It was a roster move that caught many off guard late Tuesday, but when presented with a trade proposal by the Dallas Cowboys for quarterback Matt Cassel there was one chief reason why the Bills felt comfortable in consummating a deal. It was the progress of third-year quarterback EJ Manuel.
Bills head coach Rex Ryan explained the organization's thoughts on the talent they had at the quarterback position and why moving Cassel in a trade was seen as beneficial for the team as a whole.
"Basically how we feel about EJ Manuel was why a move like this would be made," Ryan said Wednesday at his weekly press conference. "It wasn't that we felt bad about Matt Cassel. I want to make sure we're clear on that. Matt did a tremendous job here. As we went through the (quarterback competition) I think EJ Manuel really raised his game. I think he did a tremendous job when given an opportunity. He's a big guy that's got physical gifts. I think he's got a chance to be a good quarterback in this league.
"With that being said we feel really good about our starting quarterback in Tyrod Taylor. This was something that was done because we think it's the best thing for our football team moving forward. We think EJ will keep ascending and we think he'll do that better as the number two quarterback. When it became evident that there was some interest on Dallas' behalf that's how it worked."
The Bills initially released Cassel when final cuts were made Sept. 4th, but he was re-signed to the roster a few days later and declared the backup quarterback. Ryan explained that there was discussion about EJ Manuel being the backup to Taylor at that time due mainly to the progress of his play in the preseason. In the end Cassel's experience won out, but with the opportunity presented by Dallas, Buffalo pulled the trigger believing Manuel can make more effective progress as the backup than the third quarterback.
"Number one (Manuel is) going to get a lot more reps and he'll be way more involved in the game plan," said Ryan. "That's what he needs more than anything else. He's got the physical tools. I think his techniques have greatly improved since David Lee has gotten here and working with him. I think he's got the physical gifts he's always had, but now it's about trying to get him the game plan specific things. That's what he really needs now.
"As a three you're not getting the reps or anything close to the amount of work you'll get as the two. So in my opinion he has a much better chance of developing and having future success in the number two position than in the number three and that's why this deal was done."
Being in the number two role might not seem like a major change. For Tyrod Taylor however, serving in that role the first four years of his NFL career in Baltimore helped prepare him to successfully win the starting quarterback role in Buffalo this past preseason.
Ryan admitted that they do lose Cassel's decade of NFL experience, which does have value, but Buffalo's head coach intends to have his two quarterbacks lean on an offensive staff with multitude of experience for assistance.
"We have a lot of expertise, especially when you look at our offensive side of the ball, starting with Greg Roman as the coordinator, but Chris Palmer an offensive assistant, and you have David Lee in my opinion as good as it gets fundamentally as a quarterback coach," said Ryan. "So we have a lot of talented guys around him. If we didn't think this wasn't in the best interest of our team it wouldn't have been done."
Some might not believe the Bills are a better team immediately in the wake of the trade, but Ryan said the benefits in the near future are clear.
"What makes you better as a team is having vision past the immediate, which is right now, the present," he said. "How does it make you better today? Maybe it doesn't, but right down the road it's going to help our football team because we feel we have our quarterbacks of the present and the future in Tyrod Taylor and EJ Manuel. So that's why the decision was made."