Bills bungle Tuel, stunt his development

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Jeff Tuel has gotten a raw deal in Buffalo.

The "other" Bills rookie quarterback -- an undrafted free agent from Washington State -- has been passed by for a larger role more than once after the Bills erred in keeping him on their 53-man roster.

The latest blow to Tuel came Monday when the Bills signed veteran Matt Flynn, who becomes the fifth quarterback on Buffalo's roster, including the practice squad.

Tuel approached Marrone about his status Monday.

"Jeff came in to see me," Marrone said. "I told him 'Hey, if you're upset with it, that's fine. You don't have to agree with what your role is. You have to do it, but you don't have to agree with it. And then you're the one who can change it by getting better.'"

It was only six weeks ago when Tuel, after an injury to EJ Manuel, was the Bills' presumptive starter in the season opener. Manuel wound up returning in time to play, and in the wake of Manuel's most recent injury, Tuel has been passed over by Thad Lewis, and now, Flynn.

The Bills' explanation is that they felt Tuel -- who completed 72 percent of his passes in the preseason for two touchdowns and no interceptions -- would have been scooped up by another team if they tried to get him to their practice squad, which is ideally where they wanted him. With Kevin Kolb sidelined and Lewis still getting acquainted at the time, he was their only option to start in Week 1.

In preparing him as their starter, though, they withheld Tuel from the final preseason game, starving him of valuable playing time and raising his confidence only to push him aside when Manuel returned ahead of schedule.

And when the Bills signed Lewis to their practice squad and made him their scout team quarterback, that gave Lewis (and not Tuel) the experience that center Eric Wood cited in praising Lewis' readiness to start last week.

Marrone has insisted that the Bills are still high on Tuel.

"Obviously, he's a quarterback that's developing. We're still really excited about him," Marrone said Monday. "We just have to keep him coming. That's the one thing: you can't get frustrated at this time of year with anyone. You just have to keep developing the players and we all understand that with our roster."

It's smart on the Bills part to keep a 22-year old rookie shielded from live action until he's ready, and bringing in Flynn as veteran insurance is probably a wise move.

But the Bills couldn't have written a better script on how to mishandle a "developing" prospect.

Tuel now sinks, with his confidence jarred, to the back of a crowded quarterback landscape.