E.J. Manuel Should Start for the Buffalo Bills


Sep 28, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback EJ Manuel (3) during the game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Given the Buffalo Bills short term prospects, there is really only one choice at the quarterback position right now. As EJ Manuel enters his third year in the league, he should be given every opportunity from the new coaching staff to prove he can start for the Bills on opening week for 2015.

It is widely known that the free agent quarterbacks set to hit the open market on March 10th provide little in the way of excitement and potential. The headlining free agent quarterbacks of Mark Sanchez, Josh McCown, Brian Hoyer, and Jake Locker leave little to be desired. Sanchez seems to be the best “on paper” fit, and a reunion with his former head coach, Rex Ryan, could provide Sanchez another chance at a starting gig in the league. Locker may have the most remaining potential, but the window is closing on him as well. Thanks to Pro Football Focus, let’s take a deeper look at the PFF QB ratings for each of these four quarterbacks during the 2014 season. Ratings take into all account all dropbacks made by each player during the season. Sanchez, McCown, and Hoyer all had over 300 dropbacks apiece, while Locker checked in just fewer than 200, with a total of 177. EJ Manuel had 147 dropbacks in 2014.

2014 PFF QB Rating

Sanchez – 83.43

McCown – 80.07

Hoyer – 77.62

Locker – 75.25

Manuel – 74.63

At first glance, we see that Manuel obviously had the lowest rating of the five. Is a small difference in QB rating between experienced veterans versus a quarterback who has only started 14 career games even a fair comparison? Taking a look back at Manuel’s 2013 campaign, he posted a PFF QB Rating of 77.51 in 10 starts. McCown, Hoyer, and Locker all posted higher QB Ratings than Manuel in 2013 (Sanchez did not record a drop back), but all three saw a ratings drop during their 2014 seasons. While ratings do not tell the entire story, it is difficult for me to say that any of the top free agent quarterbacks possess much more in the way of intangibles than Manuel. All four of these free agents are turnover prone, and have been unable to lock down starting jobs with their respective teams. Are the Bills in that much of a bind at the position that one of these free agents actually upgrades the position for the team? The short answer is probably “yes,” but it doesn’t mean that the veteran should be given the starting job over Manuel right away.

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The decision to bring in a free agent quarterback is a move the Bills will undoubtedly make, but their hope should be that Manuel can prove himself during camp, and ultimately win the job. If nothing else, a veteran presence could help with EJ’s development. Without a first round pick in the upcoming draft, the path seems clear for EJ to get another crack at starting for this team. Many Bills fans are probably wondering if one of the free agent quarterbacks can perform at a similar level to how the now retired Kyle Orton did this past season. For me personally, I would rather take a chance on a young quarterback who hasn’t even started a full regular season’s worth of games yet in his career. Under a new coaching staff, and with a solid camp, EJ should be given that opportunity.