ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills' top decision-makers have spoken about their quarterback position in a noticeably different light this offseason, raising questions about former first-round pick EJ Manuel's future as the Bills prepare for a three-way quarterback race this summer.
At the NFL combine in February, general manager Doug Whaley was blunt when asked by Sirius XM NFL Radio about the team's quarterbacks and did not mention Manuel by name.
"We don't have a marquee quarterback. Everybody knows that," Whaley said on Feb. 19. "But we have a championship defense and if we can build it inside out on the offensive line and run the ball, that was the recipe that took the Jets to two straight AFC championships when Rex [Ryan] got the job."
"So we're excited and that's the blueprint that we're gonna have to play until we find that franchise quarterback."
Whaley struck a similar tone when asked about the position at the Bills' annual pre-draft news conference Monday.
"The way we looked at is, we don’t have a proven franchise quarterback. That’s obvious," he said. "But what we wanted to do is be perfect everywhere else, where that guy doesn’t have to put the game on his shoulders and be the man. We want him to be able to just make right decisions and be able to put the ball in the hands of the playmakers.
"And that’s what we wanted to do is get as many playmakers and as many people that can score touchdowns as possible around that position until that position takes that next step."
It's a departure from the same news conference last offseason, when Manuel was the undisputed starting quarterback and the centerpiece of the discussion about the position.
"It’s a quarterback driven league, so we’re going to give every avenue and every piece of the puzzle to surround EJ and make him as successful as possible," Whaley said in April 2014. "Again, what we did this offseason affords us the opportunity to go any way and every way in this draft. Our main focus is making sure EJ progresses."