ORCHARD PARK, New York — EJ Manuel is out as the Buffalo Bills' starting quarterback, and veteran Kyle Orton is in.
Coach Doug Marrone's patience ran out following two straight losses that exposed 2013 first-round draft pick Manuel's lack of development. Marrone benched Manuel on Monday, one day after he completed less than half his passes and threw two interceptions in a loss to Houston.
Orton will start Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions. The Bills signed Orton on Aug. 30 to back up Manuel.
"It's not all EJ's fault," Marrone said, "but we need to get better production, obviously, out of that position.
"We have to make adjustments. We've got to make some changes because we can't keep going in the direction that we're going."
Manuel started 14 games over the past two seasons.
The Bills (2-2) have sputtered on offense during two straight losses. Manuel had a season-low quarterback rating of 59.4 and threw an interception to J.J. Watt that was returned for a momentum-changing touchdown Sunday during the 23-17 loss.
Manuel has completed just 58 percent of his passes through four games this year.
"We've got to get better in a lot of situations," Marrone said. "Just the overall offense in itself. You can start on first downs, which we're not doing a good job of. Third downs, red zone touchdowns, I think all those things that you see, again, it's not pinning it just on one player, but we all have to do a better job in those areas."
Marrone had previously said he wanted to be patient with Manuel's development.
Orton, a nine-year NFL veteran, spent the past two seasons in Dallas before being cut by the Cowboys in mid-July after he skipped the team's offseason workouts amid reports he was considering retirement. Orton has a 35-35 career record split among four teams since being selected by Chicago in the fourth round of the 2005 draft. He has been a starter with every team he has joined, as well as a backup, and spent two years behind Tony Romo in Dallas.
Marrone said he made the decision to change quarterbacks, then informed general manager Doug Whaley, Manuel, and the rest of the team.
"This decision was based on what's giving us the best opportunity to win," Marrone said. "I believe that we have a playoff-caliber team. I think that we have to play better than we did the last two weeks, though."
While Manuel has size and mobility, his decision-making and leadership have been questioned. He acknowledged needing better command of the offense days before the season opener, and understood he had plenty to prove as a bona fide starter.
Manuel also faced injury issues last year that hampered his development. He missed six regular-season games and went 4-6 in 10 starts.
The Bills invested heavily to improve their offense this season in order to give Manuel every chance to succeed. They made the biggest splash in the draft when they traded next year's first-round selection to move up five spots and select dynamic receiver Sammy Watkins with the No. 4 pick. The Bills also used three of their seven selections on offensive linemen, and acquired wide receiver Mike Williams in a trade with Tampa Bay.
Marrone said as Orton began practicing with the team that the Bills first targeted Orton early in training camp as a backup; the need for a contingency plan emerged when former backups Thad Lewis and Jeff Tuel didn't show enough progress.
Before being informed of the change, Bills players backed Manuel earlier Monday.
"You can't put it all on him," tight end Scott Chandler said. "I think he made a lot of great plays, a lot of great throws that we didn't help him out on."
"It's not a one-man show," running back C.J. Spiller said. "In this league, the quarterback is the focal point and the emphasis of wins and losses of teams. Obviously, he didn't have his best day, and we didn't give him a lot of help either, as well."
NOTES: DT Kyle Williams (knee) and LB Nigel Bradham (knee) had MRIs, but a team spokesman said their status for next week is not yet known. G Chris Williams (back) has a chance to play this week, Marrone said. Williams did not make the trip to Houston. Rookie Cyril Richardson started in his place. . The Bills extended their streak of games with a sack to 17 with two against the Texans. It's the team's longest streak since it went 29 straight games with a sack from Oct. 27, 1996 to Oct. 4, 1998.
AP sports writer John Wawrow in Buffalo, New York, contributed to this report.
All content copyright ©2014 Daily Journal, a division of Home News Enterprises unless otherwise noted.