Buffalo during the playoffs is like somebody's memory of a football town. And the memory is fading, like there was never anything in Ralph Wilson Stadium but jungle.
They call him, "the Yellow King," a square-jawed terror that silently stalks the nightmares of Buffalo fans in soft Ugg boots. For Bills fans he's a transference of their fear and self-loathing to an authoritarian vessel. It's catharsis. Old No. 12, he absorbs their dread with his golden hair, supermodel wife and Hall-of Fame narrative.
But Tom Brady can't play forever and the Bills need to prepare for the future. They need a safety to replace Jairus Byrd and another receiver but the biggest thing holding the Bills back is the quarterback position. Certain sports anthropologists think that prolonged losing is a virus that dulls critical thinking and rewrites the pathways of the brain. Maybe that's what happened last year, when the Bills befuddled fans, analysts and scouts alike by selecting Florida State's EJ Manuel out of nowhere in the first round.
I'd consider myself a realist, alright? But in philosophical terms I'm what's called a pessimist ... and I think EJ Manuel is a tragic misstep in the Bills evolution as a team. The biggest concern might be with his durability. Manuel missed two preseason games with a knee injury, then another four-week stretch in Weeks 6-9 with a knee issue before, you guessed it, a knee sprain forced him to sit Weeks 16 and 17 as well.
When he was on the field, he was antsy in the pocket, bailing out at the first hint of pressure. Once flushed Manuel tried to make too many throws on the run, which led to many an inaccurate pass even on short and intermediate throws. There are also questions about Manuel's ability to read defenses and get through his progressions quickly; familiar words that should chill AP readers to the bone.
At the start of the season the BiIls tried to dumb things down for their rookie QB. Frequently calling designed rollouts and flooding one side with receivers at multiple levels so EJ only had to read half of the field. They tried opening the playbook a bit more but after a few weeks of poor decision-making, head coach Doug Marrone told reporters they'd be "scaling things back" for Manuel again.
The honorable thing is to deny our programming, stop pretending like the EJ Manuel is franchise quarterback and opt out of a raw deal. The Buffalo Bills' war room is a strange place during the draft. Sometimes you feel like you're losing it. But when 2nd ranked quarterback falls to you, it can feel like you're main-lining the secret truth of the universe. With the Buffalo Bills with the 9th overall pick select...
Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
Everything that EJ Manuel isn't, Bortles is a man who stands tall in the pocket and can deliver the ball in the face of heavy pressure. He steps up into the pocket while keeping his eyes downfield. He consistently shows good vision and nice touch on his passes. With plenty of arm talent and all the intangibles, Blake Bortles can take Buffalo to the next level.
Someone once told me, "The AFC East is a flat circle." Until Buffalo gets a true franchise QB, the Bills are doomed to watch the Patriots go to the playoffs every season, over and over and over again, forever.
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