Manuel could eventually develop into a quality pro, but he’s nowhere close at the moment. Manuel’s greatest strengths, by all accounts, are hard to measure. He’s a hard worker that other players gravitate toward as a leader. That ultimately doesn’t show up when we turn on NFL Game Rewind each week, and his mobility hasn’t been a consistent factor.
Manuel is one of the least accurate quarterbacks of the last five years. He often throws the ball out of bounds in the red zone instead of giving his receivers a chance to make a play. He’s not calm in the pocket, and his best plays have been check-downs, screens and hard-to-reproduce scrambles. There are a ton of miscommunications between him and his receivers. (Sammy Watkins hasn’t helped with drops and failing to look for passes.)
Perhaps most damning, Manuel fails to see the field well. He often is too willing to take a quick check-down while his receivers are running free down the field despite having time in the pocket. We’ve seen him throw the ball away when he has receivers open and is facing no pressure; that’s a sign of a quarterback who is not thinking clearly. He can play it safe to the point of immobilization.
The Bills coaching staff limited Manuel’s impact on the first three games of the season as much as they could. Even when his numbers looked good, he was asked to do so much less than a veteran starting quarterback. That changed Sunday in Houston. With the Texans stacking the box to stop the run, the Bills went pass heavy in the first half despite playing with a lead.
Manuel responded by missing a ton of throws, even when he had fine protection. He faced a lot of quick pressure, but he also invited pressure on other plays. We came away from the Bills‘ loss in Houston thinking that Buffalo has a quality team held back by a young quarterback who isn’t thinking or throwing straight. He hasn’t shown any noticeable sign of progress as a pro.
Bills coach Doug Marrone ultimately felt the same way and made the change to Kyle Orton. It’s a franchise-altering move and perhaps a defining one for Marrone. General manager Doug Whaley did not hire Marrone, earning his promotion months after Marrone was hired. That’s an awkward dynamic, and the Bills also have new owner Terry Pegula ready to take over soon.
In short: Marrone is feeling the pressure to win now. He feels that his best chance is with Orton, a guy who’s on his fifth team, wanted to retire this offseason and just signed with the Bills a month ago. That says everything you need to know about Manuel’s play.