So that was a wild Saturday night of football. Arizona and Green Bay staged one of the most thrilling finishes in postseason history. As for the Bills? It's been a quiet few days.
In addition to our virtual roundtable with six of the sharpest minds in the game breaking down Tyrod Taylor --- and if he is a franchise quarterback --- here are a few more points.
Brian Billick's point on QB's. Have gotten a few folks questioning Billick's opinion that you absolutely need a prolific quarterback to win a Super Bowl. Of course, Billick himself won a Super Bowl with Trent Dilfer and a suffocating defense in Baltimore. As he mentioned, though, it's a much different game today in 2015 than it was even in 2000.
Here's an extra explanation from Billick on the subject.
Whereas a team might've had to knock off one, maybe two top-tier quarterbacks then, every week you face one now.
"It’s a quarterback-driven league," Billick said. "All of the rules are bent that way. The idea that ‘defense wins championship’ is kind of a myth in today’s game. Obviously people will bring up my Baltimore Ravens and the next year New England, and the next year Tampa Bay that you can win Super Bowls with defense, running the ball and less-than Hall of Fame quarterbacks. But that was a different time. We were void of quarterback play. Our run to the Super Bowl — taking nothing away from our defense—was Gus Frerotte in Denver, Steve McNair — who God rest his soul was a damn good quarterback — but we were familiar with Steve, Rich Gannon who in Oakland when we played them was handing the ball off to the No. 1 running attack in the game, and Kerry Collins.
"So if you’re going to make a run through the playoffs today that may include one or more of the above: Brady, Manning, Aaron Rodgers, a Palmer, Russell Wilson. You’re going to have to go through those quarterbacks.”
As Billick said, it might not be Taylor's fault that he rarely risked throws over the middle of the field. He's running the plays called. But he'd want to see more out of the quarterback before committing long term.
And it's telling that the head coach of one of the best defenses ever even believes defenses don't championships in today's NFL.
Gannon on QB leadership. Wanted to include an extra point from Rich Gannon, too. The former NFL MVP sees a competitiveness in Tyrod Taylor but knows the QB must take on even more of a vocal leadership role in 2016 to elevate his game.
How so? Gannon explains.
He doesn't see such leadership in Miami's Ryan Tannehill. He did in Andy Dalton, a major reason for the Cincinnati QB's turnaround. Quarterbacks, he said, must understand they're the ones held responsible for others' mistakes.
"What the quarterbacks don’t realize is that this is a selfish business — you know what I mean?" Gannon said. "At the end of day, you can say these are my teammates and my receivers care about me. Yeah, but everybody cares about themselves more. The minute the team struggles a little bit and the team needs to make a change, they’re not changing the receiver. They’re not changing the left tackle. They’re going to change the quarterback. That’s the first place to start. And when you realize that, you realize you need to change a little bit. It’s ‘You know what? If this ain’t the way I want it, I’m going to speak up and say something. I’m going to lose my job if he’s not running the route the right way or he’s not blocking the right way.’ When you let somebody else’s mistakes become your mistakes, then you have a problem."
So Taylor, he said, must understand this "is a peformance-based business." He will be judged by wins, by losses even if he's not the primary reason for those losses.
With this, he'll want to get into the faces of teammates and fix any problems that arise.
"Can you get your team to the finish line every week?" Gannon said. "Can you get your team to the postseason every year? And if you can’t do that, then they’re going to start looking for somebody else who can do it. Unless years past when you ad four or five years to develop a team, a roster, a system, now, you don’t have that opportunity. A number of coaches have been fired after two years. It’s an alarming number. So if you’re Rex Ryan — and you just went through this once before in New York waiting on Mark Sanchez and waiting on Geno Smith and that didn’t work out — this guy better improve or I’m not going to do this. I’m going to find somebody.”
Critical offseason for Taylor/Watkins. Everyone agrees this will be an extremely important offseason for the Bills quarterback. Defenses now have a full season of tape on Taylor to study.
Can Taylor counterpunch? Gannon said he'd have a full offseason's worth of projects for Taylor --- from red-zone projects to two-minute drill projects --- and give him specific quarterbacks to study.
"Anybody with mobility who’s not a 6-4, 6-5 guy," Gannon said, "the first thing you want to do is get up the field, set the edge and contain them and force them to function and throw from the well. That’s what people are going to try to do. It wasn’t just next year, it was last year too and that’s where he’s going to have to get better — sitting in there, trusting the protection, getting the ball out on time, going through his progressions, being able to read the entire field, being able to get into certain plays at the line of scrimmage, understand different strengths and weaknesses of coverages and how teams are trying to defend them."
As many explained, didn't help Taylor's cause in 2015 that he was getting a third of the reps through the offseason, a bit more during camp and he was constantly missing receivers and backs to injuries. It really took until midseason for Taylor to find chemistry with Sammy Watkins and others.
Excelling from the pocket is a step he must take to prove to Bills management he's worth the big money. So after some R&R, these quarterbacks know he'll need to connect with Watkins on his own. Under the new CBA, teams practice as a group much, much less than they ever did.
Said Mark Brunell: "There weren’t rules. Coaches could be with you, you had more on-the-field activity. That was huge.”
Brunell was in Taylor's same exact position as a 6 foot 1, low-round pick who waited his turn behind a QB on another team. After waiting behind Brett Favre two years, Brunell got his shot in Jacksonville and led the NFL in passing his second season as a starter. Instant chemistry with Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell helped.
"It’s all about your supporting cast," Brunell said, "and I was very fortunate that I had a great supporting cast. Running game. Offensive line. Two very good receivers. A tight end. And that was huge for me, just having guys around me making plays who made me better. Aside from getting reps, that was important having good quality guys around me on offense.”
Nobody's expecting Taylor to lead the NFL in passing and take his team to the AFC Championship as Brunell did in Year 2.
But the pressure heightens. Work with Watkins will be key.
“Oh yeah," Brunell said. "Absolutely. It’s going to be big.”