When Bills fans pile into Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday, they’ll see a franchise quarterback playing for the other team — a guy that has started multiple playoff games and won a Super Bowl. Then they’ll see their young, raw rookie quarterback trying to match up with him.
At this point, with their respective teams in a different place altogether, veteran Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco should rule the day, but there may come a time when Buffalo Bills rookie QB E.J. Manuel will look a lot like Flacco out on that field.
Comparisons between the two aren’t unfounded. As a matter of fact, they seem quite uncanny. Flacco wasn’t a very celebrated prospect, but his mechanical skills and smarts led him to become the no. 18 pick of the 2008 NFL draft. Manuel became the no. 16 pick of the 2013 draft for similar reasons. Flacco is a big body at 6-foot-6 and 252 pounds. Manuel stands at 6-foot-4 and 237 pounds.
Flacco came in to Baltimore and started on day 1 just like Manuel. He was 257 of 428 (60 percent) for 2,971 yards, 14 TDs and 12 INTs in his rookie season. In an admittedly short sample size, Manuel is 64 of 108 (59.3 percent) for 689 yards, four TDs and one INT after his first three games. Manuel is actually on pace to better Flacco’s stats from his rookie season.
There is obviously one big difference between Flacco and Manuel — one plays for the Ravens and the other plays for the Bills. While Flacco made the playoffs in his first season as a pro, playing with veterans such as Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs on defense, Manuel is on a team with a rookie head coach straight out of college and the 22nd-ranked defense from a year ago.
It’s impossible to say right now whether or not Manuel will have the same successes as Flacco had in the win-loss column, but if I did have to pick one veteran QB to compare Manuel’s skill set to, Flacco would be that guy. So in a way, the Bills could be getting a chance on Sunday to see what their finished product might look like down the line.