BUFFALO BILLS FRONT OFFICE FOLLOWING FIRST DRAFT SELECTION
FIRST ROUND (16th OVERALL) QB EJ MANUEL
General Manager Buddy Nix
Head Coach Doug Marrone
Thursday, April 25, 2013
Q: What do you like about QB EJ Manuel and why is he the guy?
Buddy Nix: As you know we did a lot of work on these guys. We felt like we knew them about as well as you could from a distance. This guy to us has got the upside to be whatever you want him to be. All these quarterbacks had good qualities. We said that from the start. This is a guy that can do both. We are not talking about…how Coach Marrone and his staff use him is his business. It is up to him now. The guy is capable of doing both.
Q: You draft a quarterback in the first round. You like him to have a chance to be one of the five or six best quarterbacks in the league if everything goes right. Did you feel that this guy had the best chance to do that?
BN: Obviously we did. We, again, we liked some things about all of these guys. We think this guy has a chance. We researched him every way you can and we just feel good about the upside.
Q: How big of a risk was there to trade back that far and still get the first quarterback off your board?
BN: Yeah, we calculated that as best we could. You never know what is going to happen in the Draft. There are surprises all the time. Normally I do not get nervous, but I might have gotten a little nervous towards the end there.
Q: It is not easy to be one of the five to 10 quarterbacks in the league if you do not have a big arm. What do you think about his arm and the importance of having a big arm in Buffalo?
BN: Well I have said this before: I think you need to be able to play in the wind and the cold. He has got huge hands. He is really strong. As far as arm strength, he might depend on that a little too much. He may need some refining as far as some touch and stuff. As far as arm strength there is no question. He is a huge man.
Q: How do you think he reacts to pressure in the pocket?
BN: (There is) nobody like him. Not like all of them. I do not think he is a guy that is going to run if the guy is not open he is going to run right now. That is not what I think he is. I think he is a passer that all of his faults, which all of them have some, can be corrected with technique work.
Q: A lot of college quarterbacks are kind of half-field read guys. Do you kind of accept that he is going to develop that part of his game?
BN: Sure. I think all of them do. Now we spent a lot of time with all of these guys. (We) brought them in here, talked protection, talked routes and talked reads. I talked to his head coach. I talked to his quarterback coach, his coordinator. This guy was further along than most of them as far as knowledge of the game.
Q: The Florida game—not pretty. Clemson he was unbelievable. How do you as you’re evaluating weigh that?
BN: Well I think you look at the reasons for it maybe if there was some. Even though I thought in the Florida game when he pulled it down and scored late down there that, that was a positive thing. But again, we think his faults can be corrected. The things that he does. All of them had to have work. Every one of them. This guy to us has got leadership qualities. He is very smart. And he is big.
Q: When were you guys sold on him as your top quarterback on the board?
BN: Well it was when we finished the process. We did not…we wanted to see everybody in the same situation. Bringing them (in), talking to them and going over it. We did not make a decision until after we finished the last visit with the quarterbacks.
Q: How much did you like the idea of having a quarterback who is a true threat in the zone option play?
BN: I do not think that the NFL is going to get to be an option league. I think this thing is going to be something you use some, but I do like the idea that he could do it if you wanted to. Now I do not see, Doug (Marrone) will be in here in a minute and you can ask him, but this guy…if you can get a guy that can take you either way it is a good thing.
Q: On the trade down, were you comfortable that Manuel would still be there? Was there a point where you said, ‘OK, we are all set’?
BN: We all knew who needed quarterbacks. When we passed that, we felt like we had a shot. The last one was, what, Arizona that was probably tempted to take a quarterback.
Q: How many calls were you taking at the time of the number eight pick?
BN: We took a lot. We even took some as far as moving from 16. I got a little nervous about moving any much further down.
Q: Were you temped to move down?
BN: Well we talked about it. If that is tempted, we talked about it. (Laughs)
Q: With the trade down, was the real lynchpin in that top seven…was it Cleveland not electing to trade down?
BN: No, not really. We did not, we kind of all knew what those guys were, the way they were going. It was not just them. No.
Q: In San Diego you had a guy who won four bowl games. This guy was not the MVP in four bowl games, but what do you think of that part of his resume?
BN: Well, and you need to ask Doug all these questions you have been asking me about how we are going to use this guy. I think being 24-6 at Florida St., and he did play behind Christian Ponder, but he started four games his rookie year and (two) his sophomore year. That and being 21-3 the last three in that conference—I think all of those things are-the guy is a winner.
Q: Can you just speak to the leadership characteristics you have noticed from him?
Doug Marrone: Well obviously we are excited about adding him to our team and he does bring, like you said, a lot of intangibles. I think one of the things that you see when he walks into a room is just his presence. And again, he has had great leadership ability at Florida St. where he has been amongst his teammates. I think that one of the important things when he comes in here is, again, earning the trust of our players. I think that is the first thing that you have to do. He will come in here and he will compete for the quarterback position. He has a lot in front of him. It is a situation where he is going to have to earn the trust of the players on this football team already and he is going to have to obviously learn the system.
Q: How conflicted were you in passing on someone you knew as well as Ryan Nassib?
DM: I don’t think I was very conflicted. I think that at the end of the day there are a lot of good quarterbacks in the draft and we were able to take the best quarterback that we felt fit us here in our situation in Buffalo.
Q: How could you size up EJ’s Best attributes as a football player? What toolset that he brings do you particularly like?
DM: Well I think you could start listing many things. He can throw the football vertically down the field, he has a good arm, he can get himself out of trouble, he can create things with his feet, he has good presence in the huddle, he’s accurate and we are excited to have him.
Q: When you hired Doug, it was seen as a willingness to shoot to the stars and go for greatness, this seems like that type of pick where there might have been more quarterbacks that are more ready now but EJ Manuel has the higher upside. Do you see that?
BN: I think that is right on, I do. You know I think, and Doug can speak to this, that if we can develop this guy, he has the talent to take you to the dance, physical talent.
Q: What do you think about the importance of a guy that has a big arm, that can make all the throws that has a chance to be an elite quarterback? And the importance of a big arm in Buffalo?
DM: I think it is important and I think you have to have it. Obviously you talk about the weather and wind, but one of the things that is important for that position that E.J has shown is the intangibles we have talked about and his ability to work. I think that is the most important thing. When you have that desire to work and become better, those are the things that came out when I was speaking to him. And those are the things I appreciate because I think at the end of the day he works hard, earns the trust of the players and he learns the system. He can be an outstanding quarterback in this league.
Q: Nine days ago you spoke highly of Ryan Nassib and Matt Barkley, and noticed inconsistencies in EJ Manuel. Was that to throw off other teams? Or was that a legitimate concern?
BN: I’d say it was the truth.
DM: I really can’t recall. I remember myself saying that there are a lot of qualities in the quarterbacks in this draft and I think there are strengths and weaknesses in each one. I think I said you can win with many of these quarterbacks. And I know that Buddy and I have said it is probably not as bad as what people have put out there as far as the quarterbacks that are available in this Draft.
Q: It seems like this franchise does not want to go safe, and they want to shoot for the moon. Do you feel like this was not the “safe pick”?
DM: I thought the pick was the best player at that time to help the Buffalo Bills.
Q: What was your take on the Florida game? Such a high profile game where people saw E.J struggle?
DM: I don’t think it was one game or two games, I think it is a body of work that we looked at. We looked at the whole body of work. We looked at the interview process and we looked at the private workout, so I think there were a lot of things that went into it. I don’t think it would be fair to pick out one or two games. I think it was a body of work. Buddy said before, one of the most important things about that position is drafting someone that has won a lot of games and he has done that.
Q: Most people though would say that he has the best athleticism of the quarterbacks in the Draft. How was attractive was the opportunity he could present to run the option?
DM: I don’t know if I would specifically talk about being able to run the option. Just the ability to make plays with his feet is what I would concentrate more on and that is what we looked at.
Q: You mean elude the rush with his size and more?
DM: Take him out on the perimeter, elude the rush, make plays down the field, eyes down the field. And then again, I’m not going to tell you anything different that you already know that, yes that is something that we appreciate and that we look for in a quarterback.
Q: Buddy, the Bills have not historically taken quarterbacks with picks in the first round. What is the need and desire in your mind that you wanted to do this and succeed with this pick right now?
BN: Yeah, I think there is a lot to that but I will say this: If there was not a quarterback in the Draft that we thought could develop into that and get us there, we would not have done that.
Q: It seems to be the message that this is the guy for the future when you pick a quarterback this high. Correct me if I’m wrong?
BN: He’s going to have to earn his spot obviously.
DM: I have talked to our player’s right before they left and I told them my feelings about the Draft. I explained to them that we have a football team and the draft is there and whoever comes in has to earn the trust of our team. They have to compete, learn the system and the best players play. That’s exactly what we are looking to do with all of the players that we draft, as well as the players that are already here: develop them. I think that is the rule that we have as coaches. We take talented players in the draft, we take talented players in free agency or trade or whatever it may be, and then it comes down to us coaches to make sure we develop those players to make sure that they are good enough to win games.
Q: It is bigger in the fan’s eyes and media’s eyes when you take a quarterback in the first round. You are tying your wagons to E.J Manuel in a sense:
DM: Again, you are saying that, but yes it is significant when you take a quarterback.
Q: How do you feel on the position that you are in following the trade for day two of the NFL draft with three picks in the top 50?
BN: We are excited about it. I think we should get us some good football players tomorrow. We are looking forward to tomorrow. We have a lot of work to do before 7 o’clock again on the guys that are left.
Q: How do you feel about EJ how he keeps his eyes down field, rather than just rushing right away?
DM: I thought that he did a very good job at keeping his eyes downfield. I thought he did an excellent job of knowing when to run and when not to run. I thought he did a great job when he did run, creating plays and keeping the chains going. That’s what I saw on film.
Q: Would it be fair to assume that he enters open competition to become the starting quarterback for this team?
DM: Absolutely. Every player that we are taking, no matter how we take them is in competition. At that position, I have already said that and it still remains the same. He is now thrown into the mix of competition.
Q: Who was the number one player on your draft board entering into tonight? Was he the one you were targeting the whole night or just after the trade?
BN: I’m not going to tell you about our board and I’m not going to tell you that either.