Bills new head coach Rex Ryan has just two quarterbacks on his 2015 roster right now. Former first-round pick EJ Manuel and last year's practice squad QB Jeff Tuel. With just 15 NFL starts between them none of which came over the final three quarters of the 2014 season it's no wonder that Ryan sees a position that is far from settled.
"That's a situation that's unresolved," said Ryan. "I think that's a fair statement right now. Quarterback has to be part of the solution, but it doesn't have to be THE solution."
Ryan has a good deal of experience with young quarterbacks from his six years as head coach of the New York Jets, where they made Mark Sanchez a rookie starter and followed suit four years later with Geno Smith. He advanced to two straight AFC title games with Sanchez and a top flight defense. There wasn't quite the same success with Smith the last two seasons.
The situation he inherits with Buffalo is one that will be undergoing change as the offseason moves along according to GM Doug Whaley.
"We're going to leave every option open at that position," Whaley said of quarterback. "We're going to bring in competition and that's one of the mainstays since we've been together. We want competition at every position because competition raises the level of play. When you raise the level of play, there's going to be injuries so you know that guy behind him, the expectation won't dip."
Outside of trading for a quarterback the first opportunity to add at the position will be in free agency where Ryan's former QB in New York, Mark Sanchez, now with Philadelphia, will again be a free agent.
"Certainly, he'll be a guy under consideration," said Ryan. "We'll explore every avenue. If we think there's a free agent like Mark or somebody else out there that we think can help us, then we'll absolutely explore it. We've briefly talked about some possibilities out there. We'll definitely look into anybody that we think can help us."
At a season-ending press conference Whaley said one, maybe two quarterbacks will be added to the roster before the team is back on the practice field in the spring. At the same time he believes EJ Manuel's game benefited greatly from being on the sidelines watching the now retired Kyle Orton prepare each week for Sunday games. Ryan intends to dive head long into assessing Manuel's progress.
"We're obviously in an evaluating process right now in particular about the quarterback position and other positions as well so we're just getting on the job," he said. "I can't tell you who that quarterback's going to be right now but when you surround a quarterback with outstanding players, it's not just about one man. It's about every man. Not just one man and I think that's where our focus is going to be."
Rex Ryan arrives in Buffalo and tours the ADPRO Sports Training Center for the first time as the 18th Head Coach in Bills history.
Ryan does have a firm working knowledge of Manuel's skill set having scouted him in preparation for the 2013 NFL draft, and game planning for him while coaching the Jets.
"I know EJ is somebody that we looked at when he came out," said Ryan. "I feel like he has a lot of traits that you look for in a quarterback. He's smart, he's dedicated. I think he has movement skills. I'd like to see him use his legs more than he has. He'll certainly be given an opportunity here. That doesn't mean we are set at the quarterback position. We talked about how it's an evaluation process right now. We'll do whatever is in the best interest of the Buffalo Bills."
Here to assist in focusing on Manuel's strengths is offensive coordinator Greg Roman. His track record with young quarterbacks is short, but impressive. Midway through the 2012 season as offensive coordinator in San Francisco, when Colin Kaepernick became the full-time starter, Roman not only nurtured the second-year quarterback's development, he maximized his strengths. He shifted the offense to take advantage of Kaepernick's athleticism, making him a catalyst in helping the 49ers win an NFC title and a spot in Super Bowl XLVII.
"Do we want to develop a franchise quarterback? Of course, but we'll take steps," Ryan said. "I think the first step that we took as an organization is to bring Greg Roman in to be our offensive coordinator. He's an outstanding coach. We have the exact same philosophy. We're locked in line how we're going to go about doing things. Greg has dealt with a young quarterback coming in with Kaepernick and things. He had his team one win away from the ultimate prize."
Ryan admits he's learned some lessons working with young signal callers like Sanchez and Smith the last six years. He plans to apply those lessons to his current situation knowing Manuel is still an investment for his Bills team.
"In this league it's tough. The skill set is different, especially when dealing with young quarterbacks. The talent of the DBs is just a part of it, but not giving a guy 600 plays to (memorize). How is he going to be efficient in that when he's learning other things? I think tightening up the focus is important as well as focusing on the quarterback's abilities, the traits that he has and possesses and let him go play.
"Sometimes, just like we mentioned through coaching and even playing quarterback, I think a little more experience the better you are going to be. The more comfortable you are going to be."
It sounds like Ryan and Roman will have an open mind concerning the starting quarterback role, but the only thing that's clear about Buffalo's quarterback position at this point is that a definitive answer is still months away.
Photos from Head Coach Rex Ryan's introductory press conference inside the ADPRO Sports Training Center.