Fibbing has been woven into our sports fabric since the first discus was tossed in ancient Greece, and it evolved into an accepted practice to gain a competitive advantage over the opponent. Lying is considered shameful everywhere in life but war and sports, where it's widely encouraged and commonly praised.
Marv Levy was known to bend the truth during his days with the Bills. Lindy Ruff was best ignored once the Sabres made the playoffs. Steve Kerr, another upstanding coach, came clean during the 2015 NBA finals after telling reporters a day earlier the Warriors' starting lineup would remain intact.
"I lied," Kerr said after making a change. "I don't think they hand you the trophy based on morality. They give it to you if you win. Sorry about that."
Sean McDermott is like many head coaches who offer crumbs of truth without ever delivering the full meal. He would rather dance around questions than lie, relying instead on words unspoken to carry his message. He likes to keep everybody guessing while they attempt to read between the lines.
Fine, I'll play along.
The challenge today is decoding McDermott and Brandon Beane in an attempt to figure out which way they'll lean in their search for a quarterback. Based on their interviews at the Senior Bowl, they may not know how they'll proceed as they prepare for the free-agent signing period and the NFL draft.
Every indication points toward severing ties with Taylor, a conclusion drawn again Tuesday after McDermott refused to discuss the quarterback's future. He didn't say anything worth noting about Taylor, which told people all they needed to know: Taylor's future with the Bills was a conversation for the past.
See what I mean?
Once you start putting the pieces together, a convoluted message starts to become clear. Take Beane, who seemed more inclined to replace Taylor with a veteran passer rather than overpay in free agency or gamble away draft picks. Without saying so, it seemed he was considering a bridge quarterback to get them through next season.
"It’s a quarterback league," Beane said. "Where you get it, I really don’t care. If you give me one, whether he’s on the street now, whether he’s a free agent, whether I draft him, I’ll take one anywhere."
Beane insisted after he was hired that he wanted to build a sustainable winner. Signing a free-agent quarterback is a short-term solution, not a viable option for what he wants to accomplish. The draft is the best path toward addressing team needs at various positions, including quarterback, and building long-term success.
It means keeping the 21st and 22nd picks overall unless A) a team sitting near the top of the draft presents an offer they can't refuse and B) the quarterback they desire remains on the board. In the unlikely event something falls in their lap, they see too many risks to justify the steep price of a top-five pick.
Beane was aggressive in the trade market in his first season, proving he'll make moves to upgrade his roster. Does that mean he swings a deal for Alex Smith in an effort to acquire a bridge quarterback while continuing the search? Does he inquire about Nick Foles after he led the Eagles into the Super Bowl?
The Bills aren’t likely to empty the vault for Kirk Cousins or any other top free agent. I don’t see Drew Brees or Jimmy Garoppolo walking through the door in the near future. It also doesn't make sense to take a flier on a journeyman with the unrealistic possibility that they'll uncover some hidden gem.
Smith has one year and $17 million left on his deal with the Chiefs, who traded with the Bills in the first round last year to select Patrick Mahomes. Foles' five-year contract with the Eagles dissolves after two years if he remains with Philadelphia going into the 2019 season. He might not even be available.
The Eagles signed him as an insurance policy, a move that paid off when Carson Wentz suffered a season-ending knee injury. Foles made only $1.6 million this season and was worth every penny after throwing for 352 yards and three touchdowns while leading the Eagles past the Vikings in the NFC Championship game.
Minnesota has three quarterbacks who are pending free agents and could start in the NFL next season: Sam Bradford, Case Keenum and Teddy Bridgewater. All three will come at a hefty price after experiencing various degrees of success in the past three years, and only two are likely to hit the market.
Beane worked hard in his first season to create room under the salary cap, so it's hard to imagine him blowing newfound space on an overpaid quarterback. The better option would be trading for Smith, who would make $1 million less than the Bills would pay Taylor. That's assuming Kansas City would accept a conditional pick.
We'll see how things play out, but there's one possibility that has been overlooked and could come into play: Turning the offense over to Nathan Peterman. If you paid close attention to McDermott this season, you know his faith in Peterman never wavered after his disastrous first start against the Chargers.
McDermott made a point again Tuesday to throw faint praise toward Peterman while answering a question about Taylor. In informal conversations behind the scenes, several players were adamant in their belief in Peterman. If the Bills weren't in playoff contention, or he played slightly better, he would have remained the starter.
The Bills will explore all options before selecting a quarterback at some point in the draft. They want a smart pocket passer with an accurate arm. Reading between the lines, nobody should be surprised if they decide their next starting quarterback is right under their nose.
That's no lie.