Moving on would be best for Tyrod Taylor
The Bills appear ready to part ways with their starting quarterback, and Taylor may benefit from a split
JACKSONVILLE, Florida — Tyrod Taylor sat out the last few plays of the Buffalo Bills’ season Sunday after suffering a head injury. Call it a glimpse into the franchise’s future.
For weeks now, flashing neon signs have pointed toward Taylor becoming a former Bills player, and he likely moved much closer to the exit after a 10-3 AFC wild-card loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Taylor’s head slammed to the ground while he was being tackled in the game’s final two minutes. He eventually got up and walked to the sideline under his own power. Rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman’s interception sealed the victory for the Jaguars, who quickly ended Buffalo’s first trip to the playoffs in 18 years.
Now, western New York will want answers about what’s happening with the quarterback position on its favorite team’s roster. Judging by how a Bills fan burned Taylor’s jersey after the loss, it’s clear the time is right for change.
Bills management believes it can do better than Taylor, who was not permitted to speak with reporters while in concussion protocol. Maybe the Bills will take off without Taylor. And Taylor may benefit from a split too.
Their three-year union produced only one postseason appearance, which, by Bills standards, marked progress. After all, the franchise has had only three winning seasons since 1999. One would think that after the Bills finally made it back to the postseason, the quarterback who led them there would clearly be part of their future. Usually in the NFL, that’s how these things work.
We know, however, that the Bills don’t truly value Taylor. How do we know? Because only a couple of months ago, head coach Sean McDermott revealed his feelings publicly by benching Taylor for Peterman.
In one of the worst decisions a first-year head coach has made, McDermott turned away from Taylor after the Bills suffered consecutive losses but were still above .500. The rest of the story is now part of team lore: Clearly not ready to start, Peterman was woefully overmatched and threw five interceptions through two quarters in a 54-24 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers on Nov. 19. After Peterman was benched at halftime, Taylor had 158 passing yards and two total touchdowns.
There’s a long list of veteran quarterbacks who would have blasted an inexperienced head coach for making such a dunderheaded move. Instead, Taylor showed he’s a leader. Bills players appreciated it.
“He could have easily gone off to the media and created division. But he didn’t make an issue about it at all,” Bills outside linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said. “I’m sure it was eating him up inside, like it would eat up anybody being sat down.
“But he understood it’s team over self. That’s the type of stand-up guy he is. Obviously, he got back in the game and made the most of his chance. He got us to the playoffs.”
On the final day of the regular season, the Bills needed to win and received help to get in. Buffalo closed with a 22-16 road win over the Miami Dolphins in which Taylor completed 70.4 percent of his passes and had a touchdown pass, no turnovers and a 74.1 Total QBR.
Even McDermott acknowledged that Taylor showed him something. “I thought he handled himself, just like the rest of our football team, with class and with a lot of pride,” McDermott said after the wild-card loss.
During Sunday’s game, the Bills were mostly a mess on offense, including the coaching staff. “Yeah, you know, there’s some [play] calls we want back,” McDermott said.
Other than running back LeSean McCoy, who rushed for a team-high 75 yards despite a sore ankle, Buffalo didn’t get nearly enough out of its top players, Taylor included. Before he was injured late in the fourth quarter, Taylor completed only 17 of 37 passes for 134 yards with one interception against a tough Jaguars defense. He missed some open receivers. Bottom line, a quarterback of a team that produced three points in a playoff game can’t take credit for playing well.
The Bills ranked 31st overall in passing offense this past season at 176 yards per game. But the Bills offense as a whole declined under offensive coordinator Rick Dennison, finishing 29th in total offense (302.6 yards per game) after ranking 16th in 2016 (354.1).
Against the Jaguars, Taylor continued to display the mobility that could make him an intriguing option for teams seeking a signal-caller in the offseason. His lack of interceptions (16 over the past three seasons) also makes him attractive. Only $1 million of Taylor’s salary is guaranteed for next season. If the Bills, as expected, move in a different direction, they’d probably cut Taylor or trade him before a $6 million roster bonus is due on the third day of the league year in mid-March.
As mediocre as the team has been overall since Taylor arrived in Buffalo and the way he was disrespected by being benched this season, it’s easy to forget that the seven-year veteran finished the 2015 and 2016 seasons in the top 10 in Total QBR. Taylor has some ability.
If the Washington Redskins finally accept that Kirk Cousins wants out, Taylor — a Hampton, Virginia, native — could be a good fit in Ashburn. Even if Cousins departs and the Redskins select a passer high in the draft, the levelheaded Taylor has the perfect demeanor to tutor his eventual replacement. Likewise, Taylor could be a competent stand-in for whomever the perpetually rebuilding Cleveland Browns anoint as their next quarterback of the future. There are teams Taylor can help. Believe that.
“He’s the ultimate pro,” Alexander said. “He’s not a rah-rah guy. He’s just very professional. I see him work, so I know.
“He shows up every day and does his routine. He does all the things, the extra things, to make sure he’s putting himself in the best position possible. I love Tyrod.”
The love of his teammates probably won’t be enough to keep Taylor in Buffalo, and that’s fine. Sometimes divorce is best for everyone.