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It shouldn’t come as any surprise that Buffalo Bills General Manager Doug Whaley hasn’t given up on quarterback EJ Manuel.

Whaley acknowledged that he was part of an organizational decision to make Manuel the 13th overall pick of the 2013 draft, telling reporters during the Dec. 29 season-ending news conference they could “assign blame” wherever they wanted for the former Florida State star’s disappointing performance.

But Whaley apparently thinks Manuel’s struggles, which led to his benching after only four games last season in favor of since-retired Kyle Orton, have had more to do with coaching than the player. Whaley is, according to an NFL source, conveying those thoughts to the candidates that he and the rest of the Bills’ hierarchy have interviewed for the team’s head-coaching vacancy.

The source said that during interviews Whaley not only has spoken in glowing terms about Manuel, he also has made it clear he wants the new coach to make the progress in developing Manuel that Marrone and his staff failed to make.

In other developments in the Bills’ coaching search, the team interviewed Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator and former Cleveland Browns coach Pat Shurmur on Tuesday at the Boca Raton, Fla., home of club owners Terry and Kim Pegula.

On Thursday, they’re scheduled to visit with Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, son of former NFL coach Mike Shanahan, whom the Bills interviewed Sunday.

The News also has confirmed the Bills plan to interview Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson on Wednesday and Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin on Saturday. Additionally, The News has confirmed the team will interview San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman this week.

That’s in addition to the five candidates with whom they met over the weekend – Mike Shanahan, San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Frank Reich, Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase, Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. The News also confirmed Monday that defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has interviewed, and that the team has an interest in interviewing former New York Jets coach Rex Ryan.

Counting another candidate the team is considering – Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton – that brings the total of those interviewed or scheduled to be interviewed to a baker’s dozen, with the likelihood of more to come.

It’s conceivable the Bills could hire both Shanahans. However, in that scenario, Mike would be the head coach and Kyle would be the offensive coordinator, presuming something could be worked out with the Browns for him to do what the NFL doesn’t allow – make a lateral move to another team.

Meanwhile, The News has learned that all of Marrone’s former Bills assistant coaches still have contracts with the club that run through the 2015 season and are not allowed to arbitrarily seek other jobs – beyond upward moves – until a new head coach is hired and determines which of the assistants he wishes to retain.

email: vcarucci@buffnews.com