Last night just after the close of the first round of the 2013 NFL draft, I posed a question on Twitter about the Buffalo Bills choice to draft Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel in the first round over Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib. This matters because the Bills new head coach Doug Marrone coached Nassib during his time at Syracuse.
Interestingly, the responses were very much split. There were many who felt like passing on Nassib was a scathing criticism of Nassib’s game, and for a head coach who knows a player better than anyone else, does leave one with pause. One could assume that Marrone is going to implement at least elements of his offense from Syracuse and with that he did not think Nassib would be the best player to run it.
On the other side you have those who say that Nassib was Marrone’s quarterback at Syracuse only because he was the best option from the pool of quarterbacks available and so now with a larger pool to pick from, Marrone went in another direction. Both premises have merit.
But I think it was an even bigger point than that. We have no idea how much say Marrone had in that draft pick, so the fact is no matter how much Marrone may or may not have lobbied for Nassib, the pick wasn’t going to happen. But along those same lines, Marrone and the Bills front office could simply feel that Manuel’s game fits the current NFL game better. Critics of Manuel say that he’s a project, but make no mistake with Nassib’s accuracy and arm strength, which are definite concerns and his ability to work within a limited type of offense would also be a reason a franchise, even one with Nassib’s old head coach on the payroll, might pass on him.
The bottom line is some team is going to draft Nassib, likely in the 2nd round and assuming they can put him in a system where his strengths are emphasized and his weaknesses masked, there’s no reason to think he can’t be a good NFL quarterback. But Manuel’s upside, particularly his athletic ability, were just too enticing for the Bills staff to pass up. The NFL is a business and the business is to win games. Loyalty is great, but the Bills have to be thinking about turning that franchise around first and foremost.