Seminole football fanatics stood aghast at the onset of the 2010 Gator Bowl. Unranked Florida State was loathing a 14-3 score in favor of #16 West Virginia at Everbank Field in Jacksonville, FL. Would the resplendent light that was Bobby Bowden’s coaching career dwindle at the expense of a loss to his former program? Realizing that Bowden’s uncanny reputation was in jeopardy, a fledgling EJ Manuel marshaled his comrades through four quarters of gridiron tussle to the boisterous sound of triumph.
Meanwhile, over 1,000 miles away and two days later the Buffalo Bills found themselves dismantling the then 14-1 Indianapolis Colts behind the arm of Ryan Fitzpatrick for the first season finale victory since 2002. Despite the margin of the Bills’ (30-7) win, a wretched remembrance of their tumultuous season overshadowed any sort of jubilation. Inconsistent quarterback play transpired into a position dilemma while Dick Jauron’s head coaching contract was terminated. A meager 6-10 record averted the Bills from post-season contention, and a ramshackle fan base called bystanders around the league to question whether the early 90’s was the last glimmer of prosperity for this dilapidated franchise.
Four years later, not much has changed. The cataclysmic visage of Orchard Park, NY casts a diffused Billy Buffalo ambling around to the loud shrills of peregrine falcons; not an unusual espy. At the same time, downtown Buffalo subsists with a rambunctious Buffalo Jills’ cheerleading squadron that shrieks defunct across the Erie Canal whereas patrons in the surrounding neighborhoods lament the absence of owner Ralph Wilson. If there is a salvation, something optimistic to converse about, it rests in last year’s player acquisition, EJ Manuel.
When an emergency begins to materialize, two solutions immediately surface; run squawking in the opposite direction or counteract that predicament with a greater remedy of improvisation. So, when the Bills selected Manuel as the 16th pick of the 2013 NFL draft, they envisioned a player capable of combating in-game plight with masterful contrivances. Just as he led the Seminoles to a comeback win over West Virginia, he continued to operate as a field general for three more years at Florida State; thus earning him a total of four bowl victories and the only first round quarterback selection in last year’s draft. Bowl wins as well as statistics don’t necessarily equate to NFL dominance, but Manuel’s injury-plagued rookie campaign has exhibited flashes of control, a much needed game element.
The competence to recognize a play deteriorating or authority to circumvent a blitz by way of an audible is Peyton Manning-esque. However, Manuel did not exercise his mechanics with Manning this off-season, but he did with Colin Kaepernick. “(I) worked out with Colin Kaepernick this offseason and just tried to follow his lead,” Manuel said of how he improved in his time off. “The biggest thing for me was improving on situational football and being smarter,”. The former seminole has validated that when the power of your original game plan dissipates, ascertaining the field circumstances in order to stabilize a new game scheme is imperative. What does Kaepernick’s “lead” offer to Manuel?
There is a reason Kaepernick has been to 3 NFC Championships and a Superbowl at the tender age of 26. Sure, he has a phenomenal defense, but Kaepernick’s effectiveness can be attributed to his consciousness of those field situations where the 49ers appear on the verge of collapse. Nobody is demanding Kaepernick to be an intrepid liberator when the groundwork of a 49ers’ game plan starts to dissolve. Football is a team sport. Players traverse the game-day tunnel in unison with one another, and execute obligations of their role(s) with the protection of team interests in mind. Nonetheless, Kaepernick’s “lead” has imparted knowledge on Manuel in that the responsibility of a quarterback rouses one to become the cog of improvisation; explicitly that auxiliary power during fourth quarter quandaries. Take a glance in the mirror before you are sacked Manuel, perhaps your role includes being that emergency game plan in year two when all else fails.
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