Oh well, so much for EJ Manuel’s supposedly awesome practice session against Pittsburgh last Thursday. He continued to sputter in Saturday night’s 19-16 exhibition loss to the Steelers.


At least a few very powerful people in the organization believe Manuel has all the goods to become the team’s long-awaited “franchise quarterback.”


They have to be concerned right about now.


Some people say Manuel is “inconsistent.” I’m not buying that. I think he has been consistent – and not in a good way. His accuracy on short passes is suspect. He refuses to throw deep. I’m pretty sure that he can, but what’s the big wait? His decision-making on the field is suspect – at least so far.


In 10 possessions in three pre-season games, Buffalo’s first-string offense had one interception, two punts, three times stopped on fourth-and-short and four field goals.


The biggest difference in Saturday night’s game was at quarterback – Pittsburgh started veteran Ben Roethlisberger, who played just long enough to throw two TD passes; Buffalo used Manuel, Thad Lewis and Jeff Tuel.


Patience, patience, patience, say Manuel’s supporters. He’s had only 10 NFL starts. He’ll get better.


He’d better – and fast – because the Bills have the worst bullpen of QBs in the NFL. If Manuel gets hurt again, Buffalo’s playoff hopes would evaporate. They’re not looking too swift with him, unless he suddenly turns things around.


Manuel needs all the support and encouragement the front office, coaching staff, teammates and fans can give him. I hope he comes through. But I keep waiting for reasons to be optimistic. Maybe it will happen Saturday night at home against Tampa Bay.


There are lots of things to like about the Bills entering the 2014 season. The last thing Manuel needs is more pressure – but, let’s face it, few – if any – players in the NFL mean more to the success or failure of his team than EJ.


Selfishly, I hope Manuel delivers because I’ve turned into Bob The Optimist. I’ve forecast a 9-7 record for the Bills this season.  It won’t happen unless E.J. stays reasonably healthy and plays reasonably well.




There are many reasons for loyal Buffalo Bills fans to be frustrated by the Bills since they last made the playoffs after the 1999 season . High on the list is the overall futility of the offense in the red zone (inside the opponents’ 20-yard line).


Here is how the Bills have fared in the past 11 seasons:


Touchdown percentage in the red zone:


2003 – 26th out of 32 teams, 43.90 percent…No. 1 Kansas City 76.27 percent


2004 – 29th, 45.90 percent… No. 1 San Diego 69.23 percent


2005 –30th, 34.69 percent…No. 1 San Diego 70.00 percent


2006 – 26th, 42.86 percent… No. 1 San Diego 69.23 percent


2007 – 30th, 38.24 percent…No. 1 New Orleans 72.00 percent


2008 – 23rd, 48.08 percent…No. 1 Indianapolis 66.67 percent


2009 – 32nd, 31.58 percent…No. 1 Arizona 69.84 percent


2010 – 20th, 51.35 percent…No. 1 Indianapolis 66.67 percent


2011 – 11th, 52.83 percent…No. 1 Detroit 66.13 percent


2012 – 23rd, 50.00 percent…No. 1 Green Bay 68.52 percent


2013 – 29th, 47.73 percent…No. 1 Denver 72.73 percent.


Red-zone scoring attempts per game:


2003 – 22nd, 2.6 per game…No. 1 St. Louis 4.3


2004 – 4th, 3.8…No. 1 Indianapolis 4.0


2005 – 16th, 3.1…No. 1 Cincinnati 3.8


2006 – 31st, 2.2…No. 1 Indianapolis 4.0


2007 – 31st, 3.1…No. 1 New England 4.4


2008 – 13th, 3.2…No. 1 New York Giants 4.2


2009 – 27th, 2.4…No. 1 Minnesota 4.4


2010 – 29th, 2.3…No. 1 New England 4.2


2011 – 13th; 3.3…N0. 1 New England 4.6


2012 – 17th, 3.0…No. 1 New England 4.4


2013 – 25th, 2.8…No. 1 Denver 4.3.




In the past, Rochester has been honored as “Baseball City USA” and “Soccer City USA.”


The Major League Lacrosse Rattlers are one win away from making Rochester “Pro Lacrosse City USA” – at least for 2014.


The 2014 Rochester Knighthawks made National Lacrosse League history by winning an unprecedented third straight league championship.


The Rattlers can give Rochester a pro lacrosse sweep by beating the Denver Outlaws in the Major League Lacrosse championship game Saturday, 7 p.m., at Fifth Third Bank in Kennesaw, Ga.


