The Buffalo Bills made the biggest decision of their season by firing head coach Rex Ryan on Tuesday. Within the same hour, it appears they've made another big decision at the most important on-field position in the game.
According to multiple reports, the Bills have decided to bench quarterback Tyrod Taylor for the regular season finale against the New York Jets. And it won't be rookie Cardale Jones getting the start on Sunday, it will be former first-round pick EJ Manuel making what could be his final start for the Bills.
Taylor has long been thought of as Rex Ryan's quarterback, and now that the fate of the head coach has been sealed, the Bills are making what ESPN's Adam Schefter termed a "business decision" to sit Taylor in the final regular season game. If Taylor would have gotten injured, the Bills would be on the hook and would have to guarantee over $30 million as part of the injury clause of his contract.
If healthy, the Bills could choose to walk from Tyrod Taylor without owing him any additional money. The only monetary ramifications the Bills would have would be a salary cap hit of just over $2 million to part ways.
Taylor is coming off the best game of his career, throwing for over 300 yards for the first time in his career in a loss to the Miami Dolphins.
As for Manuel, he is due to become an unrestricted free agent at the start of the new league year in March. According to Ian Rapoport, the start against the Jets will serve as a tryout for the 2017 season, and whether or not the Bills will retain the quarterback.
The Bills and the Jets square off on Sunday at MetLife Stadium on Sunday at 1:00 p.m
Joe B's Take
If Tyrod Taylor's tenure in Buffalo is over -- which the writing certainly seems to be on the wall for that to be the case -- benching him for the final game of the season is the right decision. It would have been a reckless decision to keep him on the field, possibly incurring the injury guarantee and getting stuck with his contract for 2017 and the guaranteed money that goes with it.
Taylor had a great game against Miami to end the season, but it’s pretty clear that he and Rex Ryan were tied together, which means his time in Buffalo is likely done.
The Bills can’t be faulted for making the decision that they did for Week 17.
As for the other decision to start EJ Manuel over rookie Cardale Jones — it’s certainly not one that people will like for the short-term, but they believe quite strongly in the development process that Jones is going through at the moment.
They would like to give Jones the full season, and a true offseason, before assessing where he is as a quarterback and what he still needs to work on.
That is, among other reasons, why Manuel is getting the start over Jones… but is it the right move?
I will have to respectfully disagree with the Bills on this one. While they also want to see what Manuel has to offer in an effort to see if they should re-sign him for 2017, they have a pretty good indication as to what he is as a quarterback.
In his two spot starts last season against the Bengals and Jaguars, he was one of the worst players on the field for the Bills — and in London, his second quarter implosion was the single-biggest reason why they were unable to come away with a victory.
The overall fascination that the Bills and general manager Doug Whaley have with Manuel is a tad frustrating, considering they’ve given him extended chances. He just has never been accurate enough, and despite all his plus-traits, it’s clearly held him back.
With Jones, it would present the Bills with an opportunity to see how far he’s come throughout the year of work. Would it be an award-winning performance? Probably not, but at least they could assess him and see what he needs to work on in an actual game that matters versus a first-string defense.
The Bills could benefit greatly by playing the rookie, and wondering if there’s more to him than just the ‘developmental’ tag.
The quarterback situation should, and likely will be the top priority for the Bills and general manager Doug Whaley. That’s the quickest way to success in the National Football League, and it’s time the Bills catch up.
However, it feels like starting Manuel in this spot is just a bit of a step back. There really isn’t any harm in seeing what Jones can do.
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