Has Doug Marrone Been Playing the New England Patriots?
This offseason, Doug Marrone‘s silence spoke volumes. His curt, no “B.S.” press conferences on the other hand … not so much. The Buffalo Bills‘ new head coach has made it clear that he will only divulge the information he cares to share, and that approach already appears to be paying dividends.
Marrone has certainly played his cards close to the chest with regards to EJ Manuel‘s knee injury. For weeks, the Bills’ new head coach would only refer to Manuel’s knee surgery as a ‘minor procedure’ and provided nothing more than a vague timeline for EJ’s return to action. While Marrone never explicitly ruled his new franchise quarterback out for Week 1, he also did very little to enforce the notion that Manuel would be ready to play. Manuel’s recent, incredibly timely return to practice is not only great news for Buffalo, it also implies that Marrone knows much more than he has been letting on.
Consider the fact that the Bills just recently released quarterbacks Matt Leinhart and Thad Lewis, leaving Jeff Tuel and Manuel as the only remaining passers on the active roster leading up to the start of the regular season. This move suggests a great deal of confidence in Manuel’s newly repaired knee. If Marrone were even slightly unsure of Manuel’s availability to start against the New England Patriots, would he really risk trotting out an undrafted rookie with no one behind him on the depth chart? That seems unlikely.
A much more likely scenario is one in which Marrone had the utmost confidence in EJ Manuel’s ability to play, but allowed speculation and hyperbole to spread following Manuel’s very minor injury. In theory, this would force the Patriots to game plan for two different quarterbacks with two different playing styles, allowing the Bills to catch New England off guard in their season opener.
This is all just speculation, but no one should be surprised when EJ Manuel plays on Sunday. Whether or not Marrone’s tight-lipped strategy will be effective against Bill Belichick remains to be seen. But if the Patriots defense gets caught off guard, the Bills first-year head coach might just look like a genius.