By Sal Maiorana - Rochester D&C
When it came time to make the decision on who would play quarterback Sunday against Cincinnati, Doug Marrone determined that it was best to stay in house, rather than go outside the organization as he had said late last week.
The surprise was that he chose practice squad player Thad Lewis over Jeff Tuel, who had been the backup to EJ Manuel on the active roster.
"You're down to 3-4, and when you look around the league it's difficult when you're down to your third and fourth quarterback," Marrone said. "But he's been in a game, he's been around. I wouldn't have felt uncomfortable earlier (when Lewis first arrived in late August). He can run, he can extend plays, can run the read option, and he can throw the ball extremely well. Having him with us from Detroit until now, he's made some great gains because he knows the system. Now we just have to it and game plan what we think he does best."
Marrone said he likes Tuel, and the only reason he wasn't on the practice squad is because the Bills feared another team would try to sign him. But ultimately, Tuel is still a rookie with no experience, and Lewis - now that he has learned the offense - gives the Bills a better chance to win. And that's why a free agent signing wasn't the prudent move.
The Bills kicked the tires on free agents Pat White and Dennis Dixon over the weekend, but they weren't considered good fits. GM Russ Brandon confirmed that the Bills did lots of leg work on Josh Freeman, too, but that Freeman was thinking more long-term about his situation and realized that eventually, the Bills will once again by Manuel's team so he opted for Minnesota.
So the most logical move was to bring up Lewis because he has been with the team, has played a little in the preseason, and knows the playbook.
Lewis played one game with Cleveland in 2012 and completed 22 of 32 passes for 204 yards with one TD and one interception in a 24-10 loss to Pittsburgh. It is his only regular-season NFL action.
Marrone recognizes that Lewis has a tall task in front of him playing against a Cincinnati defense that just beat the heck out of Tom Brady and held the Patriots without a touchdown, but he also thinks that if the Bills craft a plan that takes advantage of Lewis' skill set, he can succeed against the Bengals.