I remember sitting in a similar spot after the Bills lost a very winnable game against the Houston Texans in week 4. The Bills should have won that game but poor quarterback play cost them the game. A now signature “pick 6″ by JJ Watt sealed the Bills fate and symbolized the problem of the day: they needed better quarterback play to win games. I pondered the idea for awhile before I wrote an article that stated why I thought the Bills should start Kyle Orton over EJ Manuel. 10 weeks later, I am now faced with the exact opposite conundrum.
When I wrote that Kyle Orton should start over EJ Manuel I outlined many valid reasons as to why the Bills should give the 10 year veteran a shot to see what he could bring to the Bills offense. My many reasons included that his veteran presence would allow for him to get the ball out quicker, make fewer mistakes, and bring more confidence to a position that lacked all of the above. At first Orton was doing what the Bills asked him to do. However, he has since quickly regressed.
Many fans (including myself) cited a reason to bench EJ Manuel was his horrendous yards per attempt (YPA) statistic. When Kyle Orton took over for EJ Manuel that number dramatically increased because Orton was completing more passes down the field. That has since stopped. Yesterday for the better part of 3 full quarters Kyle Orton’s YPA stood at about 5. 5 yards! That is the equivalent of a dump off pass to the line of scrimmage that the running back somehow manages to take for around 5 yards. That, quite simply, is not good enough.
If the chief reason why you benched EJ for Kyle was because he was reluctant to throw the ball down the field, but now Kyle is doing the same thing, shouldn’t Kyle lose his job? At the very least EJ Manuel brings more athleticism to the position and can actually scramble for a first down. Yesterday Kyle Orton slid 2 yards short of a first down and the Bills had to punt the ball away. I don’t think it’s a stretch of the imagination to say that EJ would have easily gotten that first down.
We can sit here and debate who should start for the Bills all day long. But the main reason why Doug Marrone said he made the switch was because he thought that Kyle gave the Bills the best chance to win the game. Well, Kyle Orton is now 2-4 against teams with a winning record, and the Bills are only 1 game over .500 since he took over as starting quarterback. Is it that hard to imagine that EJ Manuel could have achieved the same thing? I think he could have, and I think that as a young player, he very well could have developed into an even better quarterback as the season progressed.
I am not going to sit here and act like I did not call for the change to be made after week 4, because I did. I thought that if the Bills really wanted to make a playoff push and challenge the Patriots for the division than they should give Orton a shot, especially since he was making 5 million a year to hold a clipboard. But after being given 9 games to show what he has, I think that it’s time to give the reigns back to EJ Manuel.
If the Bills are going to make the playoffs this year it is going to be done mostly due to the fact that they have one of the best defenses in the entire NFL. If they don’t make the playoffs than they will be back to the drawing board in trying to figure out who will be the starting quarterback next season. At this stage of the game, the Bills owe it to themselves, their defense, and their fan base, to put the kid in and let him play. After all, how much worse could he do?