On Monday, first-year Buffalo Bills Head Coach Doug Marrone – who comes to Orchard Park by way of Syracuse University – announced that if rookie EJ Manuel is not available for Week 1, the Bills will give the ball to Jeff Tuel. I know what you’re thinking; who is Jeff Tuel? This is the right question to ask.
But first, let’s take a step back and look at some of the better quarterbacks in Bills history:
|Years||Games||W-L as Starting QB||Comp %||Yards||TD/INT|
The Bills have not been without their share of talented Quarterbacks over the years, and it’s important to point out that Kelly led the Bills to four consecutive Superbowls, Flutie a superstar in the CFL, and Bledsoe a Superbowl champion as well as multiple time Pro Bowler and All-Pro in his career. Since Bledsoe left the Bills, however, they’ve had five quarterbacks with at least 50 attempts each, combining for a QB W-L of 47-78, and failing to finish at .500 or better since Bledsoe departed. Thanks to the media, this league has become centered around Quarterbacks, and while a team doesn’t need a star quarterback to win a championship, having a quality quarterback who doesn’t lose you games is important. The Bills seemed to be finally realizing this, as they drafted EJ Manuel with the 16th overall pick in the First Round of this year’s draft. Problem is, this last draft wasn’t exactly loaded with talented QBs, and Manuel was the best they could come up with. So the bills also added Kevin Kolb, signing the former Eagle and Cardinal to a two-year, $13 million deal. Again, neither guy a star, but with CJ Spiller at RB and a defense that seems to have improved the last couple years, Kolb/Manuel seemed to be okay.
This is when the setbacks come in. On August 17, Manuel had surgery for a knee injury, and it was reported he’d be out 2-4 weeks. Then this past Saturday, Kolb left the Bills preseason game with concussion-like symptoms and it is now feared that his concussion may be career ending. In response, the Bills pushed the panic button. You can’t blame them, but I doubt too many Bills fans were jumping up and down at the news of adding Matt Leinart and Thaddeus Lewis. These aren’t exactly prime additions, as Leinart has thrown only 13 passes since 2009 and Lewis went undrafted out of Duke, certainly not a football power. The Bills expect Manuel to be ready before they get too deep into the season, but for week 1, he won’t be ready.
Which brings us to Jeff Tuel. Tuel is not the first quarterback from Washington State University to start in the NFL. He joins a legacy that includes Jack Thompson, the aforementioned Bledsoe, Mark Rypien, but no one of real professional significance since Ryan Leaf. While at WSU, Tuel wasn’t exactly phenomenal either, battling injuries his Freshman and Junior seasons, and throwing eight TDs and eight INTs this past season, his senior year.
Bills fans, I’m sure, are hoping and praying that EJ Manuel recovers quickly and can still be there quarterback of the future, leading them not only back to the level of success they saw in the early ’90s, but maybe one day even to a championship ring. But for now, they’re stuck with a 6’3″ 221 lb man out of Fresno, CA who didn’t once play in a college bowl game.
As a big Baltimore Ravens fan, and Joe Flacco as well, the Jeff Tuel situation reminds me an awful lot of the situation Joe Flacco found himself him after he was drafted by the Ravens 18th overall in the 2008 Draft.
When Flacco showed up to training camp he was the 4th quarterback on the Ravens depth chart behind Steve McNair, Troy Smith and Kyle Boller. When Troy Smith was struck with a mysterious illness, Kyle Boller was injured in pre-season and Steve McNair’s abrupt retirement, the starting job fell into Joe Flacco’s hands and he took it and ran with it. Flacco went on to lead the Ravens to the AFC Championship Game in his 1st 2 seasons and another 2 the last 2 years and ultimately led the Ravens to their 2nd Super Bowl title last season when he won Super Bowl MVP as they defeated the 49ers. I’m sure if you told that story to Bills fans they would love to see that happen with Tuel. The Bills, like the Ravens in 2008, have struggled to find a consistent quarterback and at this point are rooting for anyone who starts to catch fire and become the franchise quarterback they long for.
Only time will tell how much success Jeff Tuel will have in Buffalo, and if he even will be the starter come week 2. But for now, Bills fans can hope that Jeff Tuel becomes for them what Joe Flacco became for the Ravens.