Marrone on Manuel: "He's actually looked a little bit faster"

Posted Sep 4, 2013

The Bills head coach talks about naming EJ Manuel the starting quarterback, his message to the players going into the season opener, and his emotions to start the season.

Head Coach Doug Marrone

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Opening statement:

Obviously the big question today was naming the starting quarterback, which we did this morning. He feels good; he’s 110-percent healthy, looks good out there. That’s what we’re going to go with. I know you guys probably have a lot questions on that and any other questions I’m more than happy to answer.

Q: It almost seemed like EJ Manuel was going to be the starter from the beginning with you not being too concerned with his surgery.

A: Probably a little bit of that is kind of my demeanor. We’ve talked about that before with injuries. It’s kind of like the next man up thing. I think a lot of times when it comes down to injuries that’s truly how I feel. I don’t want to say it is part of the game but it does happen obviously. And then when (that happens), you just have to have the next person ready and be prepared. I didn’t know early on, but all the sudden injuries are tough when it comes down to people heal differently and more of a condition I guess. When he first came back, I was like ‘Oh, he looks pretty good’ and then the thing was to be smart about it bringing him back. The thing with EJ and the doctors did a really good job of bringing him back. When it started to move up I started to feel that this was the way we were going. In the back of your mind we have a responsibility for who we put out there so what I was trying to make sure was that putting him back out there was there any chance for it to get worse, meaning that he’s not 110%. Once that was taken out of the equation and he’s out there, I feel very comfortable with that decision.

Q: How does EJ’s mobility look?

A: He’s actually looked a little bit faster and I think because the time off and rest a little bit. You know how we use that expression fresh legs? I think we were able to see that. The trainers through the rehabilitation process worked him out because we wanted to be able to make sure obviously about that.

Q: What drawbacks are there for EJ missing those two weeks of practice?

A: I kind of looked at that and I would talk to Nathaniel (Hackett) and we talked about it when he was out where he was able to see things from a different perspective. He was also, during the game where we didn’t have him on the sideline, we had him up in the booth up in the box, so I think he could see what we actually were seeing out there. And it was interesting because we discussed it’s a pretty good way to train a young guy so he can see what everybody else is seeing so when he gets fed the information he knows ‘Ok, yeah. This is what the coaches are seeing up there.’ I think if he can get the best of both worlds that way playing and maybe getting an opportunity of doing that, which not many quarterbacks get. I think that can help him in development. Again, do you want someone healthy throughout the whole preseason, of course you do.

Q: How do you think EJ will hold up with the defensive pressure?

A: Obviously that’s something that we have to prepare him for. That’s holding up on our end responsibility wise. I think that obviously we’ve seen a lot of pressure during the pre-season, OTA’s and our defense pressures. We’ve seen quite a bit of that and he’s responded well to that. Again, it’s his first game, he’s going to go in there, we’re going to give him everything he needs to be successful and he’s going to out there and play.

Q: What will you see from a Bill Belichick type defense?

A: We have all the respect in the world for Matt (Patricia) and Coach Belichick and what they do. They’re not going to go out there and make it easy. And from week to week it’s not going to be easy. I think that he’ll be able to see things. We’ll be able to get him ready from things that we can see on film. But obviously going out there and seeing it at that time, a lot of it it’ll be the first time that he sees it truly live bullets for lack of a better term at it. A lot of that obviously you’re looking for how he responds in the game like situations. In the preseason he did a nice job of that.

Q: Will there be any limiting EJ?

A: Well I can’t speak saying for the him, but I’d be lying if I’m sitting here saying I don’t expect him to do great things. That’s why he’s out there along with the other 10 players. We expect not just EJ but all of players that are out there to perform at a very, very high level. That’s our expectation. And the reason why I say that is because if I lower my expectations of any player on this team then I’m not doing my job as a coach. I hope I answered that question.

Q: Do you believe in the symmetry of a new GM, new head coach and new quarterback all starting together?

A: Two parts--and I’ve been asked this question a lot with the symmetry of the management, that’s kind of all I knew. Coming in, I did know there was going to be a transition with Doug (Whaley) and Buddy Nix. So that was there for me so I wasn’t here before, so that was new. Obviously it’s a lot easier for me having worked with Nathaniel Hackett for a period of time where we’ve known each other and got to know each other with me being more involved on the offensive side of the ball. And then Coach Pettine’s, is a defense that I studied quite a bit. Obviously I’ve worked with some people on that side of the ball. For me it was a very comfortable situation. As far as the quarterback and the other positions, we’re not talking about a quarterback within in a default situation. I think we’re talking about a quarterback that went out there and played pretty well in the preseason and earned this opportunity.

Q: Do you have an update on the injuries?

A: Obviously the players that did not participate in practice: Stephon Gilmore with a wrist, (Dustin) Hopkins with a right groin, (Doug) Legursky with the knee. Limited was Jairus Byrd, he was limited today in practice and EJ obviously was full go.

Q: Do you feel that the standards have changed around here?

A: To give you some insight to what I talk to the players about, obviously I told the players today who the starting quarterback was. And I told the players that you’re going to get a lot of questions from the media that say “Hey, you’ve got this young quarterback playing and how do you feel about that, what do you need to do differently?” And I told the players, we don’t need you to do anything differently. We need Stevie Johnson to be Stevie Johnson. We need our running backs to be our running backs and kind of down the line and that’s what we need. As far as expectation, my expectation at the quarterback position really doesn’t change in any position. I go back to the same thing, if I’m sitting here and going “Hey, this guy is going to make some mistakes.” We’ve got to work our way through with any player, I feel like I’m not doing my job. My job is to make sure I create high expectations for this team and where we want to go. And like I’ve always told the players, if my expectations as a player are higher than your own then that’s a problem.

