Rex Ryan has been Tyrod Taylor's No. 1 supporter during their two years together in Buffalo.
The Bills' coach has gone out of his way repeatedly to remind everyone how committed he is to Taylor as the franchise quarterback.
That narrative, however, is starting to change.
After a woeful showing in a 38-24 loss to the Oakland Raiders on Monday, Taylor has come under the most intense scrutiny of his Bills career. He finished Sunday's game 18 of 35 for 191 yards and an interception, failing to rally the offense in the second half after the Raiders charged ahead.
"I think first off, I’m pleased with Tyrod Taylor. I think he gives us the best chance to win," Ryan said Monday, when asked how confident he was Taylor would be the Bills' starter in 2017 and beyond. "I think he’s a good quarterback, but our focus is strictly on Pittsburgh, so anything past that ... I don’t think it’s even an appropriate conversation right now."
The Bills rank 32nd in the NFL in passing yards per game. Given that, Ryan was asked whether he would consider a change at quarterback at some point, to a player like rookie Cardale Jones.
"Well, I can tell you this right now. As much as it doesn’t feel like it, we’re still in the hunt here," Ryan said. "We’re going to do whatever we can to win. We know we have to win these four games. We’ve got a hot Pittsburgh team here that’s loaded. It’s playing well on defense. Their offense is about as good as it gets.
"That’s a huge challenge in front of us. At no time are we looking at that. We’re trying to win these next four games."
As for whether Ryan has seen in enough in Taylor's development, the coach said "at times, I think he’s played extremely well. I don’t think there’s any doubt. Yesterday he came out with guns a blazing. But just as a football team, it was very similar. His play and our play, it was very similar to how the defense played and how the offense played."
Which is to say, not good.
"I think his performance in that particular game, our performance as a team wasn’t good enough, whether it’s Tyrod, whether it’s the offense, the defense, the coaching, whatever, same thing, we didn’t get it done," Ryan said. "It wasn’t good enough. That’s how I look at it.
"Through the year, I’ll let you guys make that evaluation on your own, but I think he’s played extremely well in a lot of games this year."
Taylor's completion percentage and yards per attempt are down from 2015, and he's on pace to throw fewer touchdown passes while being sacked more. After the loss to the game, Ryan alluded to "factors" that have made it difficult to evaluate Taylor, but refused to elaborate.
He was asked Monday about those factors, including the rash of injuries the team has suffered at wide receiver.
"I just think that it’s easy to sit back and be critical, but if you’re playing without five receivers in a game, I have a feeling you’re not going to be – regardless of whether’s it’s Tom Brady or anybody else – I think it’s going to affect you," he said. "That unfortunately has been kind of where we are. Hopefully we’ll get some more guys healthy and, you know, be more effective in the passing game."