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Posted: Monday, 07 October 2013 3:23PM

Bills' Marrone thoroughly explains QB decisions



Orchard Park, NY (WGR 550)  -- On the surface, calling up a player from the practice squad and then announcing them as the team's starter doesn't exactly breed a lot of confidence for one's fan base.

Knowing and understanding that line of thinking, Buffalo Bills head coach Doug Marrone went back to the beginning and explained every single decision that has been made with the team's quarterbacks since he got on the job in January.

For the sake of time spent reading and to not re-document already well-documented subjects, we'll start with Marrone's decision making from the time of Kevin Kolb's knee injury during training camp.

According to the coach, from the onset of that injury and rookie quarterback EJ Manuel getting more reps during practices, the first-round picks was starting to develop faster than anyone had expected him to in his first NFL summer.

It also forced the Bills to play their only other quarterback, undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel, more than they had expected to during the preseason. Once Manuel suffered his initial knee injury during an exhibition game and Kolb was ruled out for the remainder of the season with a concussion, Marrone believes Tuel forced their hand.

"The way he played in the preseason, and you look at his numbers, really outside of EJ, probably played as well as any young quarterback in the league," he said of Tuel, who completed 72.1-percent of his passes for 299 yards and two touchdowns in three contests. "What we didn't want to have happen was someone to go ahead and take a young, developing quarterback from under us."

That, and Tuel's position as the only healthy quarterback that had more than a week with the Bills, led to an individual playoff between veterans Thad Lewis and Matt Leinart. Leinart started the game, threw two interceptions, and was benched before his portion of the game even finished in favor of Lewis.

Lewis still had practice squad eligibility remaining and the Bills made the move to sneak him -- and not their developmental undrafted rookie -- to their practice squad.

"In a perfect world, it would have been EJ, a veteran and Jeff Tuel was a perfect practice squad candidate, until he started so well in the preseason that, in our opinion right, wrong or different we thought we needed to protect him," Marrone said.

Fast forward five weeks to this past weekend, and Buffalo was faced with another decision that had three options. Facing an extended EJ Manuel absence, they could either start Tuel, a free agent player that had yet to pick up the team's playbook, or they could elevate Lewis off the practice squad and start him.

They chose option three, and it's a scenario that isn't foreign to Lewis. Just last season he was Cleveland's practice squad quarterback until the Browns suffered injuries to both Brandon Weeden and Colt McCoy in the same week. That forced the franchise to not only elevate Lewis, but start him as well.

He played the following weekend against the Pittsburgh Steelers, a 24-10 loss on the road in the final week of the season.

"He's shown, and granted it's one game, a 66-percent completion, one touchdown, one interception -- so he's been in there," Marrone said. "He can run, he can extend plays, he can run the read-option, he can throw the ball extremely well."

The 'system' is a hot topic and a buzz word amongst NFL coaches and media alike. So just how comfortable is Lewis in the Bills' version of offense?

"He knows everything. He's bright as hell. So now it's a point of making sure that we give him a plan that he can be successful with," the coach said.

"I have a great sense of the game plan, a great grasp of it," Lewis added. "Every week you just don't sit there on practice squad and don't prepare as if you were the starter, because that's you're job. That's what you're supposed to do."

Acquired from Detroit this preseason in a trade for linebacker Chris White, Buffalo is Lewis' fourth team in four seasons. Why hasn't he been able to stick?

"I can't call it. Different situations, different scenarios," he remarked. "But I'm still here today, so I'm hanging around. I'm happy to have a job, to be honest."

There are no guarantees for Lewis that the upcoming contest against Cincinnati is the first of however many Manuel cannot play due to injury. Based on how much he's bounced around, he's not looking past only his second career start against the Bengals on Sunday.

"Not at all. I don't know what's going to happen in the next five minutes from now. You just take it one day at a time and prepare, and just get ready for whatever," Lewis replied. "I'm just confident. No anxiety. I mean it's football, something I've been doing since I was five years old."

Lewis and the Bills take on the Bengals Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

All photos courtesy of AP
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