The Buffalo Bills rookie quarterback EJ Manuel was given full clearance to return to the field on Monday after a four week absence. It was his second freakishly quick recovery from a knee injury in 2013, and the Bills have to be hoping that it’s his last. Although Manuel’s first five games weren’t perfect, he demonstrated the type of leadership and poise that Buffalo has been sorely missing at quarterback over the past decade. More importantly, Manuel is clearly the best option that the Bills currently have to run their offense. Sunday’s 23-13 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs merely served to reinforce that fact.
The Bills got the results of their Tuel sample back on Sunday, and they weren’t pretty. After completing a 59-yard touchdown pass to rookie receiver Marquise Goodwin, Jeff Tuel threw two costly interceptions, one of which was returned 100 yards for a Chiefs touchdown. Tuel simply looked unprepared in his first career start, and big arm aside, he proved that he is hardly a long-term solution for the Bills at QB.
Interestingly enough, the rest of the Bills’ team looked fairly impressive in the loss to the NFL‘s last undefeated team. Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller both turned in big games, and the Bills defense managed to hold Alex Smith to just 124 yards on 19-for-29 passing with no touchdowns. Were it not for Tuel’s pick-six in the end zone, Buffalo easily could have scored on that drive and come away with a win.
All of this only serves to highlight the Bills’ desperate need of a quarterback. So far throughout his young career, EJ Manuel has avoided making the kinds of crucial mistakes that cost his team the win on Sunday. It’s pointless to second guess results in the NFL, but if Manuel had started in place of Tuel it’s not a stretch to imagine that the Bills could have won the game given the overall effectiveness of their defense.
The chance of the Bills making the playoffs at this point is slim to none. But at the very least, a Week 10 return by EJ Manuel will serve to accelerate the promising rookie’s development. Either way, for now and in the future, Manuel is the Bills’ best hope.