Tyrod Taylor will always have a place in Bills history as the quarterback who ended the playoff drought.
Opinions on Taylor’s abilities vary widely across the fanbase, but one thing that can’t be argued is that Taylor has been one of the most productive quarterbacks the Bills have had in quite some time.
Is it possible Taylor is the Bills’ best quarterback since Jim Kelly? Ask that question anywhere in Buffalo and you’re bound to get a variety of answers.
What qualifies someone as the “best” is certainly subjective – and the Bills have had well-documented struggles to find a replacement for their Hall of Fame passer since he retired more than two decades ago – but when looking at the numbers, Taylor ranks more highly than you might think.
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None of this means the Bills will be inclined to retain Taylor, who is due a $6 million bonus if he remains on the roster on March 16. But here are the numbers, and you can cast your vote below for the best Bills quarterback since Kelly.
The Bills have started 16 quarterbacks in the 21 seasons since Kelly retired — or 17, if you want to include Matt Cassel, the team’s official footnote who technically started the 2015 opener (and gets credit for the win) but never threw a pass.
The name Bills fans go to first in response to this question is likely Doug Flutie, though Taylor has surpassed him in yards, touchdowns and victories. They are the two quarterbacks who have led the Bills to the playoffs post-Kelly.
The Bills quarterback with the most starts since 1997 is Ryan Fitzpatrick. The one with the most wins is Drew Bledsoe. Taylor has the highest passer rating, while the most yards per game belong to Kyle Orton. And the quarterback with the highest completion percentage is … Kelly Holcomb.
So who's the best? Here's a breakdown by different stats.
Quarterback wins is not a great stat to use to judge passers, but wins and losses are how many fans think about quarterbacks in their heads. Flutie reigns supreme in this category based on his impressive win percentage. Bledsoe's 23 wins are the most since Kelly, though Taylor (22) should be tied in first since he actually won the game Cassel gets credit for.
Orton played just one season in Buffalo, but it was a good one, relatively speaking. He didn't play until Week 4 of the 2014 season and still nearly led the team to the playoffs, finishing 9-7, which was the Bills' best record in a decade. They may have qualified for the postseason if not for a Week 16 loss to a 2-12 Raiders team. Amazingly, Flutie, Orton and Taylor are the only quarterbacks since Kelly to post winning records.
Quarterback rating is another imperfect stat – as if there could be a perfect stat – but it's one football fans understand. It weighs yards, completions, attempts, touchdowns and interceptions. "It is important to remember," the NFL writes on its own website, "that the system is used to rate passers, not quarterbacks."
Still, the mobile Taylor is by far the best in this stat, thanks in part to his ability to limit turnovers. He has the lowest interception percentage of any quarterback in NFL history with at least 1,000 passes (1.42%); Aaron Rodgers is second.
Orton ranks second here, while Holcomb – an undrafted backup who made eight starts while replacing J.P. Losman in 2005 – ranks third, followed by Johnson and Flutie. No other passer was better than 80.0, which is below average in today's NFL.
Yards per attempt, completion percentage
These are combined to compare a passer's efficiency with his results. Taylor, Orton and Rob Johnson appear on both charts, with Johnson gaining the most yards per pass attempt. Many Bills quarterbacks, including Taylor, have been criticized for not throwing downfield, but Taylor ranks highly on this list.
Holcomb leads in completion percentage, though his completions gained an average of only 6.56 yards. Flutie's relatively high yards per attempt is impressive, considering he only completed 56.26 percent of passes.
While rushing doesn't say anything of a quarterback's passing ability, it is a significant factor in what he brings to the table. Taylor is the Bills' all-time leader in rushing by a quarterback and nearly doubles all other quarterbacks on this list.
This stat isn't listed on the chart above, but the ability to lead a team back certainly inspires fans. Flutie ranks first despite starting the sixth-most games on the list. Four of Trent Edwards' 14 wins came through a late comeback. Taylor is tied for fourth with Bledsoe and Losman.
Approximate Value (AV in the chart above) is Pro Football Reference's attempt to put a single number on the value of a player at any position in each season. Their rankings say Taylor provided more value to the Bills in his three seasons than Flutie did, though Taylor also played in more games. Wouldn't have guessed J.P. Losman would be fifth.
Now that you've gone through the numbers, it's time to vote. Who do you think is the Bills best quarterback since Kelly?
Would your vote change if you only needed the player for a single game, or even a two-minute drill? Let us know in the comments.