Bills' Manuel must still earn captain honor

September, 2, 2014
Sep 2
1:15
PM ET
Should EJ Manuel be a team's captain? Does he need to be one? Are captains even significant?

Manuel
The Buffalo Bills' announcement Monday of six captains -- none of which were Manuel -- became a hot-button issue as the second-year quarterback feels some late-summer heat.

One argument is that Manuel, as the quarterback, should be a captain. The rebuttal, from some, is that he is too inexperienced to be a captain.

I'm not buying that.

Think of it this way: If Manuel had gone 10-0 as a starter last season and was named a captain this week, would anyone be saying he was too green for the gig? No way.

He'd be praised for his leadership abilities at the ripe age of 24. His hypothetical success last season, even with such a small sample size, would be used as justification for the distinction. On Monday, we would've heard effusive praise from coach Doug Marrone and Manuel's teammates in the locker room about their newest captain.

Instead, Manuel went 4-6 as a starter last season and the questions about his standing as the franchise quarterback continue into this fall.

As a result, Marrone and players had to tip-toe around the subject of Manuel's captaincy Monday.

"If you look at it, it’s mostly veteran guys that have been around," Marrone said of his six captains, which included two newcomers to the team. "I think that [quarterback] position has leadership qualities in it just by the position itself."

"He's a great leader. He breaks down the offense and things like that all the time. Gives us knowledge," running back Fred Jackson said. "It's just one of those things, when we have a lot of veteran leadership on the team. In time, he'll definitely be named a captain at some point."

I think the issues of Manuel's captaincy and his standing as the starting quarterback are linked.

Manuel hasn't earned the 'C' on his chest. It's not something that should be forced. The six players who were elected should be the six players best suited to lead the team.

Likewise, Manuel hasn't earned the long-term title of franchise quarterback. That honor should go to the best player suited for that job. Manuel hasn't proved it yet.

Right now, Manuel has more time to prove he's the solution at quarterback. If he does, then he'll have earned the 'C' on his chest in the process. If he doesn't prove himself, then the Bills should look elsewhere.

At that point, whether or not Manuel is a captain won't matter.

Mike Rodak

ESPN Buffalo Bills reporter

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