Next four weeks will determine future for EJ Manuel and Tim Tebow

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Buffalo Bills Quarterback EJ Manuel and Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback Tim Tebow face similar challenges as NFL teams head into the first week of pre-season games. Manuel, the former Seminole, has apparently dropped to number three on the Bills’ depth chart, while Tebow is fortunate to be number three in Philly.

Should Matt Cassell assume control in Buffalo and relegate Buffalo’s former number one draft choice to the bench, some options are still available to Manuel. He is only in his third year and there is always an offensive coordinator or head coach that thinks they have the magic elixir to turn athleticism and potential into a star.

Tebow, signed during the offseason, must fight off Matt Barkley just to make the team as the third QB. Sam Bradford, who didn’t get it done in St. Louis, is the Eagles’ current number one in Chip Kelly’s college-style offense. Former New York Jet Mark Sanchez is again ahead of Tebow as he was during the latter’s one season in Gotham.

Manuel has been an average NFL quarterback during his two seasons with 16 TDs and 12 interceptions. He was limited to just four games in 2014 due to injury.

Clearly, Cassel has impressed new Bills’ Coach Rex Ryan. For Manuel to somehow win his job back for opening day, Cassel will need to play himself out of the position while Manuel must somehow leapfrog two others by showing something hidden up to this point.

For Tebow, the Eagles’ opportunity is his last chance. He is not a drop back-type NFL passer and the results show it. But he could not be in a better place for his final audition.

When taking the Philadelphia job, Chip Kelly pledged to bring his offensive scheme from the University of Oregon to the NFL. He kept his word.

Philadelphia scored 474 points, the third highest in the league, in 2014. They were also in the bottom third in points allowed.

With the opposing offense possessing the ball long enough to score a lot of points, the Eagles’ offensive numbers are even that much more impressive. The departed Nick Foles and Sanchez led the Philadelphia offense, but Kelly saw something in Bradford to swap him for Foles.

Everyone saw what Tebow could do leading a college offense featuring a mobile quarterback. While at Oregon, Kelly inserted Marcus Mariota to run his “Quack Attack” offense. That offense was so good, it continued to thrive last season despite Kelly’s departure.

Of course, Bradford may thrive in Philadelphia after underperforming for the Rams. Sanchez, who started eight games for Kelly last year, is reported to be “up and down” during the early portions of Eagles’ training camp.

Pre-season games elicit little excitement. In fact, they are one of the NFL’s greatest scams by forcing fans to buy the home games as part of season ticket packages. Remember when the Bucs forced fans to swallow three home pre-season games in the Hugh Culverhouse era?

But they are necessary to sort out who plays and who sits. There is no other way to determine who stays and who goes.

There are stories of quarterbacks in positions similar to Manuel and Tebow around the NFL. Former Seminole Christian Ponder is one of those as he begins the pre-season as the number two quarterback with his new team, the Oakland Raiders.

Fans of Manuel have reason to keep up with his progress, as do followers of Tebow. Both are quality people who brought prestige to their respective schools.

Both have plenty of work to do during training camp. Hopefully, they will take advantage of any opportunity that comes their way over the next four weeks. It will determine their career path.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at