Friday, December 20, 2013

Jim Kelly says Bills fans should take it easy on EJ Manuel

It's not easy being a rookie quarterback in the NFL. Especially when you're a high draft pick and have so many expectations placed upon you by fans that are hungry to see a struggling franchise have some success.

Buffalo Bills fans are probably spoiled by the run of success the team had in the early 90's when Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly commandeered the Bills' high octane offense and led them to four straight Super Bowls. Bills fans have been longing for the glory years for quite a while now.

When the Bills took quarterback EJ Manuel with the 16th pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, there were whispers about Buffalo taking a risk by making Manuel the draft's first quarterback to come off the board. At 6-4 and 237 pounds and possessing a strong arm with mobility, the Bills figured Manuel was too good to pass up.

Bills coach Doug Marrone named Manuel his starter and hitched the Bills future to his first round quarterback. A few fluky knee injuries has taken Manuel away from the field and now Bills fans are already growing impatient with the rookie. Manuel has shown flashes of being the man to lead the Bills but he does  make a few head scratching mistakes.

In a phone interview, Kelly said that bills fans shouldn't rush to judgement on Manuel and that injuries have hurt his development.

 "There are so many things a young quarterback has to learn, and there's only one way to do it -- by being out there," Kelly said. "You can't learn by standing on the sidelines and just staring."

“You know what? Training camp for a rookie quarterback is so, so essential,” Kelly said. “It’s where they learn. It’s where they can make their mistakes. It’s where they really get to know their receivers, their running backs, and their system. He missed half of that.

“The mental approach at quarterback is so key. And for a young guy coming in trying to master a playbook that’s five times thicker than a college playbook, and the defences with all the ways they disguise — it’s a tough transition even if he never gets hurt.”

Manuel missed the last half of training camp in August after suffering an injury to his left knee which was revealed to be a meniscus tear. Manuel had corrective surgery on the knee.

Manuel later sprained the lateral collateral ligament in his right knee. He missed four games. The Bills were 2-2 at that point in the season. This past Sunday he sprained his knee in a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars but completed the game.

“I definitely think EJ is doing a good job,” Kelly said. “There are times, yeah, where you think, ‘What’s he doing?’ or ‘That mistake shouldn’t happen.’ But I think he’ll get better, and when he gets another year under his belt, he’ll be all right.”

Manuel didn't have the luxury of sitting behind an established veteran and learning the system like an Aaron Rodgers or Philip Rivers. He was brought in to be a savior.

"The quarterback gets too much of the blame and too much of the praise. I know that's an old cliche, but that's just the way it is now -- moreso even than it was 20 years ago."

Whether Manuel likes it or not, the fans want him to perform and will call for his head when he doesn't. it may not be fair, but that's the nature of the business.

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