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Palmer’s debut should be fun-filled finale

Palmer’s debut should be fun-filled finale The onus is on Bills GM Doug Whaley if EJ Manuel goes down and the team doesn’t have a reliable backup quarterback to carry the Bills into the postseason for the first time since 1999. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News file photo)

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Who says the NFL preseason is a waste of time? Tonight at refurbished Ralph Wilson Stadium, long-suffering Bills fans will have a chance to witness what is becoming a can’t-miss summer spectacle for football lovers.

Get to the parking lot early, folks. Don’t linger at the office. Years from now, you don’t want to be one of those frauds who only claim to have been in The Ralph when Jordan Palmer threw his first pass in a Buffalo uniform.

Yes, for the second year in a row, the Bills will audition a backup quarterback in the final exhibition contest here against the Detroit Lions.

I hear they’re going to get Michael Buffer to announce Palmer’s entry into the game – presumably, after franchise quarterback EJ Manuel has been given another chance to actually score a touchdown against a first-team NFL defense.

Last year, fans saw Thad Lewis and Matt Leinart, who had each been acquired a few days earlier, debut in the preseason finale. Leinart was miserable in his brief tryout and was sent on his way. Lewis looked like a decent option and was tossed onto the practice squad.

This year, it’s showtime for Palmer, a 30-year-old who has thrown 15 passes in the NFL and never started a regular-season game. I’d call him a journeyman, but it’s a modest journey. Palmer has been cut by three NFL teams, in recent days by the Bills’ opening-day opponent, the Chicago Bears.

Palmer played two seasons in Cincinnati, where he backed up his brother, Carson, and for a time, Ryan Fitzpatrick. He mopped up for Fitz in three blowout losses in 2008. That was the year Fitzpatrick started 12 games for the Bengals after Carson Palmer went down with an injury.

Jordan last threw an NFL pass in a 49-31 loss to the Bills in 2010, on a day Fitz thoroughly outplayed Carson Palmer. Jordan and Carson became the first brothers in NFL history that day to play for the same team in the same game.

In 2011, Jordan was released by the Bengals at the end of training camp. He moved on to the Sacramento Mountain Lions of the old UFL and was released by coach Turk Schonert. Yes, the same Turk Schonert who was fired as Bills’ offensive coordinator days before the 2009 season.

You have to love how things come full circle in the Bills’ wacky, dysfunctional universe.

Anyway, it’s hard to see how Palmer could help the Bills at this point. Doug Marrone insists this wasn’t one of those attempts to gain intelligence on a future opponent. But considering that the Bears set offensive records a year ago under Marc Trestman, one has to wonder.

What’s beyond dispute is that the Bills can’t get the backup quarterback position right. They botched it last year, failing to find a veteran backup after losing Kevin Kolb to a concussion and making Jeff Tuel the No. 2 ahead of Lewis. That blew up in their faces in Cleveland on national TV.

You didn’t have to be Bill Walsh to see they needed a more reliable backup in 2014. Last December, I advised them to prepare for the worst in case Manuel got hurt again. I said it would be “irresponsible to have a marginal NFL quarterback like Lewis or Tuel” as the No. 2.

Evidently, they didn’t learn their lesson. General Manager Doug Whaley assured us that Lewis was good enough. Lewis had a wretched camp and was released, along with Dennis Dixon. If the genius GM was wrong on Lewis, how much faith can we have in his judgment on Manuel as a franchise QB?

Whaley believes Manuel is the guy. He made that clear when he traded next year’s No. 1 to get Sammy Watkins. He doubled down on EJ. Whaley said the Bills would be a contender this season and that he would bank his reputation on it.

People like to remind me that the starter is the real problem, not the backup. Look, I get it. The starting quarterback has been the No. 1 concern in Buffalo since Jim Kelly retired. But the backup quarterback matters, especially on a team that fancies itself a playoff contender.

If you don’t think the backup is important, ask the Eagles, who rode Nick Foles to the playoffs a year ago; or the Packers, who got a huge lift from Matt Flynn (who somehow wasn’t good enough to crack this awesome Bills lineup) when Aaron Rodgers went down, keeping Green Bay’s hopes alive.

This is on Whaley. It’s his show now. He’s the one who anointed Manuel, gave away next year’s top pick to surround him with more weapons and promised the offense would be good enough to contend.

