Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Can EJ Manuel Still Win The Bills Starting Job?

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Kevin Kolb was supposed to be the starter for the Buffalo Bills in 2013 (at least to begin the season). He was brought in as a stop-gap to buy time for EJ Manuel, the Bills quarterback of the future. However Kolb suffered a (minor) injury in a freak accident involving some sort of vicious plastic mat. Given the extra reps in practice, and the chance to start the Bills first preseason game, Manuel looked surprisingly comfortable at the reigns of the Bills offense.

It was a dream start to his first NFL training camp. After being a surprise selection of the Buffalo Bills at #16 in the 2013 NFL Draft, EJ Manuel was expected to start the season as QB2, while learning the offense and assimilating to life in the NFL, but he was quickly tearing up that script and writing a new one.

After a short, but substantial absence, Kolb returned from injury, but Manuel continued to shine, culminating in this past Friday’s preseason win vs the Vikings, where Manuel (while playing against backups) was clearly the Bills most effective quarterback. Manuel was so decisively better that many proclaimed the starting job was his to lose, and I can’t say I disagree.

In a cruel twist of fate, it was announced that after his solid performance Friday, Manuel was required to undergo a minor knee surgery/procedure, that would see him miss the rest of the preseason, once again muddying what was slowly becoming a clear picture at QB.

So what does this all mean for the Bills? They’re currently saying all of the predictable things such as the best QB will start, even insisting that undrafted rookie QB Jeff Tuel will get his far shot at the job. What is likely to happen though, is even more predictable than the boring rhetoric.

The Bills signed Kevin Kolb so they would not have to rush EJ Manuel into the lineup to be crushed David Carr style in his rookie year if he was not ready. While Manuel has looked okay in his two stints of preseason action, he hasn’t exactly scorched the field while playing primarily versus backups. For this reason, Manuel’s injury may be a blessing in disguise as it gives Bills brass a built-in excuse to slow down Manuel’s development, and not rush him into the starting job.

Kevin Kolb is not a long-term answer at QB for the Bills, but right now he may provide their best option to win. While EJ Manuel has shown flashes of what he can do, and last years crop of unbelievable rookie QBs has raised our expectations for young pivots, it may be of the best interest of both the Bills, and Manuel, for him to start the season in a back up role.

While this isn’t what the irrational fan in all of us wants to hear, it’s what the rational observer knows is probably the right call. No matter how well you think he performed in his limited preseason action, starting Manuel in Week 1 after missing half of training camp preseason would be a mistake, and possibly dangerous to his development.

Come Week 1 kickoff against the Patriots, Kevin Kolb will be starting under center for the Buffalo Bills. Holding a clip board on the sidelines will be EJ Manuel. By halftime, the calls for Manuel on Twitter will reach a fever pitch, but to no avail. For better or for worse, Kevin Kolb is “the guy” in Buffalo in 2013…at least until he isn’t.  (Which I’m guessing is Week 5 vs the Browns in case you’re wondering)

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Tags: Buffalo Bills EJ Manuel Kevin Kolb

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