EJ’s play sparks debate - The Buffalo News

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EJ’s play sparks debate

Late Monday afternoon, I stopped off at Cole’s for a quick one and found my old pal, Rex Carr, huddled over a magazine at the bar. Rex, as you know, is the weary soul who considers himself Buffalo’s greatest sports fan.

“Well, if it isn’t the TV star!” Rex howled. “Hey, how’s that six-game Bills winning streak going? What the heck got into you?”

“Funny, Rex,” I said, ordering up a couple of drafts. “So I’m trying to be more positive this season. You know me, fair and balanced.”

“You’re better as a cynic,” Rex said. “Look, I want to believe in these new guys, too, but games like Sunday make it hard. Geez, Manuel was bad. I was actually getting nostalgic for Thad Lewis in the second half. Now I know why so many people thought Manuel was a reach.”

“Wait a minute, Rex,” I said, as the magazine cover registered with me. “That’s a college draft guide you’re reading, isn’t it? I didn’t even know they were out yet.”

“Just keeping my options open,” Rex replied. “Things move quickly in the NFL, my friend. You can’t stand still or you get run over. If you don’t have the franchise quarterback, you have to be on the lookout for another one.”

“EJ’s played six games! My God, he missed half of training camp and a month of the season. The kid is a rookie. Did you forget what he did against a good Carolina D? You’re going to bail on him already?”

“I didn’t say I was giving up on him,” Rex said. “But who says you can’t have more than one franchise guy? Hey, did you see that Johnny Manziel threw for 400 yards the other day? That’s four times this season.”

“Just what we need, Johnny Football running loose on Chippewa. Why not bring back Marshawn while you’re at it?”

“If he can make all the throws, I can deal with the knucklehead factor,” Rex said. “What have all those choir boys done for us? Your boy Fitz was a great family man, but I didn’t want him leading my team in the fourth quarter.”

“Young quarterbacks take time,” I said. “Everyone expects Andrew Luck or Cam Newton. And even those guys struggled. Look at Robert Griffin III. People need to be patient with Manuel. There’s a lot to like about the kid, and this new regime.”

“I’m getting a little tired of hearing how this year ‘feels different,’ ” Rex scoffed. “They’re 3-7. Last year, they were 4-6. It didn’t feel so different against the Steelers on Sunday. They gave up 55 to the Pats and nearly held us without a touchdown a week later. What an embarrassment.”

“I’ll admit it was ugly,” I said. “EJ’s play seemed to suck the energy out of the whole team. That fade in the end zone to Stevie was a joke. They coached scared, like they’re afraid to let him throw the ball down the field.”

“Like they did with Fitz,” Rex said. “And do you think the boy genius could give Spiller a few more touches? C.J. is killing my fantasy team. You would have thought Chan was back up in the booth calling the shots. Actually, Chan’s spread offense would look good right about now.”

“Well, it’s a transitional year,” I said. “I think Marrone has done a nice job, considering. They’ve had a lot of injuries. They have a bunch of young receivers. They need to nail another draft or two. I know you don’t like to invest your emotions in this team, but it’s way too soon to give up.”

“I didn’t say I was giving up on EJ,” Rex said. “But I don’t have to pretend to believe. Remember, I didn’t like the pick in the first place. I know Florida State fans who were thrilled to see him leave. As it stands right now, we’d have the sixth pick in the next draft. How can you not think quarterback? What if Bridgewater falls? Have you seen that kid?”

“That’s crazy, Rex! You don’t take a quarterback in the first round of two straight drafts. They’d be the joke of the NFL. And what would it do to EJ’s confidence if they drafted another one high?”

“His confidence?” Rex said, slamming his glass on the bar. “What did it do for his confidence to punt from the 36 in the fourth quarter on fourth and 5? I swear, these coaches are all the same. You need some Brainiac from M.I.T. to tell you to go for it when you’re down two touchdowns?”

“I still think you have to be patient with EJ. You can’t draft a guy in the first round and start wavering six months later. It looks weak.”

“As opposed to the last 13 years of brilliance,” Rex said. “I just want to double down on the position. I don’t want to spend three years clinging to false hope, like they did with Losman and Edwards. The way I see it, EJ was a bonus pick. They traded down in the first round and got an extra second-rounder. I see Kiko Alonso as our real first-rounder.”

“Yeah, great pick. But you have to keep building in the defensive front seven,” I said. “They need another impact linebacker, more depth on the defensive line. The O line, too. They can’t afford to waste another high pick on a quarterback.”

“No,” Rex said. “They can’t afford to go any longer without a real franchise quarterback. It doesn’t matter how many studs you have at other positions. It’s been, what, 14 years without playoffs? It’s time for dramatic measures. I’ve suffered enough.”

“Speaking of suffering ...”

“Do not even go there,” Rex said.

email: jsullivan@buffnews.com

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