19/12 6-10
Mathew Stafford 53% 2267 13/20 2-8
Sam Bradford 60% 3512 18/15 7-9
Russell Wilson 64% 3118 26/10 11-5

I'll admit that some of my feelings about making the job Manuel's to lose are based on impatience.
Its been 25 years since Jim Kelly and company kicked off the greatest stretch of football (in terms of winning percentage) in the history of the Buffalo Bills.  In a six year period from 1988 through 1993, the Bills won 72% of their games (70-26). To put that in perspective, in their current 13 year playoff drought, the Bills have a total of 82 wins. The Bills made the playoffs in all six seasons, winning the AFC East division each year. The Bills have had just 13 double digit victory seasons in their 53 year franchise history and five of those 13 came in that stretch from 1988-1993. 

Its time to begin the process of determining whether or not EJ Manuel can put an end to the "great quarterback drought" and that process should start with the job being Manuel's to lose this summer. 




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