Jeff Tuel didn't experience a lot of good breaks while he was at WSU, but I'd understand if you now believe in karma: According to Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone, the former WSU quarterback is likely to be the team's starter in its opening game against the New England Patriots.
The Bills signed Tuel as an undrafted free agent, and as UDFAs often are, he was buried on the depth chart behind at least three guys: Free agent acquisition Kevin Kolb, first round pick E.J. Manuel and incumbent backup Tarvaris Jackson.
But one by one, the path began to clear for Tuel to at least make the roster, even though NFL teams rarely carry three quarterbacks. Jackson was released. Kolb hurt his knee, allowing Tuel to play extensively in the first preseason game. Then Manuel hurt his knee -- requiring surgery -- allowing him to play extensively in the third preseason game. It turns out, Kolb suffered a serious concussion that will have him sidelined indefinitely. And Manuel probably won't be ready for week one.
Tuel is the last man standing -- a great irony, considering how many times in the last two years injuries knocked him out of his spot as the lead man for WSU, including last year, when Connor Halliday took over and kept the job even after Tuel's health had improved.
This obviously is terrifying for Bills fans, but it's not like Tuel has been awful in the preseason; in fact, he's been very good, completing 31 of 43 passes for 299 yards and two touchdowns. Most of that came in the first game, and all of it has come against second and third stringers, but still -- Tuel hasn't looked like a deer in headlights. He didn't play all that well on Saturday against the Redskins, but he wasn't exactly put in positions to succeed, either -- it was basically run, run, pass for four consecutive series, likely a nod to the fact that Marrone knew Tuel was basically his last healthy quarterback.
The Bills and the NFL are finding out what we at WSU knew: Jeff Tuel has the physical tools to play in the NFL. It's just that they were awfully hard to see as he was buried beneath an avalanche of sacks for the last four years.
It will be interesting to see how much Tuel plays in game four. Typically, starters play just one series. Will the Bills let him play longer to get him more ready? Will they only play him a couple of more series after that in an effort to keep him healthy? How long will all the first teamers play together so that they all can get used to each other? Will they roll the dice and let him play three quarters, even though his backup is now Matt Leinart?
If this all seems pretty crazy, it is.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p>As far as I can tell, no QB since the merger has gone undrafted, went straight to the NFL, and started Week 1 before.</p>— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) <a href="https://twitter.com/billbarnwell/statuses/372039459841138689">August 26, 2013</a></blockquote>
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That said, it couldn't happen to a better Coug.