Especially this week, there is no escaping quarterback talk in Buffalo.
With the greatest player in history coming to town with the other team, the quest for the Bills' next franchise quarterback seems as uncertain as ever. That's why, even with the playoffs firmly in reach, much of this week's mailbag deals with what might happen at the position, both in the final five weeks of this season and then in 2018 and beyond.
Let's get to your questions:
Paul Catalano asks: With the Bills more than likely not finishing in the bottom 10, what quarterback do you see falling or them targeting after the top-tier guys are gone?
Jay: This is a tough question to answer right now because we don’t know how many of the top quarterbacks will declare for the draft. Top prospects like Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson all have college eligibility after this season. If one or two of them go back to school, the draft class will look significantly different.
If all of them come out, the Bills’ chances of seeing a quarterback fall to them – no matter where they end up in the first round – increase. Remember, too, that the Bills have significant draft capital to move up if there is a quarterback they fall in love with.
I’d expect Rosen and Darnold to be top-five picks, which likely takes them out of the running unless the Bills are willing to pay a significant price to move up. But that still leaves players like Baker Mayfield, Mason Rudolph, Allen and Jackson potentially available to the Bills. Another factor to consider is who the offensive coordinator will be. Rick Dennison hasn’t made a convincing case for sticking around so far.
Those things have to be sorted out before we can get more of an idea about which way the Bills might be leaning.
Another thing to keep in mind here is the veteran quarterback market. There are more intriguing names than usual who might be available, among them being Sam Bradford, Teddy Bridgewater, Alex Smith, Eli Manning, Kirk Cousins, Drew Brees and Andy Dalton. I’d still expect the Bills to add a quarterback in the draft, but it’s also possible they take a run at one of those veterans.
Brian Smith asks: What year do you think the drought actually ends?
Jay: How about this year? It’s not out of the question. Even if you assume a pair of losses to New England, the Bills will likely be favored in their remaining three games – one against Indianapolis and two against Miami. Win those, and the New York Times’ playoff simulator gives the Bills a 56-percent chance of making the postseason at 9-7. That’s based on 15,800 simulations. Split against New England, and that percentage jumps all the way up to 95, which shows just how big Sunday’s game is. I’m certainly not ready to predict that the Bills will get there, but it’s much too soon to rule them out.
Ron Cianciosi asks: Do you feel Tyrod Taylor will even be here next year? If they lose Sunday, start Nathan Peterman for all remaining games?
Jay: No, for the reason listed above. A loss Sunday does not eliminate the Bills from playoff contention. By benching Taylor in Week 11, it’s clear the Bills don’t feel like he has a future with the team. But Peterman’s disastrous showing against the Chargers made it painfully clear he’s not ready to be the starter. As long as there is a shot at the playoffs, Sean McDermott should put his best players on the field.
After the Bills are officially eliminated, I’m all for giving Peterman some playing time. But not before then. Which gets to …
Peter Cress asks: If the postseason is mathematically eliminated – do we see Peterman again?
Jay: I would absolutely start Peterman for the rest of the season if and when that happens. The benching of Taylor told us all we need to know about the organizations’ opinion of his play. That’s a big change from when the team was 5-2 and the talk was about bringing Taylor back for next year. Even though it’s not crazy by quarterback-money standards, I wouldn’t be eager to pay Taylor $18 million next season.
If it happens, playing Peterman again this season should give the Bills a better idea about what kind of quarterback he can be moving forward. If they move on from Taylor, is Peterman an option to start? Or is he nothing more than a backup? That’s an important question to answer.
Rick B. asks: Why doesn’t Beane re-sign Rod Streater when we are lacking a deep threat?
Jay: That window closed when the Bills signed Deonte Thompson. I thought Streater had a nice training camp, but the fact he’s still available should tell you something. It’s not just the Bills, but 31 other teams, who don’t see him as better right now than the players they have.