He can’t have it both ways. Whaley can’t point to the playoffs and send his team to battle with an inferior backup quarterback. As I said, it’s irresponsible to tell people you’re ready to take the next step, but fail to provide adequate reinforcement at the game’s most vital position.

Is that any way to run an NFL team? How do you imagine that sits in the locker room? Do you think Fred Jackson and Kyle Williams might be a tad confused with the message? The team is in “win-now” mode, but auditioning a 30-year-old backup QB who has never thrown a pass as a starter in a regular-season NFL game?

Marrone can’t be too thrilled about the situation. Tension seems to be rising within the operation. On Tuesday, Marrone had an animated discussion at practice with Russ Brandon and Whaley. According to media on the scene, some harsh words were uttered and Marrone threw his arms in the air.

Someone should be angry. The Bills had a chance to address the backup QB situation. Chad Henne, Matt Cassel and Shaun Hill were available, not to mention Fitz. So was Tarvaris Jackson, who is good enough to be No. 2 for the Super Bowl champion Seahawks but couldn’t get on the field in Buffalo.

They could have pursued pricey options like Mike Vick or Mark Sanchez, who is having a great camp with the Eagles. But they didn’t want to bring in a backup who would threaten Manuel. That seems to be the prevailing objective here, to prop up EJ and let him know he’s the unquestioned franchise guy.

That’s understandable. But if Whaley is so convinced that Manuel will be an elite player, why worry about a backup pressing him for the job? If he’s as good as the organization says, he’ll play well enough to hold off any challenges to his job.

But let’s say Manuel does progress and the Bills are a playoff contender. They need to be prepared in case Manuel hurts his knee again. I said it last year and I’ll say it again: If they’re 7-5 in December and EJ goes down, do you trust Jeff Tuel to finish the job?

Or heaven forbid, Jordan Palmer?

email: jsullivan@buffnews.com

  • Wayne Lester

    This is just another ploy to divert attention from the fact that we have no starting qb and no hope of making the playoffs.

    The only way we can get our Bills team back on track to the playoffs and away from the 4-12 season we are on pace for this season is to make the voice of the Bills fan heard where it will be heard the loudest... in the pockets of the greedy NFL. If YOU keep paying to watch a Bills team that hasn't made the playoffs in 15 years... then thats all YOU will ever see... while the NFL laughs all the way to the bank... with YOUR money.

    "You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe (like EJ will take us to the playoffs). You take the red pill, you stay in wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole (playoff drought) goes.”

    Signed,
    A Bills Fan Since 1978.

    PETITION:

    TO THE NEW OWNER OF THE BUFFALO BILLS...
    THE Doug Marone/ Nathaniel Hackett/ EJ Manuel Experiment is over and the current Bills management has failed us. We, the Buffalo Bills fans are offically protesting by refusing to pay the NFL to see an inferior football team, which has given our good city of Buffalo and the surrounding subburbs a bad reputation throughout the USA.

    Signed,
    A Bills Fan.

    To join this protest, like this comment... and don't forget to spread the word.

    • Lloyd M. Jr.

      I will gladly join this protest... as an ex-Bills fan since 2006. The moment they decided on a loser surnamed Jauron as head coach, that was the day I decided to start rooting for the Philadelphia Eagles.
      If the Bills want me back in their fold, the next owner(Terry Pegula, are you listening?) needs to start cleaning house on DAY ONE, and put in more-qualified people as GM, head coach, etc.... and thus put forth a competitive team, year after year.
      The days of the Bills organization teasing the fans, and teasing the people of Buffalo/Niagara, have to come to an end and FAST! What Bills fans, and the people of Buffalo/Niagara, need to start seeing from One Bills Drive are these things... COMMITMENT, DEDICATION, DETERMINATION, and DEVOTION... all towards putting forth an NFL-caliber(viz: Super-Bowl-worthy) team.
      If real fans have any sense, they too would start demanding radical change, or be determined to withhold support for such a lousy product.

      • Wayne Lester

        Lloyd,
        Nicely put... if more fans started feeling the same way the Super Bowl would not be far off for the Bills and the people in the region.

        • Lloyd M. Jr.

          Maybe a public-relations campaign could be put forth to explain why the fans' money would be better to be spent on family concerns, rather than a putrid product. If the fans use such withholding of support to demand these things... COMMITMENT, DEDICATION, DETERMINATION, DEVOTION, and EXECUTION... things just might take an upswing.

