Breaking Down the Buffalo Bills QB Situation Following the Signing of Matt Flynn

Chris TrapassoAnalyst IOctober 14, 2013

Aug 23, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Matt Flynn (15) is pressured by Chicago Bears nose tackle Stephen Paea (92) at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Following yet another injury at the quarterback position—this time to Thad Lewis—the Buffalo Bills signed Matt Flynn on Monday after a previously scheduled workout with the team. 

News of the signing was initially reported by CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora on Twitter

Bills likely to sign QB Matt Flynn, who is working out for the team. Buffalo has been struck by repeated QB injuries since the preseason

— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) October 14, 2013

Fortunately for the Bills, the foot injury Lewis suffered in Week 6 was not severe, according to head coach Doug Marrone

Doug Marrone: Thad Lewis X-rays and MRI were negative. Day to day. "I feel good about him being able to play Sunday"

— Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) October 14, 2013

If Lewis isn't significantly hindered by his apparent mild foot sprain, he'll get his second start for Buffalo in Week 7 against the Dolphins in Miami:

Marrone: Thad Lewis will start if healthy, Flynn the backup if he learns #Bills system. Confidence in Tuel as starter or reserve if needed.

— Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) October 14, 2013

Every NFL team endures a variety of injuries each season, but the Bills have dealt with an unusually high amount of them at the game's most vital position.

A whopping eight quarterbacks have taken a practice snap for Buffalo this year—EJ Manuel, Kevin Kolb, Thad Lewis, Jeff Tuel, Tarvaris Jackson, Matt Leinart, Aaron Corp and Dennis Dixon. 

Flynn will be the ninth. 

Therefore, if you're confused about what's going on under center for the Bills, it's ok. You're not alone. 

Here's a thorough breakdown that, hopefully, provides some much-needed clarification on Buffalo's quarterback situation.

 

EJ Manuel's Recovery

Oct 3, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback EJ Manuel (3) warms up before a game against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports
Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports

The logical place to start is at the top with EJ Manuel. The rookie quarterback is dealing with a strained LCL, and in a discussion with the media on Monday, Marrone was encouraged by Manuel's recovery:

Marrone on EJ Manuel: "He's ahead of schedule. The report today was encouraging" #Bills

— Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) October 14, 2013

Per Chris Brown of BuffaloBills.com, Marrone went on to say the following, "I don’t have a timeline from the doctor yet, but I was encouraged meeting with him and talking to him.”

Obviously, the moment Manuel is cleared by doctors and can return to practice at (close) to 100 percent, he'll be the Bills tarting quarterback. 

Remember, these were the two reports on his knee-ligament injury after the game against the Cleveland Browns on Thursday of Week 5. 

First this:

#Bills QB EJ Manuel has a LCL injury and will be out for a few weeks, but they expect him back.

— Joe Buscaglia (@JoeBuscaglia) October 4, 2013

Then this:

According to a league source, #Bills QB EJ Manuel will be back in as early as 4 weeks, but there is a possibility he'll be out 6 to 8 weeks.

— Joe Buscaglia (@JoeBuscaglia) October 4, 2013

Manuel is scheduled to resume on-field work this week during practice (per BuffaloBills.com). The Week 9 showdown at home against the Kansas City Chiefs would appear to be a reasonable game for Manuel to return, but his progress must be monitored in the coming weeks. 

He did make his way back on the early end of the timetable given after his preseason knee injury, don't forget that.

 

Thad Lewis 

Oct 3, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback EJ Manuel (3) warms up before a game against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports
Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports

Lewis wasn't super sharp against the Bengals stout defense, but he certainly wasn't the sole reason the Bills lost in the extra session. 

After falling behind 24-10 in the fourth quarter, Lewis completed nine of 13 pass attempts with two touchdowns and no interceptions. 

His perfectly-lofted 40-yard toss to Marquise Goodwin tied the game at 24 with 1:08 remaining. 

