The Buffalo Bills drafted quarterback EJ Manuel with the expectation that he’d one day be their answer under center, even if it would take a while and some development. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out. Manuel’s career was largely a disappointment, and Buffalo had to move on to different options at quarterback.
So what happened? Let’s take a look back at Manuel’s career, how it contributed to the Bills’ larger problem of finding a franchise quarterback, and what he’s up to now.
The Buffalo Bills’ struggle to find a quarterback
It seems like eons ago, but there was a time when the Buffalo Bills franchise equaled excellence. Sure, they lost four straight Super Bowls — a dubious record, for sure — but they needed an elite roster of talent to get to those four Super Bowls.
Their leader was Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly. Kelly had talented, Hall of Fame pieces around him — stars like Thurman Thomas at running back and Andre Reed at receiver — but he was the offense’s driving force.
Since Kelly, the Bills have had a hard time replacing him. It’s been over 25 years since Kelly was the team’s quarterback and it’s been a revolving door since. Some have played well: Doug Flutie, Drew Bledsoe, and Ryan Fitzpatrick were able to put up decent numbers. But ultimately, they haven’t been able to find “the guy.”
The unfortunate career of EJ Manuel
ESPN reported that the 2013 NFL Draft was “offensive line heavy,” but the Bills felt the need to make a move at quarterback. Manuel was coming off a successful career at Florida State with a win-loss record of 25-6 during his time in Tallahassee. The Bills telegraphed their interest in Manuel to him prior to the draft, and Bills’ GM Buddy Nix was elated with the pick.
“If we can develop this guy, he has the talent to take you to the dance…This guy was further along than most of them as far as his knowledge of the game. … This guy, to us, has got leadership qualities. He’s smart. And he’s big.”
Manuel didn’t pan out, however. According to Pro Football Reference, he only went 6-12 as a starting QB, completing only 58.1% of his passes, throwing 20 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. He played four seasons in Buffalo and finished his career with the Oakland Raiders, last playing in 2017.
Where is EJ Manuel now?
“As gifted as any quarterback in the class, with a strong arm and good mobility. Scouts appreciate his leadership qualities and toughness, and hope he can improve on his consistency.”
Obviously, the rosy forecast never came to fruition. While Manuel didn’t work out, it’s hard to pin the blame entirely on him. Buffalo wasn’t known for being competitive during his time there, and with better infrastructure in place, he probably could have had a better chance to have a solid career. It’s not a franchise known for developing quarterbacks, so Manuel was dealt a bad hand to begin with.
Manuel’s last grasp at sticking around in the NFL came before the 2019 season, where he attempted to make the Chiefs roster. Unfortunately, he couldn’t make the cut.
Manuel now serves as an ACC Network analyst. It’s a good fit — as a former Florida State Seminole who played four years in the ACC, few players are better suited to provide insight into the conference. It’s good to see Manuel’s landed on his feet after his pro career didn’t quite turn out how he expected.