First down: He went undrafted. Second and long: The Buffalo Bills signed him and put him behind two other strong candidates for the quarterback position. Third down: Both players ahead of him suffer injuries that sideline them indefinitely. Fourth and inches: Jeff Tuel has a chance to become the first undrafted rookie quarterback to start Week 1 in the NFL since 1967, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
And that’s another first down for the former leader of the Washington State offense. If E.J. Manuel cannot recover from a knee injury, Tuel will have to step in and lead the Bills offense against the New England Patriots on Sept.8.
“He’s a pretty good leader,” Cougar Head Football Coach Mike Leach said of Tuel. “I’m sure he is adapting to a lot of change now. He has throughout his career. He has never really been healthy enough to get into a rhythm. Hopefully he can in Buffalo.”
The Bills had three candidates for the quarterback position when the preseason began. That list was led by Kevin Kolb, who signed a two-year deal with the team in March.
When Kolb suffered a concussion in a game Saturday against the Washington Redskins, the situation went from bad to worse. The Bills are acting as though Kolb’s injury will end his career, according to ESPN.com.
With Kolb sidelined for an extended amount of time and Manuel trying to get back in time for the start of the season, the Bills signed Matt Leinart to the roster. However, it appears Coach Doug Marrone plans to use the quarterbacks he began the preseason with.
“Right now we’re planning on Jeff Tuel playing the first game and we’re working with E.J. to get back as quickly as possible,” Marrone said on the Bills’ website. Marrone said when Manuel heals he will be the team’s quarterback.
On paper, Tuel appears to be just as good of a choice as Manuel. Both quarterbacks have two touchdowns and zero interceptions in the preseason. They have completed over 70 percent of their passes. Tuel has even edged Manuel in yards passing and yards per attempt, according to the Bills’ website.
“He was a solid, stable guy with good ability,” Leach said. “He was a student of the game.”
During his college career, Tuel compiled a 61.6 completion percentage, 33 touchdown passes, and 25 interceptions, according to ESPN.com. He passed for over 2,000 yards in both his sophomore and senior year.