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EJ Manuel made valid points about the NFL’s double standards, even if the Bills were right to move on

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It’s not specifically the Bills’ fault Manuel doesn’t have a job, but his criticisms of the NFL have merit.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

It’s hard times for the Buffalo Bills. A 41-9 loss to the Chicago Bears dropped the team to 2-7, their fourth consecutive loss.

On top of their spiraling season, now the Bills have one of their former failed quarterbacks ripping their current disaster under center. Shortly after Nathan Peterman threw three interceptions against the Bears, Buffalo’s 2013 first-round pick EJ Manuel posted some pointed criticism of Peterman and the team on Instagram:

The full post — which was quickly deleted — reads:

“I usually never open up about my situation in Buffalo, but the fact that this guy has had multiple games with 4+ interceptions ... and I still don’t have a job in the league? ... UNREAL. Say what you want about me, but never have I ever done that. Forget a learning curve, I didn’t get the luxury of being able to use that as an excuse. I wonder why.”

Manuel’s not quite correct in his details. Peterman began his career with five interceptions in his first start, but his three-interception game Sunday was the first time he’s had more than two picks in a game since. Manuel had a four-interception game during his rookie season, but never had another game with more than two.

Still, Manuel makes a good point about the double standards of the NFL.

The Bills’ quarterback decisions aren’t that illogical

It’s easy to read Manuel’s thoughts about Peterman and assume it’s a case of sour grapes. He was benched in 2014 for Kyle Orton and benched again at the end of the 2016 season for Cardale Jones. The latter ended his time with the Bills, as the team allowed him to leave in free agency after his rookie contract expired.

In four years and 17 starts with the Bills, he had a 6-11 record with 19 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. That’s not great by most NFL standards, but it’s lightyears better than the astoundingly bad numbers Peterman is putting up.

Peterman has three touchdowns and 12 interceptions on only 130 career attempts, for a passer rating of 32.5.

He’s been unbelievably awful. But when Manuel is the one to rip him, it just opens the door for everyone to point to his poor play — like the time Manuel gave the Jaguars three easy touchdowns in three minutes during a 2015 game.

The Bills’ decisions regarding both Manuel and Peterman actually make some sense. The former didn’t live up to his first-round billing, so Buffalo didn’t pick up the $11.357 million fifth-year option and parted ways after his contract ran out.

In Peterman, the Bills saw good things in practice and had reason to be optimistic after he posted a 124.7 passer rating in preseason this year. When that success didn’t continue into the regular season, he was quickly yanked and replaced by Josh Allen, a rookie first-round pick. Then again by Derek Anderson when Allen got hurt. Peterman only started against the Bears because Anderson was out with a concussion.

The Bills aren’t handing Peterman endless chances because they want to. The problem is they’ve had to.

Manuel’s criticisms ring true of the NFL as a whole

The bigger question isn’t why Buffalo wasn’t more patient with Manuel — it’s why a player like Manuel isn’t able to find another job, while other quarterbacks continue to find opportunities.

Manuel is a 6’4, 237-pound quarterback who had enough potential as a passer to be a first-round pick. He has more touchdown passes than interceptions over the course his career and 18 games’ worth of starting experience.

While he can’t find another team to let him play quarterback, here’s a quick list of passers who are currently under contract in the NFL:

  • Tom Savage: With his third team (49ers) and has five touchdowns with seven interceptions.
  • Matt Barkley: With his sixth team (Bills) and has eight touchdowns with 18 interceptions.
  • Blaine Gabbert: With his fourth team (Titans) and has 45 touchdowns with 44 interceptions.

There’s also Brock Osweiler, Brandon Weeden, Colt McCoy, Derek Anderson, and plenty of other quarterbacks who found lengthy careers as a backup in the NFL after failing as a starter.

Why can’t Manuel?

He only alluded to it in his Instagram post, but the suggestion would appear to be that he’s treated differently because of race. And that’s not surprising, considering Manuel has previously spoken about the double standard black quarterbacks face in the NFL.

“The leash isn’t as long (as white quarterbacks’),” Manuel told SB Nation’s Tyler Tynes in 2016. “You have to take advantage of those opportunities when you get them. People are always a little critical toward (black quarterbacks) but it comes with the territory.”

The numbers say he’s correct. A 2015 study showed black quarterbacks are twice as likely to get benched as their white counterparts, but a team usually improves more when a white quarterback is benched rather than a black one.

Manuel most recently played for the Oakland Raiders. But after re-signing with the team in March, he was released in September shortly after the Raiders traded for AJ McCarron. That came after he threw four touchdowns with no interceptions in preseason.

The Bills may not be the ones to blame for Manuel’s current inability to find another NFL contract, but his criticisms of the NFL’s treatment of black quarterbacks have merit.