The Bills are likely an effective quarterback away from making the playoffs. There’s growing belief that player is Tyrod Taylor and not E.J. Manuel. Not a soul around Buffalo disputes the former first-round pick has to fight for his job.
Taylor did not tip his hand about who’s ahead or behind in Buffalo so far. Various reports are saying that the mobile, versatile Taylor, even with just 35 career passes, has been the most impressive in workouts so far. He says he’s tuning out the noise surrounding a bubbling starting quarterback race.
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“Oh yeah, that’s part of the business,’’ he told Sporting News. “I knew coming in here how it was going to be. My focus is to just prepare for these camps, learn the offense, study and play the best I can.’’
He played down being the quarterback of the moment, especially since it’s just May.
“We’re gonna push each other in the quarterback competition,’’ Taylor said, “and we’ll take this team where we need to go.’’
It’s been a while since Buffalo’s quarterback situation has been an attention magnet. Attribute it to the intersection of the blustery Rex Ryan’s arrival with the Bills finishing with their first winning record in 10 years, and with a playoff drought dating back to 1999. Coincidentally, that’s also around the time of their last quarterback controversy, Doug Flutie vs. Rob Johnson.
This one pales in comparison, but it’s no less critical to the franchise’s future. Manuel represents a potential draft blunder, unless he quickly impresses this regime more than he did the last one. Cassel seemed to be the obvious heir when the Bills traded for him in March — until Taylor signed as a free agent days later, reportedly passing up a Broncos offer because he had a chance to start.
During a break in classroom sessions before next week’s OTAs, Taylor told Sporting News that Ryan hid nothing when they met in Buffalo during his free-agent visits.
“He was telling me how excited he was to have a chance to have me there and to have me compete for the job,’’ said Taylor, who spent his entire four-year career as Joe Flacco’s backup in Baltimore, never starting a game. “Throughout the process, I thought this opportunity was the best for an open competition. That’s what I’d always felt throughout the offseason, and I had confidence in what I could do when I got that chance.’’
He’s got the chance. Manuel, picked 16th overall in 2013 but benched last year in favor of the now-retired Kyle Orton, is in danger of getting released if he doesn’t show “serious progress” this spring and summer, according to a Buffalo radio report this week.
Greg Roman, Ryan’s new offensive coordinator, vehemently denied that Tuesday, telling reporters in Buffalo: “I don’t remember ever saying that and that’s the furthest thing from the truth. (Manuel is) busting his hump everyday and doing a very good job and there’s a lot of clay to mold there as well, so whatever people are talking about … I don’t know where that’s coming from but, no. The answer is no. He is doing a good job.’’
But the job isn’t Manuel’s today: “If you were the best player, I’d sign you and you’d win this competition … I’m serious. The balls are out there. The opportunity’s presented and whoever wins it, wins it.’’
For what it’s worth, no less than franchise icon Jim Kelly is in Manuel’s corner; he told the NFL Network: “He’s a good kid. I’ve heard him talk to the players, I’ve heard what type of leader he is. He has it all.” He added, “He knows he’s got to get it done on the field.”
Taylor isn’t waiting to see what happens. He came to Buffalo for a reason.