For the first time in the NFL, Tyrod Taylor is preparing as a starting quarterback. On Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts, he becomes the Buffalo Bills' 15th starter since Jim Kelly retired after the 1996 season.
Matt Cassel is the No. 2. EJ Manuel is the No. 3. And on Tuesday, quarterbacks coach David Lee made it clear that Taylor will not need to look over his shoulder.
In his first comments since Taylor won the job, Lee said that Taylor arrived in Buffalo "wanting to be the quarterback." A back-up for four years in Baltimore, he was ready to take over.
"He never said a word to anybody and it was burning in him," Lee said. "I knew it, he knew it, but it had to happen on the field. I don’t know if you could be more fair to three quarterbacks than we have since OTA No. 1.”
The Bills took this quarterback competition through three exhibition games and, in the end, Taylor made the most plays. In addition to completing 77.4 percent of his passes for 236 yards with another 108 rushing yards during the preseason, he was the most consistent in practice at St. John Fisher College.
Lee noted that when he was with Rex Ryan on the New York Jets' coaching staff, they actually tried to acquire him. At the time, Lee admits he was concerned with Taylor's accuracy, too.
"Rex really liked him, tried to get him and couldn’t get him," Lee said. "We’ve had our eye on him a long time. There’s so few of those guys in the league who can beat you with their legs as well as their arm. You think of the guy in Seattle, the guy in San Francisco and our guy here. I don’t know about the other starters — maybe Tannehill — but it’s rare to have a guy who’s multi-dimensional and can beat you with his legs and his arm. It’s a good feeling having him.”
The Bills sure wouldn't mind if Taylor became their own version of Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick or even Ryan Tannehill. Ryan has been a fan of running quarterbacks, probably because he knows how difficult they are to defend as a defensive coach.
While Taylor proved himself as a passer in the August preseason setting, it's his legs that originally drew the Bills in.
"He gives us that added dimension," Lee said. "It’s a 12th man on offense. I used to work with Ken Hatfield in the wishbone at Arkansas. And he used to talk about the running quarterbacks. That’s the 12th man. He gives us that dimension.
“What determined in the end is every time he got in there, he moved the football and we scored points. Ultimately, that’s how he’s judged. If you can get it in the end zone without turning the ball over, that guy’s your quarterback. … He did do something that showed us he can throw from the pocket. We were looking for that. And I was really concerned of that last spring. At times, I said he throws better outside the pocket than he does inside. Well, not true. He threw all over the place in the preseason. That’s not an issue anymore.”
And when things get "fuzzy," Lee adds, Taylor can take off.
Lee calls Matt Cassel the "glue" of the quarterback room, someone who actually would Xerox notes for the other quarterbacks.
Said Lee, "I’ve never been around one that good. Chad Pennington was really good with the other quarterbacks, but this guy is really, really good."
As for EJ Manuel, Lee said the third-year quarterback is "ahead of schedule."
But make no mistake, this is Taylor's team.
"We chose him to start," Lee said. "It’s his job. It’s his to go, his team. … He has our full support.”