Q: What is the situation at kicker?

A: Right now obviously with Dustin (Hopkins) not participating, (Dan) Carpenter will go in and kick for us.

Q: How did Dustin Hopkins injure himself?

A: What happened was, when I came upstairs they said Dustin came into the training room after practice and said his felt something different, just didn’t feel right. I was like here we go. Next thing I know we’re going to have the doctor check him out and we’re going to send him to get I believe MRI or x-rays, not sure about that but I believe MRI, and next thing I know they came back and said he has a strain in his right groin. I thought it was a high level one and he’d be out some time, but it’s not so I think it’s going to be a condition thing. I think if he was a position player I’d be able to tell you a couple days but I think because he uses that leg I think it’s just a matter of when he gets out there and starts swinging it and see how he feels.

Q: Does Jairus Byrd have a chance at playing on Sunday?

A: It’s the same thing with the condition. I think everyone’s different. He’s working extremely hard to get back, really working hard on the game plan. I feel very comfortable with his knowledge and he’s out there doing things with us and it’s just a matter of one day I think he’s going to wake up and say ‘Hey, I feel great let’s go.’

Q: How does it affect the rest of the offense putting EJ back in after missing two weeks?

A: I don’t view the two quarterbacks as differently as maybe you may or someone else may. I think that both quarterbacks are very athletic. I think everyone saw earlier in the preseason that Jeff (Tuel) was a little hampered by an ankle that he had. But he’s a very good athlete and does a lot of things. We really didn’t change…I told Jeff, I met with Jeff this morning, obviously I wanted to make sure I sat down with him before I spoke to the team. I told Jeff that if EJ wasn’t ready I didn’t have any problem at all playing you and if something happens, and I know as a coach it’s cliché, you’ve got to be ready to go. That’s how I feel. I have all the confidence in the world in Jeff also.

Q: Did you feel optimistic about EJ starting the whole time?

A: Being catholic there a lot of prayers for that. To be honest you go home and say I hope he’s healthy, I hope he’s healthy, but you really don’t know. I don’t think there was any point in time until I said the myself, “Ok, with him being out how long will it take us to get him ready?” Then you put a deadline on it, then you go about it. When it moved up then it was good and then you just worry about what we talked about before, is there a chance of reinjuring it.

Q: When did the deadline moved up for EJ?

A: It moved up Sunday. What happened was, and I believe practice was open, Sunday he was limited where we thought at the first time Monday he would limited and Wednesday cleared.

Q: How do you feel about heading into your first NFL game as a head coach?

A: You’re so busy, there’s so many things going through your mind that you never really take a step back and really say ‘Oh my gosh, here I am.’ Between game management, between plays, between offense, defense and special teams. I know that sounds kind of lame on my part but it’s really true. You just kind of go out there and you don’t really realize at times if you’re in a packed stadium or if you’re out on the practice field or you’re in a farm somewhere playing the game. You’re so focused in on what’s going on. I said this many of times, it’s probably one of my issues. I have a tough time celebrating success even wins and anything like that because my mind is on to that next game and my mind is so focused on the other thing. That’s one of the things that I would say is a flaw of mine, but it’s also one of those things that is my strength.

Q: What do you see as a challenge with the Patriots offense?

A: I think consistency. I think consistency is always a challenge on offense. You’re looking for it, you’re constantly striving for it. The focus, we’ve seen a couple things that happened in the preseason in the red zone. Things like that as far as us knowing what to do, I don’t see that as a problem. Just making sure the execution is consistent. That’s always a challenge. For the challenge their offense has, again, I know Josh McDaniels well. Obviously they’re very talented on that side of the ball. Schematically they’re running some tough situations that makes you really think. I think that they’ve been very, very successful and I think that we have all the respect in the world for them. It’s going to be a great challenge for us, it’s a great challenge not only to go against the players who are great players but it’s also a great challenge from their coaching staff and what they do. Because what they seem to do a very good job schematically of putting their players in a position to make plays.

Q: How do you feel about everything that has happened to you so far as a head coach?

A: What you have to understand and I guess when we get to know each other more, but one, it’s not that I get a kick out of it and I wouldn’t use that phrase. I tell this to the players all the time that sometimes I thrive on adversity because when adversity hits, whatever it may be in any part of your life whether it’s on the field, off the field, whatever it may be, that is where character comes in and true character of who you are and how you handle situations. A lot of times I like adversity early because it separates people right away. You know who to rely on and who not to rely on. For me, I kind of like those situations. When I was a position coach I was the one on the sidelines handling all the adjustments, handling adjustments at half time as the coordinator and doing all those things. I loved it. I truly thrived through it. For me, it is what it is and make sure you can control what you control and you just control it.

Q: Is that why when you said Tuel would be starting that it was fun and exciting?

A: It was exciting for them. I guess what hurts me or maybe what I don’t understand is that people become labeled in this league. Just because he’s a college free agent doesn’t mean that he’s not good enough to go in there and play. We felt all along, and I said it early on, that we felt very fortunate to get Jeff here. We felt very good about him. I think that he’s proven that in the preseason that he’s been productive. Now, can he be productive during an NFL season, the same with EJ, that remains to be seen, but that’s what our goal. For me if he wasn’t as talented or wasn’t as good would I be in the situation where I wouldn’t be worried absolutely, I would say it. I said it before, someone asked me a question about what I worry about and I answered it quickly and I said depth.