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Bucky Gleason: McDermott makes right call to stay with Taylor ... for now

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The howls came early and often Sunday and continued Monday, the way they often do when a promising quarterback waits on the sidelines for his opportunity while the struggling starter braces for the day he's replaced. If the least popular guy in a desperate football town is the offensive coordinator, the most popular is the backup quarterback.

Even during the greatest days in franchise history, as ludicrous as it sounds now, fans frequently pleaded for beloved backup Frank Reich to take over for brash swashbuckler Jim Kelly. It's the nature of the NFL and it's not likely to change any time soon, certainly not this season in Buffalo.

Keep that in mind when you hit your knees and pray Sean McDermott removes Tyrod Taylor as the starting quarterback and replaces him with rookie Nathan Peterman sooner than yesterday. Long before Taylor's pass on the Bills' final play bounced off Zay Jones' hands in the 9-3 loss to Carolina on Sunday, fans were screaming from the rooftops.

"Put! In! Peterman!"

It always comes back to the quarterback. The Panthers exposed the Bills for what they were Sunday, a one-dimensional offense with a great running back. Carolina shut down LeSean McCoy and dared Taylor to beat them with his arm. He failed for 59-plus minutes before his toss to Jones in the final seconds fell incomplete.

Two games into the season, fans are clamoring for Peterman after seeing enough of Taylor. Peterman could have been better Sunday than Taylor, who was 17 for 25 for 125 yards. He threw for just 74 yards before the last drive against the Panthers' loose defense. He failed to complete a pass longer than 15 yards in the game.

"Taylor is the guy," McDermott said Monday. "Not making a change."

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McDermott wasn't exactly defiant Monday. He said all the right things about his dubious quarterback situation, as you would expect from an NFL coach, but there was a sense McDermott knew what you have known for some time, what we all know, that Taylor has too many deficiencies to remain a viable long-term option at quarterback.

Taylor didn't throw a pass that traveled more than 10 yards in the air in the first two quarters Sunday. Ten completions came on short passes. He kept his passing percentage high, his overall efficiency low and failed to come through in another pedestrian performance that has become his hallmark in Buffalo.

McDermott made the right call in sticking with Taylor -- for now, anyway -- but the decision shouldn't be construed as some ringing endorsement. The cold truth is McDermott doesn't have much choice. He needs to stay with the veteran while Peterman continues making the adjustment to the NFL.

What to do in the meantime while the pressure mounts?

"You stay with the plan," McDermott said. "I've been around a couple coaches that had what I consider pretty good success in this league, one of which is Andy Reid. I've watched when he was in similar situations. He stayed true to his plan. You have to adjust the plan from time to time."

Fans on the brink of spontaneous combustion should make peace with the idea that the Bills aren’t going to the playoffs. Their lack of speed and depth at receiver, and their inability to create separation Sunday, exacerbated Taylor's inherent problem with throwing passes on time into tight coverage.

It contributed to overall problems on offense Sunday. The Bills' performance shouldn't be passed off as a bad game. It was an indication of what's to come. The Panthers provided the blueprint for the rest of the season. The Bills can expect opposing teams to focus on McCoy without worrying about Taylor beating them.

If the Bills are 1-4 entering into the bye week – well within reason with the Broncos, Falcons and Bengals coming up – calls for Peterman could reach a feverish pitch. McDermott seems equipped to withstand public scrutiny while grooming Peterman behind closed doors.

Now is not the time to bow to the masses. The last thing Peterman needs is getting rushed into a bad situation on a poor team and damaging his psyche when it's not necessary. By the time he's ready, assuming he's eventually ready, it will likely be too late to push for the playoffs.

Late last season, after Taylor threw for 329 yards and three touchdowns in a 34-31 overtime loss to the Dolphins, it was easy to rationalize he had turned the corner and was ready to lead this team. In his first 29 starts, he threw for more yards, more touchdowns, fewer interceptions and had a higher completion percentage than Drew Brees did in his first 29 starts.

In his first two games this season, Taylor reverted to the inferior pocket passer who can buy time with his legs but offers little more. He lacks vision of above-average NFL quarterbacks, fails to consistently throw with conviction and relies too much on his athleticism to make an impact.

McDermott's arrival raised questions about whether the Bills would keep Taylor or sign a bridge quarterback who would start this season before they found a better solution. Rather than sign a free agent to play for a season, they re-signed Taylor and made him their bridge quarterback.

Peterman showed glimpses during the preseason that he could become a starter someday, but that day hasn't arrived. The Bills have nothing to lose with having Taylor run the offense other than a few more games. The Bills would never admit as much, but there has been a sense this season is an extension of the preseason.

If they finished 5-11 or worse during their yearlong evaluation, oh well. Taylor is getting more repetitions as the starter now, but check back in a few weeks. Nobody should be surprised if the ratio begins to shift toward Peterman as the season carries along.

Peterman will play at some point, likely after the Bills fall out of playoff contention. Fans will need to sit tight for another six weeks or so, but they're bound to get their wish. Just know the moment Peterman throws an interception, or he plays a poor game, fans will be howling for another guy to replace him. They always do.

 

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