This just in: I'm not a training camp guy. Pro football in America, already analyzed to death, gets the micro-micro-treatment every August when we dissect decisions within plays within series within possessions within drills within practices.
ESPN has spent time this summer on how good Tom Brady looks at camp. Exactly how does this qualify as a news story? Tom Brady looks good in practice because he is good, so why shouldn't he look it? I maintain that if Brady looked bad in practice -- something given his track record that actually might qualify as news -- that ESPN wouldn't mention it, instead sweeping it away, perhaps rightly, as inconsequential. So now how by that logic does his looking good make the cut?
I could go on but that's not what I sat down to write.
Rather, I want to say that I don't have anything about how Doug Marrone has conducted his first training camp as Bills coach that registers to me as a mistake.
Not one thing.
It started a little funny with Mario Williams' unexpected foot ailment and Marrone's sloppy effort to explain that he wasn't clued in. To Marrone's credit, he figured out quickly -- either on his own or with help -- that this tack wouldn't take him to a good place. So he capitulated, apologized for his difficult manner of taking those Mario questions, and moved forward.
I was skeptical from the beginning of how earnest an effort Marrone and the Bills would make to host a competition between E.J. Manuel and Kevin Kolb. But through two preseason games I accept it as honest. Manuel seemed to be outperforming Kolb and earned the start in Game 1. (Kolb, of course, was hurt for that game anyway.) Then once Kolb got back on his feet for Game 2, he started, keeping appearances that the competition was ongoing.
Every move made here has made sense.
Further, for his meandering style of "coach-speak" Marrone occasionally has been abruptly direct and almost paternal in his comments. I'm thinking of his response to Nate Hackett's remark about the Bills using C.J. Spiller "until he throws up", and the way he's addressed worrisome position battles at cornerback and left guard.
At this point, with it still so early, I don't expect Marrone to be profound. I don't know how deep he is. But while he mostly sounds like a coach, which he is and for which he can't be faulted, to his credit he has sprinkled in a few forthright remarks.
So far, so good.
I like how much Manuel has played in these two games. Prior coaches have prioritized conventional thinking, assigning playing time to veterans as if coaches were mandated to do so by an NFL Coaching Manual, and Bills teams have gone into real games looking ill-prepared. When Manuel played a full half in Indianapolis, I was taken aback and delighted. Plus, his best moments came after many coaches would have pulled him. This gave him more of a chance for success, and that could help take him far.
I want to think this Bills team will be pretty good. They have 8-10 players that impress as talented and strong, and in the NFL that's not a bad number. The new coaches seem to believe what they're preaching, to have conviction. I like that a lot. And smart people who know well the technical aspects of the sport speak highly of, in particular, Marrone and Hackett.
Most observers don't see the Bills as being a good team.
But we know that to be another good sign, don't we?