One of the glorious things about being an NFL fan in Canada is that you have no regional ties to a team. When you begin to follow the league and decide that you’d like a team to latch onto, you can pick any team, any team at all. This is why I know a fan of nearly every team, with some picking their affiliation based on a player they liked at the time, and others even went with the then expansion Panthers and Jaguars. A poor decision, but a noble one since they wanted to support a team from its very inception.
But my specific location in the world is home to many Bills fans, with Toronto only a short drive from the place where far too many September dreams have met their untimely death. Surely you recall last season when I gave our boy Devang Desai a weekly pool for his tears, and he ruined many keyboards each Sunday while going through his therapy. This is why although the chances remain slim, I fear for the state of my city (or maybe that’s a bit much…OK, my office) if Kevin Kolb is named the Bills’ starting quarterback.
Yes, the odds of that becoming a thing may be low right now, but they do exist. E.J. Manuel was selected with the 16th overall pick back in April after a trade with the Rams, a shocking selection since at the time it was assumed Geno Smith would be the first quarterback off the board. Manuel’s ceiling is high, but he’s raw, and he was working with the second team throughout OTAs.
Of course, there’s a fantasy element here. Yesterday during the latest addition of our Deep Sleeping series I wrote at length about Robert Woods, and his value as a short-to-intermediate option supported by Stevie Johnson in the slot. All those things are still true if Kolb wins the job, because although Manuel has a much higher ceiling, I really, truly don’t think that right now there’s a wide gap between the two.
Kolb is something far less than great, but he’s a fine placeholder and bridge while Manuel develops and learns from the sideline, if that’s deemed necessary. Recently he’s been followed by the reputation of a passer who’s skittish under pressure, which was echoed again by ESPN’s Ron Jaworski when he projected Kolb as the Bills’ starter to begin the 2013 season:
“One thing that has always prevented Kolb from developing into a consistent quarterback has been his inability to operate in a muddied pocket, with bodies flying around him. You have to be able to do that. Kolb is a functional space passer who needs a comfortable cradle to deliver the football.”
Again, common words, but we need to remember that last year Kolb was playing behind an offense line that couldn’t stop a kindergarten kid who’s playing Red Rover (the Cardinals gave up a league worst 58 sacks).
Kolb has said that his experience is a nice little club in the bag prior to the beginning of his training camp donnybrook with Manuel, and sure, I suppose that’s a thing too. But he also has experience losing competitions, as he honestly, seriously lost one to John Skelton last summer.
There are equal opportunities for horrible immediately with either of these quarterbacks after Manuel was the leading arm during an incredibly weak draft class for the position, and Kolb…well, he’s Kolb. But if there’s even the slightest doubt that Manuel could struggle initially and Blaine Gabbert himself, the easy and logical move is to let Kolb keep a seat lukewarm, while the rook gains precious knowledge.
Short term, there could be pain. But long term, there could be much less depression in upstate New York on Sundays.