Monday, August 26, 2013

An Unexpected Quarterback

This is not Buffalo's Week 1 starting quarterback.

This is Buffalo's Week 1 starting quarterback (if rapid knee-tissue regeneration is not part of E.J. Manuel's skill set).

You may not know much about Jeff Tuel, other than that he has demonstrated an ability to throw short passes with decent accuracy against defenses comprised primarily of men who will not be playing football for money in a few weeks.

But with Manuel's availability for the opener against New England in 13 days still uncertain, Kevin Kolb uncertain to ever play the game again, and uncertainty over whether new acquisitions Matt Leinart and Thaddeus Lewis have even received their playbooks yet, it's time to educate yourself.

We Want Marangi is here to help, with this Jeff Tuel primer from SBNation (which was brought to our attention by WWM's Maui Bureau Chief, Adam Borowiec.

And here's another piece on the franchise's most unlikely starting quarterback since Ed Rutkowski (as well as the first undrafted rookie to start a season opener since 1967), an article which is based on actual research, and therefore less interesting.

Bills Spent Sunday At QB Flea Market

With Kevin Kolb's future suddenly in doubt after the Bills presumptive backup quarterback at least the third serious concussion of his professional career Saturday against Washington, Buffalo's front office spent Sunday acquiring quarterbacks.

Due to Kolb's rather grim prognosis, as well as the darkening head-injury cloud hanging over the NFL -- and raising serious doubts about the journalistic integrity of its broadcast partners -- we'll hold off on any Matt Leinart or Thaddeus Lewis jokes.

For now.

In the meantime, in the interest of optimism, We Want Marangi is choosing to ignore the former Heisman Trophy winner and 10th overall draft pick's dismal professional career and TMZ-ready lifestyle. Instead, we'll focus on his spectacular on-field college exploits.

At least until he leaves no choice but to do otherwise.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Ryan's Jets Already Helping Buffalo's Self-Esteem

(Editor's Note: We Want Marangi remained dormant through the first month of training camp out of solidarity with holdout safety Jairus Byrd. Now he's back, and so are we.)

Three weeks into the exhibition season, one thing can be said with certainty for the first time since Marv Levy strode the sideline:

The Buffalo Bills do not have the dumbest coach in the AFC East.

Nobody's taking that title away from Rex Ryan now. Putting your starting-quarterback-because-the-other-guy's-worse into a practice game last night in New Jersey, behind an offensive line manned by soon-to-be-aspiring construction workers is the kind of thing that gets you fired. Or should.

After Geno Smith (who more than a few self-appointed experts believe Buffalo should have drafted instead of E.J. Manuel back in April) stunk out the Meadowlands for better than three quarters, the rookie panicked to a degree that must be seen to be fully appreciated.

Even if the annual meaning-free preseason pushing match between the Jets and Giants (which MetLife sponsors, for some reason) had been played using the Canadian Football League's 25-yard-deep end zones, Smith STILL would have charged with a safety, since he also committed intentional grounding by flinging the ball away while in the pocket.

Maybe the rookie's double-blunder so flummoxed Ryan that he forgot the only thing at stake was a Snoopy trophy.

Don't get me wrong. That thing is pretty sweet. I, for one, would gladly risk Mark Sanchez's health for it.

Then again, I don't have to coach a football team for more than four months with a quarterback who does not seem to have any idea where he is on the field at any given time. Or answer questions about what I could have possibly been thinking when I decided to create that situation.

But for all our differences, Rex and I were on the same page on this one. And to the surprise of no one, Sanchez got crushed, twice, by Marvin Austin, a 312-pound defensive tackle trying to keep his job with the Giants.

It's pretty easy to imagine what two words kept going through Ryan's head as he watched Sanchez writhe on the turf for several minutes before making it to the sideline, his throwing arm detached at the shoulder.

(Hint: The first word is "Oh," and the second rhymes with "shit.")

Of course, the Bills are also down to a single healthy quarterback, Jeff Tuel, who has never taken a snap in a regular-season NFL game (and looked very much the undrafted free agent he is on Saturday), after Kevin Kolb took a knee to the back of the helmet Saturday at the end of a scramble early in Buffalo's 30-7 "loss" in Washington.

While Doug Marrone had not announced it, Manuel had clearly earned the starting job -- unless you're the type who believes experience, even bad experience, outweighs the ability to throw and run -- before twinging his knee against Minnesota in the second exhibition. And the Bills expect him back when they open the season against New England two weeks from today.

Kolb's "concussion-like symptoms" almost certainly have the Bills looking for another veteran backup. If the goal is to have a healthy veteran available if Manuel's recovery from minor knee surgery takes longer than expected, or if he goes down again, they couldn't do much worse.

Kolb's performance through training camp has firmly established him as the poor man's Rob Johnson -- fleeting moments of competence undercut by a knack for injuring himself in the most unlikely ways.

First, he managed to pop his knee out walking across an empty field after practice, which kept him out of the exhibition opener. Now this. Even trying to slide safely after running for a first down, he managed to get knocked goofy by an errant knee when the play was over.

So now Buffalo's rookie coach gets to pick from a pool of veteran passers not a single other NFL team wanted, and try to get him ready in case Manuel isn't ready for the Patriots, while trying to fix everything else that went wrong in his team's worst performance after two pretty solid exhibitions.

It could be a lot worse for Marrone. He could be in Rex Ryan's position.

But early returns indicate he's smarter than that.