However, at some point in the fourth quarter, Lewis injured his foot. 

Joe Buscaglia of WGR550.com tweeted the following after Marrone's press conference on Monday:

Good chance for Bills' Thad Lewis vs. Dolphins http://t.co/T8atIaUvY2

— Joe Buscaglia (@JoeBuscaglia) October 14, 2013

As long as Manuel is sidelined, the Bills will dedicated themselves to Lewis as the starter. After his gutsy and rather productive afternoon against a stingy Cincinnati defense, that's the most intelligent decision they can make.

 

Jeff Tuel 

Oct 13, 2013; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback Thad Lewis (9) passes as center Doug Legursky (59) blocks against the Cincinnati Bengals during the second half at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Bengals beat the Bills 27-24 in overtime. Mandatory Cre
Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Just two weeks ago, Tuel was the primary backup to Manuel and played on Thursday Night Football against the Browns. 

He was the only other quarterback on the active roster. 

Now, Flynn's presence means Tuel will be competing for the second-string job. 

This from BuffaloBills.com after the acquisition of Flynn:

Marrone confirmed that if Flynn can effectively grasp the offense to a point where he can execute the game plan he would be the backup to Lewis with Tuel as the third quarterback. With Flynn just signing on Monday, Marrone and his offensive staff have to evaluate Flynn and his retention rate through the middle of the week.

Marrone said the following about how the team views the undrafted free-agent signal-caller even after all the quarterback shuffling: 

Marrone on Jeff Tuel: "Nothing has changed" Young, developing QB prospect.

— Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) October 14, 2013

At this point, Tuel has a major advantage over Flynn because he has a firm grasp of the Bills' playbook and knows the intricacies of the offense. 

It would be somewhat surprising if Flynn surpassed Tuel on the depth chart for Week 7's game against the Dolphins, but the possibility will increase as time passes and Flynn gets acclimated.

 

Matt Flynn

Oct 3, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback Jeff Tuel (8) throws a pass during the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

As outlined above, Flynn was added because of Lewis' tweak and could ultimately beat out Tuel for the backup job during Manuel's absence. 

After disappointing stints in Seattle with the Seahawks and especially in Oakland with the Raiders, Flynn is probably nothing more than the No. 3 quarterback.

When Manuel returns to the field, that's likely what Flynn will be.

The Bills coaching staff and front office must have been so discouraged by Tuel's performance in his relief effort against the Browns that they did not feel comfortable with the idea of him being one play—an one injury—away from seeing the field again. In fairness to the undrafted rookie, coming into a road game cold off the bench against a strong defense doesn't seem like the easiest thing to do. 

In fairness to the Bills' assessment, Tuel's performance against Cleveland was rather ghastly.

Essentially, the door was opened for Flynn to be signed because of Buffalo's lack of confidence in Tuel and the domino effect created by the injuries to Manuel and Lewis.

 

Dennis Dixon

Sep 29, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Matt Flynn (15) passes the football against the Washington Redskins during the first quarter at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Dixon was signed to Buffalo's practice squad prior to the game against the Bengals. He was drafted in the fifth round of the 2008 draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers when current Bills GM Doug Whaley was the Pro Personnel Coordinator. 

Whaley's knowledge of Dixon's skill-set and ability likely led to the free agent being added as the absolute emergency of all emergency insurance policies.

The Bills will likely keep him on the practice squad for the time being.

With Thad Lewis not seriously injured, all signs are pointing to him being under center for Buffalo's divisional game against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. If Matt Flynn shows competence understanding the playbook this week during practice, he'll be the backup. If not, Jeff Tuel will find himself in his original spot on the depth chart. Dennis Dixon is firmly entrenched on the practice squad. 

Injuries at the quarterback position have dampened the spirits in Buffalo despite the Bills' otherwise encouraging play this season. 

However, when EJ Manuel returns, the starting job will be his.