Sunday’s 23-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers was ugly. There’s no ifs, ands or buts about that.
The one thing that everyone needs to settle down about is the play of E.J. Manuel. Yes, he was bad. There’s no real arguing there – his 3.97 yards per attempt was the 292nd out of 297 single-game quarterback performances this year. He looked more rusty than he did a dynamic playmaker.
But those questioning whether or not he is the quarterback of the future for this team need to settle down for a minute.
Manuel, a first-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, needs time. I know the success of Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III makes everyone crazy for a quarterback who can be the franchise right now, but those guys don’t grow on trees and Manuel isn’t in that class. He’s skilled, no doubt, but those two are generational talents.
Maybe Doug Marrone should have waited another week before letting Manuel get back into the lineup. It’s hard to say what Marrone should have done; hindsight is always 20/20. It didn’t help Manuel that the running game was shut down, either. The Bills had 31 yards on seven hand-offs in the first half. How is a team supposed to succeed like that?
Still, he needs time. He needs time to develop, to take his lumps, to grow as a quarterback and NFL player. He needs support to do that, both from the team and the fan base. Booing him, questioning him and getting on his back isn’t going to help him grow – it’s just going to make him second-guess himself more often.
You would think that a franchise that hasn’t had a legitimate quarterback since Jim Kelly retired would maybe try to be a little patient with their first-round quarterback. You would think that they would realize that rushing him, booing him and not supporting him is putting him on the fast track to be the next J.P. Losman or Trent Edwards instead of the next Kelly.
So Buffalo Bills fans, do what needs to be done: have patience. Support Manuel. Realize what this team is now and what it could be with a properly developed quarterback. We’ve seen the signs that he can be something special. We just have to get through the growing pains with him.
It’s either that or picking another quarterback in the first round a few years from now. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to avoid that.