Bills tell EJ Manuel to 'let it loose'

November, 29, 2013
11/29/13
5:00
AM ET
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- On Wednesday, Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone talked about the need for C.J. Spiller to try not to do too much.

The opposite may be true for quarterback EJ Manuel.

One knock on the rookie quarterback earlier this season may have been this: Yes, he can protect the ball, but can he go outside of his comfort zone and make plays?

Manuel began to answer that question the last time the Bills played, a 37-14 win against the New York Jets. Tossing touchdown passes of 43 and 34 yards, Manuel posted a season-high 121.9 passer rating and looked as comfortable as he's ever been.

His performance must have been gratifying for Marrone and his staff, who have urged Manuel this season to not hold back.

"One of the things we’ve been doing with him and Coach Hackett has done a good job and EJ understands it, we’ve been saying to get back there and throw it," he said. "Just throw it, let it loose, let it loose."

It's a conversation that dates back to late September, Hackett said in a recent interview on Sirius XM NFL Radio.

"EJ and I had a long talk and it was right after the first Jets game," Hackett said. "We sat down and watched a lot of the quarterbacks across the league, the great ones, like Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers. Why are those guys so good? When you put on their tape they're truly throwing the ball before the guy is open. They’re trusting their team. They’re just dropping back, they see it and they know and throw an accurate pass and let their guys make a play."

Once Manuel returned from a knee injury and had his worst outing of the season in a loss to the Steelers, Hackett hammered home the same point.

"We had that same talk after the Steelers game," Hackett told Sirius XM NFL Radio. "It was like, 'Look man, throw it. Just throw it as hard as you can and don’t think about anything else and believe in what you see. You got exactly what you wanted. Just go.'"

With any rookie quarterback, coaches must walk a fine line between preaching confidence and instigating recklessness. Telling Manuel to "just throw it" could have disastrous consequences -- the Jets have been hamstrung by their rookie quarterback, Geno Smith, throwing 18 interceptions -- and that's something Marrone acknowledged Wednesday.

"I'd much rather coach that way than coach someone who goes the opposite way, that will gunsling it and make it and do that, especially when they're young and trying to develop," he said. "Right now [Manuel] is very cautious, which I think we can all appreciate. The fastest way to lose games is obviously the turnovers."

Mike Rodak

ESPN Buffalo Bills reporter

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