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Jeff Tuel's uncommon company among undrafted rookie starters

By Tim Graham

Jeff Tuel became the 46th undrafted quarterback to start as a rookie since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, according to data.

If that number seems high, then consider 17 of those were strike replacements in 1987. A slew of quarterbacks who came through other pro leagues (Warren Moon, Jeff Garcia, Bobby Hebert, et al) also count toward the total.

So for the proper context to underscore Tuel's lack of pedigree and experience, know that he became only the 13th undrafted rookie under 25 years old and not from the strike season to start since the merger.

  • Rick Arrington, 1970 Philadelphia Eagles
  • Don Gault, 1970 Cleveland Browns
  • Bill Demory, 1973 New York Jets
  • J.J. Jones, 1975 New York Jets
  • Jim Zorn, 1976 Seattle Seahawks
  • Mike Lloyd, 1980 St. Louis Cardinals
  • Brad Goebel, 1991 Philadelphia Eagles
  • Kelly Holcomb, 1997 Indianapolis Colts
  • Jake Delhomme, 1999 New Orleans Saints
  • Doug Johnson, 2000 Atlanta Falcons
  • Anthony Wright, 2000 Dallas Cowboys
  • Matt Moore, 2007 Miami Dolphins
  • Jeff Tuel, 2013 Buffalo Bills

Willie Totten, a 1987 strike replacement, was the only other undrafted rookie to start at quarterback for Buffalo.

Tuel became Buffalo's third starter this year. That has happened three times in the past six seasons, with Ryan Fitzpatrick, Trent Edwards and Brian Brohm doing it in 2009 and 2010.

Week Nine is the earliest the Bills have started three quarterbacks since 1969, when James Harris, Jack Kemp and Dan Darragh were called upon.

The Minnesota Vikings and Cleveland Browns are the only other teams to have started three quarterbacks this year.

Nathaniel Hackett: Bills moved ball at will, 'just couldn't finish'

By Tim Graham

Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett met with reporters after Sunday's loss to the Kansas City Chiefs to explain what happened on the pivotal 100-yard interception for a touchdown in the third quarter.

The Bills had a first down on the Chiefs' 1-yard line. Fred Jackson ran for no gain twice, and then Jeff Tuel threw an interception right to cornerback Sean Smith.

How frustrating is it?

Nathaniel Hackett: "You get a plan together, and you do everything you want. You move the ball at whim all the way up and down the field, and we just couldn't finish.

Continue reading "Nathaniel Hackett: Bills moved ball at will, 'just couldn't finish'" »

Points after: Chiefs 23, Bills 13

913071 McCoy Sports Bill#22

By Tim Graham

Quick highlights from the Buffalo Bills' loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Ralph Wilson Stadium ...

What it means: The Bills used their third starting quarterback of the season, but they weren't overmatched by the undefeated Chiefs. Even so, the Bills couldn't prevail over two giveaways the Chiefs returned for touchdowns in the second half. The Bills outgained the Chiefs, 470-201, but were minus-3 in turnovers. The Bills are 3-6, last place in the AFC East.

Player of the game: Even in defeat C.J. Spiller was the best player on the field. A week apparently off did wonders for his sprained ankle. He ran 12 times for 116 yards and caught two passes for 39 yards.

Tuel time: Undrafted rookie quarterback Jeff Tuel made his first NFL start because Thad Lewis' injured ribs were too sore. Tuel was 18 of 39 for 229 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions.

Play of the game: With the Bills about to grab the game by its throat at the Chiefs' 1-yard line, Tuel threw the ball directly to cornerback Sean Smith at the goal line. Smith breezed up the left sideline for a 100-yard touchdown to tie the game early in the third quarter.

Preliminary injury report: Buffalo's rookie receivers had strong games before leaving with injuries. Robert Woods stayed on the ground late in the third quarter with a leg injury. He went straight to the locker room and didn't return. When Woods left the game he was Buffalo's top receiver with four catches for 44 yards. ... Marquise Goodwin went to the locker room late in the fourth quarter with an undisclosed injury. He finished with two catches for 64 yards, including a 59-yard touchdown.

Coming up: The Bills get back on the road next Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field.

Third-quarter analysis: Jeff Tuel's pick-six swings momentum

By Jay Skurski

The Buffalo Bills were on the doorstep of a 17-3 lead today against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Then the unthinkable happened.

Quarterback Jeff Tuel threw an ill-advised pass that was intended for T.J. Graham. The ball was intercepted and returned for a 100-yard touchdown by Chiefs defensive back Sean Smith, making it a tie game, 10-10. That completely deflated the sell-out crowd here at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Tuel's interception came after Fred Jackson was stuffed twice on run plays from the 1-yard line. It ended a drive that featured a 61-yard run by C.J. Spiller on the first play of the third quarter.

Continue reading "Third-quarter analysis: Jeff Tuel's pick-six swings momentum" »

First-quarter analysis: Marquise Goodwin hits 'turbo boost'

By Jay Skurski

There's a reason they call Marquise Goodwin "Flash."

The Buffalo Bills' rookie receiver showed why during the first quarter today against the Kansas City Chiefs. Goodwin caught a perfectly thrown ball from rookie undrafted free agent Jeff Tuel, who's making his first career start, for a 59-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Goodwin beat press coverage on the play, then simply caught up to the ball that looked like it might have been overthrown when Tuel let it go. It's Goodwin's second touchdown of 40 or more yards this season.

Raise your hand if you saw this coming: Tuel has started the game 5 of 7 for 112 yards and a touchdown. One of the incomplete passes was a drop by tight end Scott Chandler. 

Continue reading "First-quarter analysis: Marquise Goodwin hits 'turbo boost'" »

Source: Thad Lewis' ribs not ready; fresh meat for KC defense

By Tim Graham

Thad Lewis won't be able to play today for the Buffalo Bills, clearing the way for undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel's first NFL start, a league source has informed me.

Tuel's challenge will be a tough one. The Bills play the Kansas City Chiefs in Ralph Wilson Stadium. The Chiefs rank fifth in total defense, fourth in pass defense and first in sacks. Outside linebackers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali have combined for 20 sacks.

The Bills have allowed 71 quarterback hits, most in the league. The Bills have surrendered 28 sacks. Only three teams have given up more.

Lewis is unavailable because of sore ribs. He abosrbed several big hits in last week's loss to the New Orleans Saints in the Superdome.

On the line from Vegas: Bills a trap game for Chiefs? Don't bet on it

By Tim Graham

Las Vegas probably should've posted the Buffalo Bills as bigger underdogs this week even if Thad Lewis was healthy, said handicapper and former oddsmaker Joel Staniszewski.

Once the Bills declared Lewis doubtful for Sunday's game against the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs in Ralph Wilson Stadium, laying the points became an even juicier bet.

"It seems a little strange to me that the Bills are only a three-point dog," Staniszewski said. "And that line hasn't really moved all week.

Continue reading "On the line from Vegas: Bills a trap game for Chiefs? Don't bet on it" »

Thad Lewis doubtful for Sunday; Jeff Tuel has edge on Matt Flynn

By Tim Graham

The Buffalo Bills are on the verge of using their third starting quarterback this year.

Bills coach Doug Marrone has declared Thad Lewis doubtful for Sunday's game against the Kansas City Chiefs in Ralph Wilson Stadium.

The NFL defines "doubtful" as a 25 percent chance to play. That means undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel likely will get his first NFL start Sunday. Marrone said Tuel took "a little more" first-team reps than Matt Flynn this week in practice.

"Both those guys got to be ready to go," Marrone said. "They know the situation."

Continue reading "Thad Lewis doubtful for Sunday; Jeff Tuel has edge on Matt Flynn" »

Matt Flynn: 'I'd be lying' to pretend vindication not a factor

By Tim Graham

Matt Flynn didn't really verbalize it, but his body language spoke loudly when I asked if he's looking forward to proving people wrong.

Flynn expected to be somebody's lead quarterback by now. Opportunities with the Seattle Seahawks and Oakland Raiders crashed. Both teams got rid of him.

Now he could be on the verge of starting Sunday for the Buffalo Bills.

Continue reading "Matt Flynn: 'I'd be lying' to pretend vindication not a factor" »

What in the world is going on with the Bills' QB situation?

By Tim Graham

Want to know where things stand with each Buffalo Bills quarterback as of right freaking now?

Read forth ...

EJ Manuel

Update: Practiced today, but limited with injured right knee. ... Bills coach Doug Marrone already has ruled out Manuel for Sunday because doctors haven't cleared him.

Quote: "He looks good out there." -- Marrone

Thad Lewis

Update: Missed practice with rib contusions from multiple hits in Sunday's loss to the New Orleans Saints. ... X-rays negative. ... Also has the flu.

Quote: "Do we want him to play? Yes." -- Marrone

Jeff Tuel

Update: Shared first-team reps in practice today. ... Has been backup quarterback all season, but leapfrogged by Lewis after Manuel got hurt in week 5.

Quote: "I feel better about Jeff right now because I know Jeff. ... The Cleveland game is probably the worst situation you could ever have for him. He's a rookie free agent. We all know that. But we do like what he does, and we like the tools. In a perfect world, we'd love to have him on the practice squad and work with him." -- Marrone

Matt Flynn

Update: Shared first-team reps in practice today. ... Still learning the Bills' offense after being signed two weeks ago. ... Was scratched for both games he has been on the roster.

Quote: "I'm in a competition with myself to learn the playbook and get myself as ready as I can. ... I feel very confident. Schematically, it's a West Coast system. I've been in a West Coast since my rookie year. I'm very comfortable with the football portion of it. To me, football's football. It's just a matter of learning how to call it." -- Flynn

Dennis Dixon

Update: Still on the practice squad. ... No intention to promote him to 53-man roster. ... Marrone confirmed Dixon is not in the competition to play Sunday.

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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 |