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Bills still fans of Jeff Tuel as development quarterback

By Tim Graham

Doug Marrone declared faith in Jeff Tuel to be the starting quarterback on opening day.

Seven weeks later, Tuel sought out Marrone to find out where he stood with the Buffalo Bills.

"Actually, Jeff came in to see me," Marrone said of the Bills' decision to bring in Matt Flynn today. The Bills now have four quarterbacks. Tuel would appear to be last on the depth chart.

"I told him, I said, 'It hasn't really changed," Marrone said. "I said, 'Here was our plan in the beginning. This is what we wanted to do. This is how we see you. We see you as a young quarterback that's developing.'

"We reaffirmed with him all the things I said here: 'Hey, we like you. You're a young, developing quarterback. In a perfect world we were probably thinking practice squad. You played extremely well.' "

A passionate chunk of Bills fans was adamant Tuel deserved a shot to be the starting quarterback this year based on the undrafted rookie's performances in training camp and preseason games.

The Bills clearly don't agree with that sentiment.

Marrone indicated today the Bills had little choice but to express public confidence Tuel could get the job done against the New England Patriots on opening day.

But there simply wasn't enough time to get anybody else ready. With first-round pick EJ Manuel recovering from knee surgery and Kevin Kolb out with a concussion, the Bills acquired Thad Lewis and signed Matt Leinart for a desperation look-see late in preseason.

Tuel "was the only one on the roster at the time that really knew the offense," Marrone said.

The Bills also feared another team would scoop up Tuel if they waived him for the practice squad. In three preseason games against backup defenders, Tuel completed 72 percent of his throws for 299 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.

"We were nervous about someone taking him," Marrone said.

But when Manuel went down with another knee injury Oct. 3 in Cleveland, Tuel came into the game and looked far from NFL-ready. Tuel completed eight of his 20 passes for 80 yards and no touchdowns with an interception that was returned for a touchdown.

The Bills soon promoted Lewis from the practice squad and named him the starter for Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Marrone on what he told Tuel today:

"Listen, here's what it is. Do I expect you to be happy with that? No, I don't want you to be. I want you to, 'Hey, I'm going to show you, and I'm going to work my butt off.' ... You don't have to agree with what your role is. You have to do it, but you don't have to agree with it. Then you're the one that can change it by getting better."


Doug Marrone | EJ Manuel | Jeff Tuel | Matt Flynn | Matt Leinart | Thad Lewis
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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |