I guess when your team has new ownership, and everyone's jobs are up in the air, there's no time for quarterback development. Has EJ Manuel been good this year? No. Does it make sense to pull him four games into his second season for veteran Kyle Orton? I don't think so, but then, my job doesn't depend on Buffalo finishing 8-8. But essentially, what this means is that the Bills threw away two first-round picks in a three-year period, including of course next year's pick. I suppose Manuel could still amount to something. We'll read a lot about the hit to Manuel's confidence, but I suppose this is an interesting test case for questions about just how much confidence is a real issue with professional athletes. As I argued in Audibles a couple weeks ago, to get to the level of being a professional NFL player, you probably need to be the kind of guy who stays pretty confident even after failures.
UPDATE: I asked Matt Waldman for his thoughts on what's gone wrong with Manuel. He watched the Texans game and has these thoughts:
It's not always easy to pinpoint exactly why a quarterback gets benched, but EJ Manuel's case is a little more clear cut. The Bills' starting quarterback was 0-for-8 on throws to the intermediate range of the field between the hash marks. Only one of these throws appeared to be the fault of a receiver -- in the case of Robert Woods' slow reaction to turn look for the ball after his break. The rest were egregiously inaccurate in every direction: too wide of target; too far behind the receiver; and also sailing over the intended man. The Bills offense is a short passing game in concept and there are a lot of screen passes and short targets to the perimeter to stretch the field horizontally. It makes these intermediate targets in the middle of the field very important to keep the defense honest. Otherwise, the opposition can sit on routes and send pressure to disrupt the timing.
Manuel also made two crucial mistakes that cost Buffalo the game in a close contest that the Bills could have won. The first was a rushed throw to the flat that lacked enough touch when Manuel saw J.J. Watt coming free from the edge. The defensive end didn't have to do more than reach for the flat-trajectory throw for a pick-six. Manuel's second interception came on the second of two late fourth-quarter drives that could have put Buffalo ahead -- a ball he sailed over the seam that didn't account for the safety. This is an elementary consideration that Manuel failed to take into account.
The Bills staff may sense that they have enough talent to contend in a muddy AFC East and Kyle Orton might be a better match in terms of staying on the same page with young receivers -- especially with his timing and accuracy in the middle of the field. As a prospect, Manuel was a physical talent with a lot to learn about the fine points of the game, but few major flaws to untangle when it comes to fundamentals to throwing the football. So far, it appears Manuel is rushing his process, which has some to do with the Bills' pass protection.
Is there a chance he could develop? Sure, but in today's era patience is short. Manuel has all the physical tools, but his conceptual approach has lacked consistency and this is the ultimate difference between a good college option and a quality NFL starter. If Manuel earns another opportunity in 2014 and can't make good on it, don't count on him earning a third opportunity as a long-term option somewhere else.