The Rattlers rallied to beat the New York Lizards, 15-11, last Saturday at Wegman’s Stadium at Aquinas. Veteran captain Kevin Leveille stepped up with six goals.


The game will be a rematch of the 2008 MLL title game, won by the Rattlers over the Outlaws, 16-6, at Harvard Stadium in Boston. Current Knighthawks star Joe Walters was Game MVP. He now plays for the MLL Chesapeake Bayhawks.


Former Knighthawks superstar John Grant Jr. was a member of those 2008 Rattlers and he now is starring for the Denver Outlaws. He had four goals and three assists to earn Coca-Cola Player of the Game honors in a 14-13 home victory over the New York Lizards in last Saturday’s other MLL semifinal game.


Denver’s head coach is B.J. O’Hara, who coached the Rattlers from 2003 through 2008 (their only Steinfeld Cup season) and 2011. He also coached with great success at Hobart.




Entering Monday, 63-59 record…40 games remaining.


7 games behind Baltimore in the AL East.


3 1/2 games out of one of the AL’s two wild-card playoff berths.


23 home games and 17 road games remaining.


Next six games home vs. Houston and White Sox (time to capitalize).


8 games left vs. Baltimore…7 vs. Toronto…6 vs. Boston… 6 vs. Tampa Bay…4 vs. Kansas City…3 vs. Detroit…3 vs. White Sox…3 vs. Houston.


16 teams have records above .500…Of those teams, only 66-57 St. Louis (-8) and the 63-59 Yankees (-37) have minus run differentials.


The biggest reason to worry about the Yankees – the five-man starting rotation: Hiroki Kuroda, Michael Pineda, Shane Greene, Brandon McCarthy and Chris Capuano. Not many winning streaks in that group. Maybe Masahiro Tanaka will make a heroic return. That might be ill-advised but certainly would be timely.






Recommended viewing: Philadelphia Little League phenom Mo’ne Davis is scheduled to make her next pitching start Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. The TV ratings could be better than any Major League Baseball game this regular season.


Rochester’s Darnell Jiles was knocked out at 1:48 of the fifth round in his Big Knockout Boxing middleweight title fight Saturday night in Las Vegas. It was described as a rugged fight, with a few  “intentional head butts.”  A live crowd of around 2,500 watched the debut of BKB. There were four knockouts on the eight-bout card.


Some critics noted that the University of Texas’ $100,000-plus salary for his new job at his alma mater seemed a bit steep considering his lack of experience, but in fairness, how many millions of dollars did Young help the football Longhorns rake in during one of the all-time greatest individual single seasons (2005) and bowl games (BCS championship victory over USC). He’ll work as an alumni relations development officer and raise money to aid first generation college students and low-income students.


In a poll of International League managers by Baseball America, Alex Meyer of the Rochester Red Wings was voted “best fastball” and “best breaking pitch.”


In last Friday’s Rochester Pro Baseball No-Hitter Primer, I overlooked and failed to include the no-hitter by Ledell “Cannonball” Titcomb for the Rochester Broncos, Sept. 15, 1890, in a 7-0, nine-inning victory over the Syracuse Stars.  It was Rochester’s only season in major-league baseball (53-63 record in the American Association). It was the league’s only no-hitter that season. Titcomb had a 10-9 record and 3.74 ERA in 19 starts.


Rochester Community Baseball Chairman of the Board Gary Larder passes on news of the death of former Red Wings pitcher John Hoover, last month in Fresno, Calif., at age 51. Hoover had a great career at Fresno State and started the first game for the U.S. Olympic team in 1984. Baltimore made him the 25th overall pick in the 1984 entry draft and he began his pro career with Rochester that summer. He was 2-3 with a 5.21 ERA in 5 games. His pro career was plagued by arm problems and he never reached his potential. He finally reached the majors briefly in 1990 with the Texas Rangers and then retired.


Brock Lesnar demolished John Cena Sunday night before a sold-out STAPLES Center crowd and a national pay-per-view audience to become the WEE world heavyweight champion. Cena, a 15-time WEE champion, was thoroughly outclassed and received “the most one-sided beating of his WEE career.”…Roman Reigns defeated Randy Orton to set up the next great WWE rivalry: Lesnar vs. Reigns.


Former Red Wings outfielder Michael Cuddyer has to be one of baseball’s most underrated hitters. On Sunday, in his second game for the Colorado Rockies since June 5 (missed 60 games with a fractured left shoulder), he hit for the cycle (single, double, triple and home run) in a 10-5 victory over Cincinnati in the second game of a doubleheader. In 33 games this season, his batting average in .331. He also hit .331 last season when he was the National League batting champion.