ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Tyrod Taylor had plenty of supporters outside of Buffalo, but for many of the Bills fans who have watched each of his 38 starts over the past three seasons, coach Sean McDermott’s decision to bench Taylor for rookie Nathan Peterman this week is a welcome development.
Taylor is exactly what he appeared to be after his first two seasons: an average quarterback who misses throws from the pocket and checks down too often to underneath receivers, despite making the occasional dazzling play to escape pressure or elude defenders downfield as a runner. He rarely throws interceptions — he has only three this season — but he’s also largely fallen short when trying to move the ball quickly and lead his team from behind in games.
Although some statistics such as Total QBR favored Taylor, fans saw with their own eyes that he was not going to be a franchise quarterback. In benching Taylor, first-year coach Sean McDermott came to the same conclusion, and it makes sense.
McDermott’s timing in the move, however, raises questions. Taylor either should have been released in the offseason or he should have been given the chance to see through what could be a potential run to the playoffs, and then benched if the Bills were eliminated.
If Taylor was not the solution, then why bring him back on a reduced contract this past March? In doing so, the often-middling Bills risked maintaining the status quo for a franchise that has not made the playoffs since 1999 but has held an original top-five selection in only two drafts (2002 and 2011) over that span.
In defending his decision Wednesday, McDermott said his goals were higher than simply making the playoffs this season.
“We’re here for more than five wins,” he said of his 5-4 team. “That’s why I’m here. That’s why I was brought here. That’s the vision. It’s nothing more than that. It’s about getting us to where we’re trying to go to win a championship. Everyone wants to get to the playoffs, I understand that, and that’s important. At the end of the day, it’s about trying to become that football team that the fans of western New York, and the Buffalo Bills fans of the world, have dreamed of for years.”
Instead of wasting nine games with Taylor under center this season and learning little we did not already know about him, McDermott should have begun his search for a franchise quarterback at the start of the season. Whether that meant drafting Peterman and starting him immediately or selecting Patrick Mahomes with the No. 10 overall selection instead of trading it to the Kansas City Chiefs, the Bills should have initiated the process of developing their potential Super Bowl-winning quarterback much sooner.
But because the Bills decided to keep Taylor this season, they should have at least kept him under center during the brutal upcoming stretch of their schedule instead of throwing a rookie such as Peterman into the fire at a critical juncture.
Taylor was probably too deficient to ever lead the Bills deep into the playoffs or overcome the incredible defensive problems that have cropped up in back-to-back losses to the Jets and Saints. But he was a steady enough presence who could give the Bills a win over the Chargers — potentially without Philip Rivers — on the road Sunday and then give them a fighting chance in a road tilt with the Chiefs and a home contest against the Patriots.
Peterman is a wild card who could torpedo the Bills’ chances at the playoffs this season. In a weak AFC that features only six teams with winning records, including Buffalo at 5-4, it is very possible Peterman could lead the Bills to the postseason. But he could also open the door for another team such as the Baltimore Ravens or Oakland Raiders to steal Buffalo’s spot.
“When you transition quarterbacks, I don’t know if there’s ever a right time, honestly,” McDermott said Wednesday.
A right time? Maybe not. But there is a wrong time, and this would seem to be it.