It has been a long time since the Buffalo Bills were thought of as a championship contender.
In fact, it has been 17 years since the Bills had a legitimate franchise quarterback.
Jim Kelly retired after the 1996 season, with a resume filled of accomplishments. He won four AFC Conference championships, six AFC East division titles and made eight playoff appearances in during 11-year career.
The Bills have tried numerous strategies to find a replacement for the Hall of Famer, but all they have to show for it is a 109-142 record and a 13-year playoff drought.
Todd Collins, Alex Van Pelt, Doug Flutie, Rob Johnson, Drew Bledsoe, JP Losman, Kelly Holcomb, Trent Edwards, Brian Brohm and Ryan Fitzpatrick couldn’t fill the void and now the Bills will be forced to try another.
It’s a new era for the Bills, they have a new head coach in Doug Marrone, a new general manager in Doug Whaley and three new candidates to be their starting quarterback in Tarvaris Jackson, Kevin Kolb and 16th overall pick, E.J. Manuel.
However, the question still remains whether or not the Bills have found the next “Jim Kelly”.
The Bills will head into training camp with an “open competition” at quarterback but according to offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, Manuel might not be ready to start on opening day.
“He’s a young man that’s got to work on a lot of things from footwork to progressions to plays to formations, everything,” Hackett said on the team website. “Defenses in the NFL are obviously a little different. He’s got to work on that too. He’s got to work on everything.”
As a first round pick, the expectations for Manuel are high and he might end up getting thrown into the starting gig before he’s ready. There’s a new trend in the NFL, where coaches and general managers are given a shorter window for failure.
Between 2004-07, no first round quarterbacks started immediately, but since 2008, there have been 10 opening day starters with 14 of the 15 quarterbacks getting a chance to start their rookie year.
Kolb and Jackson might have an edge in experience, but all signs point to Manuel eventually taking over as the face of the franchise.
Even though there are still some things Manuel has to correct, he has a proven track record of being a winning quarterback. At Florida State, he was 25-6 as a starter and led the Seminoles to their third 12-win season in program history.
Manuel has all the ideal physical requirements for a quarterback too. He’s tall, mobile, and has above-average arm strength.
The questions still remain though, whether he will be able to improve his recognition of defensive schemes and show better pocket poise when under pressure situations.
The potential for Manuel is high, but dont be surprised if the Bills aren’t confident enough to throw him to the wolves on opening day. After all, the Bills are facing their rivals, the New England Patriots.