"Patience is a virtue, Marrone: Decision to bench Bills QB EJ Manuel is hasty and ill-advised"
Apparently Bills head coach Doug Marrone has forgotten there are 16 games in an NFL season. It’s about the long haul, not the short term.
Or maybe Marrone was overcome by delusions of grandeur after the teams’ glorious and surprising 2-0 start to the season. The following two losses brought Marrone, and the Bills’ fan base plummeting back to reality, yanked abruptly from the exclusive gang of undefeated teams and into the .500 club.
Whatever the cause, Marrone’s decision to bench second-year quarterback EJ Manuel in favor of back-up Kyle Orton is myopic and reeks of panic.
But it’s too early to be panicking. A 2-2 record might not be much to brag about but it doesn’t merit such a dramatic move – one that quashes the clearly still-developing skill set of the Bills’ young quarterback and exacerbates his greatest weaknesses by undermining his confidence.
Actually, Marrone’s decision, which he has stated was entirely on his own terms, doesn’t just undermine whatever belief Manuel may have had in himself, but instead completely destroys it. For a young quarterback who is still learning and trying to sharpen his mental game, this is absolutely devastating.
Perhaps shattering Manuel’s self-esteem and disrupting the team camaraderie with the imposition of a new leader would be worthwhile if the guy replacing Manuel wasn’t a career backup.
Kyle Orton, the new Bills quarterback, has played behind quarterbacks for five different teams, went a full year without playing in a game and saw his tenure with the Denver Broncos end with the entrance of Tim Tebow.
Orton, who is 31 years old and already facing questions about retirement, isn’t the answer. He may not have made the mistakes that Manuel has, but that’s because he hasn’t had the chance. The odds that Orton could have performed better against the Texans, with the monstrous (that’s a compliment) J.J. Watt flying in his face every other play seem minimal.
Manuel is clearly not living up to Marrone’s standards right now, but without the chance to play, or the opportunity to practice with first-string players, he never will. The Bills’ front office needs to not only continue to support Manuel, and give him more time to develop, but supply him with the offensive weapons and effective game plans that he and the rest of the team needs in order to win games.
Marrone’s priority should be winning games. Instead, he seems more interesting in saving his job. With a new owner at the helm and increasing demand to finally make it to the playoffs, Marrone is clearly feeling the pressure. But his anxiety shouldn’t transfer to the playing field, or the roster.
This season, in its entirety, should have been devoted to developing, evaluating and improving Manuel. Instead, Marrone’s impatience and what looks like an unnecessary desire to impress the Pegulas with decisive action led to an unneeded and dramatic change that spells trouble for the Bills.
Manuel needs more time. He deserves more chances. And after spending their first-round pick on him, the Bills’ front office should be willing to give that to him.