Tyrod Taylor is losing his grip on the starting quarterback job with the Buffalo Bills as fast as he’s running out of answers in his postgame press conferences.
After an atrocious performance through three quarters in a must-win game Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers, coach Rex Ryan could only must a "we'll see" – complete with a sarcastic eye roll – when asked if Taylor will be his starter for the final three weeks of the season.
“I don’t have any idea, guys,” Ryan said after the 27-20 loss at New Era Field. “I just got through putting everything into a game that we just got beat. We’ll put in everything we have moving forward, but to answer questions about anything else, about rumors or anything else, I think is ridiculous."
Taylor went 7 of 14 for 71 yards and a touchdown in the first three quarters, with two rushing attempts for 1 yard.
“Left some plays out there,” he explained afterward. “Definitely didn’t play my best. I let the team down a couple plays, but gotta move forward. I was about to put some points up in the fourth quarter, but it was just too late.”
After fulfilling his media responsibilities, Taylor sat at his locker with his headphones on, with his back to the rest of the room.
Asked whether he feels like he still has the support of the coaching staff and front office as the starter, he said “Yes. To my knowledge.”
With the Bills all but eliminated from playoff contention, there has been plenty of talk about giving rookie quarterback Cardale Jones some playing time in the final three games of the season.
“I’ll do whatever I think is best for the team,” Ryan said when asked if that was a possibility.
In addition to evaluating him, there is also another potential motivation for such a move. According to ESPN’s Mike Rodak, Taylor’s contract currently calls for him to have a $27.5 million base salary in 2017 that is guaranteed for injury only.
That means if Taylor were to suffer a significant injury in the final three weeks that left him unable to play next year, the Bills would be on the hook for that money.
There is an option in Taylor’s contract that, if the Bills exercised, would turn $15.5 million into a bonus that would be spread over the remaining five years of his deal, as well as guarantee the $12 million base salary and $3.25 million of his 2018 base salary.
Taylor, who has maintained that he prefers not to talk about his contract status, offered a simple “no,” when asked whether the topic had been a distraction, and added that he and General Manager Doug Whaley “haven’t discussed contracts.”
Taylor’s first pass of the fourth quarter was intercepted by rookie Artie Burns. It was intended for Marquise Goodwin, although that’s a generous term in this instance.
“Bad play on my behalf,” Taylor said. “I was trying to force a play that definitely wasn’t there.”
Taylor’s interception set up a Pittsburgh field goal that made the score 24-7 and turned the rest of the game into extended garbage time. Taylor was able to make his numbers look respectable in the final 10 minutes – he finished 15 of 25 for 228 yards, two touchdowns and one interception – but those aren’t fooling anyone who watched Sunday.
“I just have to continue to keep playing week to week,” Taylor said.
As long as the team lets him, that is.