FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Yet again, the Buffalo Bills will need to make a long-term decision on their starting quarterback. There’s no rush to right now, but after Monday night’s game Tyrod Taylor will have played more than 50 percent of the snaps this season.
That means that the final year of Taylor’s contract would void and Taylor would enter a contract year in 2016, as noted by ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Monday.
After rushing themselves into an ill-advised six-year, $59 million contract extension with Ryan Fitzpatrick midway through the 2011 season, the Bills likely will not be making any quick decisions at the most important position in the game. But as this season progresses, General Manager Doug Whaley, head coach Rex Ryan and the entire Bills brass must continue to ask themselves: Is Taylor a franchise quarterback?
His numbers heading into Monday night’s showdown with the New England Patriots are impressive. Going 5-2 as the starter, Taylor has thrown for 1,436 yards with 11 touchdowns and four interceptions while his 106.2 passer rating ranked third in the NFL and his 70.5 completion percentage ranks first.
He also wins with his feet. Taylor brings 4.5-speed to the game, rushing for 243 yards on 47 attempts (5.2 avg.) with another two scores.
“I think I’ve improved each and every week,” Taylor said this past week. “Decision making, taking care of the football, proving that I can throw from the pocket, orchestrating our offense and just being a leader. I think I’ve taken steps in the right direction as far as those things go. Just got to continue to keep improving my game.”
Questions still remain. One skeptic is the coordinator who has gotten the best of Bill Belichick years past, Kevin Gilbride. He said last week that Taylor isn’t throwing “on time,” in rhythm but also compared him to a young Mark Brunell.
All teams probably would love to have versions of Tom Brady, quarterbacks who decimate defenses with their mind, arm, accuracy, vision. But as Whaley lamented in the off-season to the Wall Street Journal, those traditional passers are difficult to find as college offenses shift to the spread.
In talking to prospects, Whaley is so concerned about quarterbacks’ knowledge of NFL defenses he’s “a little nervous about the long-term future of this game.”
So maybe the Bills don’t hold their breath for an answer in the NFL draft and are fine rolling with the dual-threat Taylor.
It sure doesn’t hurt that Cam Newton — who Gilbride said has a cannon for an arm but “is not a great passer by any stretch” — has steered to the Carolina Panthers to a 10-0 start. The Seattle Seahawks reached back-to-back Super Bowls with 5-foot-11 Russell Wilson navigating a run-first scheme that got him throwing on the run. The Miami Dolphins thought they found their long-lost savior in Ryan Tannehill, a quarterback who can throw with timing, yet here they are at 4-6 in last place.
Thus, the Bills don’t need to open up their wallet this second. They can stay in wait-and-see mode with Taylor. While his numbers are sparkling and his mistakes have been down, the sample space remains small.
Reaching the postseason would help Taylor’s cause. His three-year contract with Buffalo was packed with incentives.
Per usual, franchise-changing decisions at quarterback loom for the Bills.
Ryan remains hopeful Aaron Williams (neck) will return to the line-up for the Bills. The safety on injured reserve with designation to return is out until — at least — the team’s Week 14 game at Philadelphia.
In the meantime, the team will continue to use the trio of Duke Williams, Leodis McKelvin and Bacarri Rambo next to Corey Graham at safety. Of course, two are former cornerbacks which allows Ryan to use them in man coverage freely. Rambo’s three turnovers were the difference in a 22-17 win over the New York Jets and McKelvin, back from his ankle injury, has transitioned well so far.
Williams, who most expected to open camp as a starter, has also settled into his role with 21 tackles, one sack and a pass break-up into Monday.
“We have a lot of talent back there at the safety position,” Williams said, “a lot of guys who can play. Everybody brings something different to the table. It’s good for us, a good switch-up, especially against the offense we face. We’re having fun doing it. We’re winning.”
“Schematically, we fit in where we’re supposed to be.”
Still, the position is based so heavily on communication, couldn’t shuffling through so many combinations hinder chemistry? Rambo doesn’t think so.
The only downside Williams sees is players not getting into a rhythm as fast as they’d like.
“But once you get in the flow of the game, it gets there,” he said. “I feel like guys are getting used to it and embracing the position. It’s not as hard as it seems.”