For EJ Manuel, the decision to join the Oakland Raiders was a simple one; in 2016 the Silver and Black proved to be a winning football team, and at this point in his career, Manuel just wants to win.
"For me, it was two things, obviously the opportunity to go somewhere and just help the team be better, and then the second thing was going to a team that had an opportunity to win," said Manuel. "That was big for me. My time in Buffalo, we were always kind of at the cusp of being a really good team, and getting the chance to make the playoffs, we just didn't do it, but this team I think is great."
Add in the presence of Todd Downing – his former quarterbacks coach in Buffalo with whom he's had a relationship with since his college days at Florida State – and the decision to trade in a home in upstate New York for one in the Bay Area was an easy one for the former first-round draft pick.
"It was almost everything," Manuel said of Downing's influence on his decision to sign with the Raiders. "This team is great already… Obviously, a playoff-[caliber] team, a team that can go to the Super Bowl, and have a chance to win, but Coach Downing being the offensive coordinator was pretty huge for me, having that relationship with him, having that communication, because even when he wasn't my coach, after he left and came here, we still were in contact. He would call me, text me, just to check up on me, see how I was doing. That was a big deal for me."
Admittedly, his arrival in Oakland is vastly different from his entrance into the league in 2013; Manuel won't be asked to be the potential face of a franchise with the Silver and Black like he was in Buffalo, instead he'll be looked at to provide some depth at the quarterback position, as well as push Connor Cook for the right to be Carr's primary backup.
And to be honest, that chance to compete is all that Manuel is asking for.
"I know here, it's going to be an open competition as far as the backup for Derek, and I'm just really looking forward to doing my part," Manuel said. "However I can help this team win is what I'm looking forward to doing."
Last season, 16 NFL teams – the Raiders included – started at least two quarterbacks during the regular season, a stat that further illustrates the importance of depth at what is arguably the most important position in all of sports.
And with Derek Carr's injury still lingering in the recent memory of Raiders fans, Manuel – who has 17 career starts under his belt – stressed the importance of having multiple capable players at the quarterback position heading into 2017.
"This is a long season, whether it's [the] preseason, the 16 week season, the regular season, and then you have another four, five weeks in the playoffs, in order to get to the Super Bowl," Manuel explained. "Of course nobody wants to talk about injuries, but it's a 100-percent-type injury game, and if something does happen, to have that veteran guy to come in and keep things going, I think is extremely important, and even beyond that, just having [that] relationship with the other quarterbacks and all of our teammates, I think that's huge to just help the team win."
For Manuel, a key to that relationship, with Carr in particular, will be serving as a sounding board for the Raiders starting quarterback, whether that's providing another viewpoint from the sideline during games, or just being another person to bounce ideas off during evening film sessions.
"I've been a starter, and I've had a situation where no one necessarily sat in that room with me at 6:15 in the evening and watched the tape with me, so to have that backup, and to have that second mind to rely on, and ask questions, or bounce ideas off of, beyond the coach, it's different," Manuel explained. "You can have that relationship with your teammate, it's not like you're talking to a coach, so I think that's huge."
Manuel added, "Obviously Derek is a great guy, Connor [Cook] is the same way, two great quarterbacks, so I'm excited to be a part of the room, and just help the room get better, to help this team be better."