ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) So long as it's his call, Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone is sticking with veteran journeyman quarterback Kyle Orton as his starter for the remainder of the season.
What has suddenly become unclear is whether that decision rests solely with Marrone.
''If you're asking me personally, my decision is that he's going to play,'' the second-year coach said, referring to Orton after practice Wednesday. ''If you ask somebody else, they might tell you something different, I don't know.''
The exchange was prompted after Marrone was asked if his approach to starting Orton over second-year quarterback EJ Manuel might change if the Bills (7-6) drop out of playoff contention after hosting the Green Bay Packers (10-3) on Sunday.
''No, not for me,'' Marrone said, before adding, ''unless it changes for somebody else.''
He didn't specify who he was referring to. He then reiterated that it's ''my decision.''
Marrone's comments come at a time when Buffalo is in jeopardy of extending the NFL's longest active playoff drought to a 15th consecutive season. And the franchise is entering its first offseason with new owners Terry and Kim Pegula, who purchased the team in October after Hall of Fame owner Ralph Wilson died in March.
Last month, Terry Pegula said it was premature to consider making changes. He added that he had not determined whether to hire an outside consultant to evaluate the franchise because it could serve as a potential distraction.
The Pegulas spoke when the Bills reached the midway point of the season with a better-than-expected 5-3 record.
Buffalo has since lost three of five games and sit on the fringes of the AFC playoff picture. And the offense continues to produce inconsistently under Orton, who has a 5-4 record since replacing Manuel.
Buffalo managed only 3 points against Denver in the first three quarters Sunday before mustering a rally that ultimately fell short. Orton had 355 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.
Buffalo's 20 TDs in 47 red zone drives ranks 29th in the NFL in terms of efficiency.
Marrone is sticking with Orton because he believes the 10th-year journeyman provides the Bills the best chance to be competitive.
''I'm doing the best job I can to win a football game, plain and simple,'' he said. ''Right now, absolutely, I will play Kyle Orton because he gives us the best chance to win now.''
Though making the playoffs are unlikely, the Bills still have an opportunity to finish 8-8 or better since going 9-7 in 2004.
The offense's sputters have been an issue all season.
Running back Fred Jackson said he feels as if the offense is holding back what's been a dominating defense, which ranks in the NFL's top 10 in numerous statistical categories.
''Any time you've got a defense playing as good as ours is, you want to go out there and return the favor and do some things on offense,'' Jackson said. ''And we haven't gotten it done.''
Orton said the offense has the potential to do better than produce as it has in mere spurts.
''If we're letting anybody down, we're letting ourselves down,'' Orton said.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL