The Buffalo Bills have replaced a windbag head coach in Rex Ryan (who is scheduled to make his Monday Night Football debut in week 1 between the Chargers and Broncos) with a more down-to-earth type of leader in Sean McDermott. McDermott had been a defensive coordinator for eight years, serving under Andy Reid with the Philadelphia Eagles and Ron Rivera with the Carolina Panthers, and was ready to step into a larger role.
McDermott has said the right things for most of the offseason, balancing a desire to invigorate a downtrodden franchise while also manage a region’s expectations. He’s shown reasonable deference to the New England Patriots as the team to beat and has removed the video games and pool tables that Ryan allowed over the past two seasons.
But rookies can’t always be perfect and McDermott made a laughable claim about the Bills’ quarterback position, according to Monday Morning Quarterback’s Peter King. Emphasis added.
MMQB: Is Buffalo’s quarterback of the future on the roster now?
McDermott: He is, in Tyrod Taylor. And then when you look at the competition we have behind him. We’ve drafted Nathan Peterman, we’ve added T.J. Yates, and then Cardale Jones in the draft a year ago. I’m not sure there is a team out there that has the depth that we do at the quarterback position. So we feel good about that. We’re anxious to see how Tyrod develops in his third year as a starter in a new system, a system that he has some familiarity with in terms of [new Buffalo offensive coordinator] Rick Dennison’s system in Baltimore a few years back with Gary Kubiak.
I like Tyrod Taylor and I think that new offensive coordinator Rick Dennison is a perfect match to maximize Taylor’s potential. Taylor hasn’t had the volume numbers of his peers, but he’s been one of the most efficient quarterbacks when given a chance to throw the ball.
I also think that Dennison will utilize the stretch zone rushing attack- popularized by Mike Shanahan and also used by Gary Kubiak- that has dominated the Patriots defense in recent years, giving the Bills a better opportunity to compete in the AFC East.
But to say that the Bills have the best quarterback depth in the league? Yikes.
Beyond Taylor, the trio of 2016 fourth round QB Cardale Jones, 2017 fifth round QB Nathan Peterman, and journeyman T.J. Yates will be jockeying for two roster spots, with Jones and Peterman the favorites.
Jones was drafted as a project player with just 11 starts in his college career, but with his first three coming on the biggest stage. His first start came in the Big Ten Championship Game after starter J.T. Barrett suffered an injury; Jones led the team to a 59-0 victory. His second start was a 42-35 upset over #1 ranked Alabama in the College Football Playoffs. His third start was a 42-20 victory over Oregon in the National Championship.
Despite a strong finish to the year, Jones lost the starting job to Barrett the following season, in what should have been a major question mark of his ability.
Peterman was a two-year starter at Pittsburgh after transferring from Tennessee and was this year’s annual “Rising Star and Possible First Round Pick!” that actually falls until day three of the draft, following in the footsteps of Matt Barkley, Ryan Nassib, fellow Pittsburgh quarterback Tom Savage, Brett Hundley and, well, Cardale Jones.
That is not a strong list to have as company.
Yates is on his fifth team in seven seasons, but played under Rick Dennison with the Houston Texans for three seasons from 2011-13, making him a natural fit to help the quarterback room adjust to the new offense. You could also do a lot worse than Yates as a back-up quarterback; he’s a low risk signing.
In total, the Bills have an efficient, but underutilized quarterback in Tyrod Taylor, a low-upside, but competent back-up in T.J. Yates, and two raw prospects in Cardale Jones and Nathan Peterman.
That’s a solid quarterback room, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a stretch to call it the best depth in the league.
The Tennessee Titans have better players with Marcus Mariota as the starter and Matt Cassel as the back-up, with Alex Tanney as the distant third-string prospect. The Pittsburgh Steelers have Ben Roethlisberger, Landry Jones, and rookie prospect Joshua Dobbs. The Cincinnati Bengals have Andy Dalton, A.J. McCarron, and prospect Jeff Driskel. Oh, and the New England Patriots have a trio in Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Jacoby Brissett.
That’s just the AFC.
There are a lot of teams with a starter as competent as, or superior to Taylor, with a back-up better than Yates, and prospects with more upside than Jones or Peterman.
And maybe McDemott is giving the Bills the edge because they have four quarterbacks on their depth chart- to which I would shrug and say I’d add a street free agent to the Patriots roster and still take New England in a head-to-head match.
To his credit, shortly after telling King and MMQB about his quarterback depth, McDermott seemed to remember his mission statement for 2017 and took a step back.
“We have to earn everything we are about to do here,” McDermott said. “There are a lot of good teams out there and a lot of good coaches, New England being one of them, with Bill Belichick. We have nothing but respect for them and how they do things.”
And just like that, McDermott was back on track.