One of the last acts that Buddy Nix undertook before he left his post as general manager of the Buffalo Bills in May of 2013 was to make Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel the No. 16 overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Nearly three years after those events, Nix is no longer with the organization - he served as a Special Assistant in the front office for another year before retiring - while Manuel is entering the final year of his contract as, at best, the No. 2 quarterback on Buffalo's depth chart.
Nix sees Manuel's current predicament as a symptom of circumstance, and not a reflection of the caliber of the athlete.
"One of the things when we drafted EJ, we were going to draft him and let him sit behind Fitz or a veteran for a couple of years and learn the NFL game and grow into it," Nix told The Buffalo News before last weekend's Super Bowl. "We knew he wasn’t ready when we first drafted him, but EJ has all the talent. EJ will be successful somewhere, some time.
"There are just so many things that have to happen, have to fall right at that position. And they haven’t. They fell the other way for EJ," Nix continued.
The Bills had originally planned on letting Manuel sit behind Ryan Fitzpatrick, according to Nix, but ended up releasing him for salary cap reasons nearly two months before the draft began. A preseason injury to Fitzpatrick's veteran replacement, Kevin Kolb, forced Manuel into the lineup in Week 1 of his rookie season.
"We tried to keep Fitz," Nix told Tyler Dunne. "We wanted to keep Fitzpatrick to be his mentor — we wanted somebody to be there that he could learn from. We did the same thing with Philip Rivers in San Diego, which is the ideal thing."
Despite the circumstances working against Manuel's favor - including an unexpected coaching change that came after Manuel's second season - the man that drafted Manuel still believes in him.
"I think he’s a resilient young man," Nix said of Manuel. "Very intelligent. A physical specimen that - when he gets in the right spot, and hopefully it’s Buffalo - if it’s some place, he’ll be successful."