  • Sweet Pea

    I really thought bringing in Vick would of been a very good move I was hoping we did, "BUT" hey! that made to much since as it would have created a problem for EJ because they did not want EJ looking over his shoulders and from looking at his play he would have, I do not care what people think about Vick he would have helped.

    • Paul

      When was the last time Vick played well let alone finished a full season? This isn't 2006.

      • Sweet Pea

        Yes Paul you are rite, but he will be a way better option then what have now on this team. The bottom line and I said this all along about VIck if he is not being forced to do something he was not known for such as trying to make him into a pocket passer in which he was never known for if you let Vick be Vick like he was in Atlanta he is not getting hurt and palying a full season. So! you can say what you want about Vick he would be way better then what we have now "hands down"!

        • Lloyd M. Jr.

          Tim Tebow is pretty much the same as Vick... if he can make the play better by running it himself for the first down, he's good to go.
          The Bills had a chance to get Michael Vick, but flopped out. They now have a chance to get Tim Tebow; what's taking them so long to see the obvious?
          Being part of the Buffalo Bills "brain trust" means never having to apologize for (mess)ed-up decision making.

          • Paul

            I guess every other team in the NFL is wrong about Tebow too.

        • Paul

          He usually gets hurt when he's running. Isn't that Vick being Vick? He's also 8 years older. I think you maybe living in the past. I don't see as well into the future as you do but why don't we see how he does for the Jets this year?

          • Sweet Pea

            News flash Paul it's not living in the past but not sure what Vick you were watching, Vick did not start having these issues until he start trying to stay in the pocket to impress coaches and those who said he would never be a pocket passer. When he reacts that's when he at his best plus we are talking back up here and yes he is older and is still better then EJ and he is younger bottom line. Hey! who knows with him in camp maybe we would not have this problem with EJ because he flat out just look unprepaired with any worries because he new there was no QB to push him on the roster. Really! just listen to some of the commits he is making about his performances I said it all along we have managment to blame for this mess with EJ.

          • Paul

            Wow! News flash huh? You're pretty confident about a guy who had his last good season in 2010. Since then his QB rating is on par with EJ who has all of one year to learn the pro game. It's too bad someone with obvious scouting talents such as yourself doesn't have the ear of the dopey NFL coaches that have altered Vick's game causing him to be injured constantly. Maybe they'll be lucky enough to read these comments and you can school them like you did me.

          • Sweet Pea

            Paul for real???, I am No! scouting expert but it' does not take a rocket scientist to see this on who would of been the better option that why! when management did not sign him they new he would of been a threat to EJ just because it is Vick. Look I am not saying Vick would of been a savier I am just saying he would of been a way better opion and we had a chance to sign him. I can live with someone who is not scared to make plays no matter what and Yo! boy EJ reallly look uncomfortable and timid just look at some of his throws even his swing pass out to the backs looks hard for him. Ok Paul I am going to leave this Vick stuff alone because he is NY and not in Buffalo. "But you are rite"

  • Dennis Allyn

    I've said it before, this backup QB situation has been handled extremely amateurish. One of the few times I completely agree with Sully.

    • Lloyd M. Jr.

      Since Y2K came around, it pretty much seems the Buffalo Bills' "brain trust" has been no more than a bunch of rank amateurs.

    • Sweet Pea

      I agree! and Sully seems to never have anything positive to say about the Bills but with this I also have to agree with him as well. Lol...wow "I can not believe I said that"

  • Paul

    Blake Bortles credits Palmer for helping him adapt to the pro game. Jay Cutler is worried about Palmer signing with the Bills on the eve of the Bills- Bears game. Come to think of it wouldn't the signing of a Bears QB help the Bills a lot with their defensive scheme whist preparing for the season opener? I think it would! I'm so very surprised that something this obvious got past a football wizard like Jerry. These newspapers must be flying off the shelf with all that talent behind the keyboard.

TEST!!!!!!!!!!!

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About the reporters

Vic Carucci returned to The Buffalo News as a Bills beat reporter in September. Carucci covered the Bills for 17 years before joining NFL.com as a columnist in 1999. Prior to rejoining The News, he spent three years as a senior editor for the Cleveland Browns.

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.

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida.