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EJ Manuel: “Bills never gave me chance to grow”

The now-former Buffalo QB opened up about his time with the team that drafted him.

EJ Manuel, the Buffalo Bills’ 2013 first-round draft pick, officially became a member of the Oakland Raiders on Monday. Manuel signed a one-year deal as Derek Carr’s backup on a contract which will pay him $800k none of which is guaranteed.

Manuel, who played the good soldier throughout his Bills’ tenure, opened up about his frustrations with his roller-coaster playing time during his four years as a member of the Bills. He took a few shots at the team when John Kryk of the Toronto Sun asked, noting that he “never had a chance to grow or fight through those growing pains” while a member of the Bills.

Manuel, who was expected to sit behind veteran Kevin Kolb as a rookie in 2013, was thrust into the spotlight as the starting quarterback immediately after Kolb’s unexpected retirement due to numerous concussions (although, to be fair, relying on Kolb to remain healthy was a dicey proposition at best). Manuel started 10 games as a rookie, winning 4, and was 2-2 in 2014 before being benched for veteran Kyle Orton. After that, Manuel made 3 starts over the last two seasons as backup to Tyrod Taylor. The Bills lost all of those games.

Kryk’s interview was revealing in that Manuel opened up more poignantly than he did at any time during his tenure in Buffalo. His frustration with his benching, while always evident, never boiled over into insubordination or overall negativity. Manuel said that he was neither excited nor happy about being benched, but he understood that his coach, Doug Marrone, had made a decision, and he would have to live with it. Manuel ends his Bills career 6-11 as a starter in 17 games.

While it is easy to feel some sympathy for Manuel, as the Bills did pull the plug in a very short period of time (14 games for a first-round draft pick at quarterback is an incredibly small sample size), the fact is that he just did not show enough positive progress to warrant the faith he seems to think he deserved.

Levi Damien at Silver and Black Pride compared Derek Carr’s first four starts of his second year to Manuel’s, and the difference is obvious. The two young players were both ranked quite low in their respective rookie years, with Carr’s QB rating coming in lower than Manuel’s (77.7 to 76.6), and his won-loss record sitting at 0-10 with Oakland through his first 10 starts. Whereas Manuel stayed mostly stagnant in his second season (58% completions, 5 TDs, 3 INTs), Carr’s production skyrocketed (62.6% completions, 7 TDs, 2 INTs). With a less-than-inspiring beginning to his second season, the Bills pulled the plug. Had he started off the 2014 season better, maybe all would have gone differently. Maybe if he doesn’t throw that pick-six to J.J. Watt on the road in Houston, Manuel gains the confidence of the coaching staff and he continues to grow into the franchise-changing quarterback Buddy Nix, Doug Whaley and company thought he would be when they drafted him.

Reality, however, shows that Manuel did not do enough to earn his place on the roster. He seems to be a great guy, and I wish him well; however, the decision to move on was both obvious and necessary for both parties.