EJ Manuel is the future of the Buffalo Bills.
When exactly that future morphs into the present is what everyone wants to know in Western New York and in the famed BillsMafia.
Who stands in his way?
Six-year veteran and free-agent signee Kevin Kolb.
In all likelihood, Kolb was brought in due to his familiarity in West Coast-based offenses and relatively vast playing experience.
In 2012, Kolb led the Arizona Cardinals to a 4-0 record to begin the year and did so with a 62.6 completion percentage with seven touchdowns and only two interceptions.
Playing behind what ProFootballFocus (subscription required) ranked as the worst pass-blocking offensive line in the NFL, ultimately did in the injury-prone Kolb—ironically enough, he was lost for the season after taking a hit against the Bills.
While Kolb's roller-coaster career would widely be considered a huge disappointment, there's some credence to the Bills' belief that, if protected, he can be an effective manager of their uptempo, West Coast offense.
Tarvaris Jackson has some West Coast experience too, and he does have above-average abilities as a scrambler.
Buffalo should conduct a legitimate three-man quarterback competition in training camp—Jackson and Kolb won't simply move out of the way for Manuel.
Remember, they're two signal-callers desperately trying to revitalize their careers.
Conversely, Doug Marrone and the Bills front office drafted Manuel for a reason—because they believe he's perfectly suited to direct the type of offense they'd like to run.
Thankfully, we know that for sure because they had their pick of the quarterback litter in the first round of the draft and have since claimed that Manuel was their guy from the very beginning.
I doubt the Bills will be utilizing a full-fledged Washington Redskins-esque read-option offense as their base, but those new-age wrinkles will almost assuredly be included.
Offensive coordinator Nate Hackett incorporated the read-option with Ryan Nassib last season, and it typically yielded unspectacular results.
Manuel is, easily, the most ideal quarterback on Buffalo's roster to lead a West Coast system that features designed quarterback runs—there's no doubting that.
Passing on Nassib proves Marrone won't play Manuel simply because the fans or media think it's the easy decision, so even if there's widespread clamoring for the first-round pick to start Week 1, he won't march out with the first team until Marrone and Hackett are confident he's ready.
Which brings me to the final debatable subject on this matter—does a quarterback really learn from sitting on the sidelines, holding the clipboard? Or can development only occur in live-game action?
Sometimes, throwing a quarterback onto the field too soon can irrevocably damage his career. Other times, making in-game mistakes are invaluable lessens which can be the catalysts for proper maturation.
Depending on which school of thought you believe in—to me, it's a player-by-player basis—will probably give you your answer on whether or not you believe Manuel already has the leg up to start in 2013 and if you believe he should start at all.
He's a cerebral quarterback with tremendous athletic gifts, a guy who operated and succeeded in a complex offense at Florida State.
He was drafted to be the guy in Buffalo, and although I genuinely believe Marrone will keep the quarterback competition open this summer, Manuel, right now, is the favorite to start against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots to begin the 2013 regular season.