Looking forward to next year, I'd count wide receiver as one of the team's biggest needs. Zay Jones and Kelvin Benjamin are good pieces to build around, but to Rick's point, the Bills could definitely use a burner on the outside who can stretch defenses.
Thomas Pullano asks: Does Tyrod ever audible plays at the line? From watching on TV, it seems like he never does. And if he doesn't, is that more indicative of the coaching staff not giving him the reins or Tyrod just not having the football IQ to call audibles when necessary?
Jay: Dennison was asked about Taylor’s freedom to audible Monday. Here was his response:
“He made about four or five checks yesterday at the line of scrimmage,” he said. “The same as any other quarterback I’ve had. We give him a handful that he can do. He can change protections in certain situations and change some plays. Sometimes we’re going with two plays. Yesterday was a little different because of the noise. We wanted to keep that to a minimum, but he did check a couple and put us in the right situation.”
Center Eric Wood has talked about Taylor's ability to get the team in the right play call, as well, so I don't think it's fair to question his "football IQ."
Frank Randall asks: When was the last time we had an offensive coordinator that the fans liked?
Jay: The last time the Bills won consistently, which would be the Super Bowl years. So that’s … Ted Marchibroda. Just for fun, here is a list of who had held that job since Marchibroda: Tom Bresnahan, Dan Henning, Joe Pendry, Mike Sheppard, Kevin Gilbride, Tom Clements, Steve Fairchild, Turk Schonert, Alex Van Pelt, Curtis Modkins, Nathaniel Hackett, Greg Roman and Anthony Lynn. Man, what a list.
That leads us to …
“Bills Internet GM” asks: Who should we hire to groom our drafted quarterback since Rick Dennison is going to be long gone?
Jay: If the Bills do indeed move on from Dennison, Mike McCoy figures to be prominently mentioned as a candidate. McCoy was fired recently as the Broncos’ offensive coordinator. There was plenty of speculation he would join McDermott in Buffalo, but he opted instead to return to Denver, where he previously coached. A former college quarterback, McCoy spent time in the NFL at the position, as well. Whoever the next offensive coordinator is, a huge part of their job will be developing a quarterback. It’s fair to wonder if McDermott wants Dennison doing that.
Tim Ryan asks: “What do you think of this tweet by @nfldraftscout: “We jump on the Browns for trading out of Wentz and Watson, but the Bills traded out of Mahomes and Watson last year. Looking pretty damn bad right now?”
Jay: I’d say pump the brakes on any talk of Patrick Mahomes, whom the Chiefs selected with the No. 10 pick acquired from the Bills for a package that included Kansas City’s 2018 first-round pick. Can we see him throw a pass first before coming to that conclusion? Maybe he ends up being great, and that move will look bad for the Bills. But we don’t know that yet. What we do know is the Bills have two first-round picks this year and drafted a player in cornerback Tre’Davious White who may be the Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Now, Watson is a different story. If you want to criticize the team for passing on him, you can make a solid case. Watson was taking the NFL by storm before he unfortunately got hurt. Hopefully he can make a full recovery. The jury is still out on whether the Bills screwed up not taking him, because we’ve yet to see Watson put in a full season (or more than one).
If the larger point of the tweet is that the Bills have talked themselves out of drafting quarterbacks for far too long, I can get on board with that thinking. One of my favorite stats is that the New England Patriots have drafted more quarterbacks over the span of the Bills’ 17-year playoff drought than Buffalo has. That’s ludicrous. This new front office has to make a commitment to finding the right quarterback, starting in the 2018 draft.
Rick McGuire asks: Jay ... I know this subject has been brought up a lot this season but I HAVE to bring it up again ... our offensive line is struggling so bad on the right side ... WHY IS COACH MCDERMOTT NOT PLAYING RYAN GROY? Honest to God man ... I don't get it! He's an awesome lineman. Why, Jay? WHY?
Jay: Sean McDermott, if you're reading this, please give my man Rick here an answer. I'm worried about him. Thanks for the questions everyone!