Bills head coach Doug Marrone announced today that veteran signal-caller Kyle Orton will take over for E.J. Manuel as the team’s starting quarterback beginning this coming week (Twitter link). According to Marrone, the Bills need more production at the position and believe that Orton gives the club the best opportunity to win immediately (Twitter links).
While Manuel helped lead the Bills to a pair of wins early in the season, he has often struggled to make accurate throws to his receivers, and is completing just 58.0% of his passes. Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics (subscription required) rank the second-year quarterback just 35th out of 37 qualified passers, ahead of only Jake Locker and Geno Smith.
Orton signed with the Bills late in the offseason to a contract that suggested the team believed he may have to start at some point. As Brian McIntyre observes (via Twitter), Orton can earn up to $6MM this season if he plays more than 50% of Buffalo’s snaps in 2014.
This will be an interesting situation to keep an eye on, on a number of levels. Orton clearly isn’t a long-term solution for the Bills at quarterback, and if Manuel isn’t either, the team may need to draft a signal-caller in 2015 to develop. However, the club dealt its 2015 first-round pick to Cleveland in the Sammy Watkins trade, so unless the Bills can somehow trade back into the first round, it’s unlikely they’ll have a shot at a future star.
Additionally, the QB change signals that the front office and coaching staff are very aware that the Bills are in win-now mode with a new ownership group taking over. If the move backfires and leads to another losing season in Buffalo, major changes could be coming in the offseason.