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OC Greg Roman's return crucial in Tyrod Taylor's growth

There weren't many high-profile coaching hires this year. Mike Mularkey gets another shot in Tennessee, Ben McAdoo gets promoted on the 6-10 New York Giants, Chip Kelly gets fired, then rewarded with a reported four-year, $24 million contract in San Francisco and, here in Buffalo, Greg Roman's phone didn't ring.

Roman himself said he was surprised there wasn't more interest. So he'll enter his seventh season as a NFL offensive coordinator. He might not be thrilled with the lack of interest but the Bills should be: his return to Buffalo in 2016 will be critical in Tyrod Taylor taking the next step.

The two were a fit last season. After spending four years as a back-up in Baltimore, Taylor went 8-6 as the starter with 3,025 passing yards, 568 rushing yards, 24 total touchdowns, six interceptions and a 99.4 passer rating. One massive unknown — is he the long-term answer at QB? — will linger into the 2016 season. But it would've been even more of an unknown if Roman did leave for greener pastures.

"I think overall — when you look at this being his first year playing — I think there’s some encouraging signs," former NFL MVP Rich Gannon said of Taylor. "I think the guy’s in the right system. I think he’s with the right coach. Greg Roman is fantastic in terms of formulating a game plan that takes advantage of his strengths. They’re going to run the football and that includes the quarterback. I think his accuracy is something you can get excited about and build on."

Roman wasn't 100 percent right about everything from Day 1. It took a little compromise to get the passing game rolling.

Wide receiver Sammy Watkins made it clear he wanted the ball, wanted 10 targets a game. So after the team touted the importance of spreading the ball around to different weapons and taking what the defense gives with an array of different weapons, the passing game truly began to flourish when the Bills made a more concerted effort to get the ball to Watkins. He made his frustrations known, stayed healthy and the offense changed with Taylor and Watkins finally gaining some chemistry.

Looking back, Watkins said his relationship with Roman only strengthened after speaking up. From the deep ball to Taylor's scrambling ability, to the zone read, Roman struck the right balance for stretches and Buffalo's offense improved from 26th in the NFL to 13th.

Now, Roman and Taylor will be working together through OTA's, minicamp and all of training camp instead of reps getting divided among three different quarterbacks. Buffalo should be able to get a bit more complex in the passing game.

Of course, Colin Kaepernick took the NFL by storm under Roman in San Francisco. His bicep-kissing rampage through the 2012 postseason was followed by a strong 2013 season of 3,721 total yards, 25 touchdowns and eight interceptions and he inked a massive contract. And after Roman left, in 2015, it wasn't pretty. Kaepernick didn't resemble the same threat and was benched for Blaine Gabbert.

Now, his NFL future is in limbo.

Taylor and Kaepernick are very, very different quarterbacks. But it sure should help to have Roman around for another season. The system he's now running in Buffalo — one that capitalizes on Taylor's long ball, 4.5 speed and creativity in the running game — suits the quarterback best.

In this sense, Gannon believes the Bills actually are the ones with the leverage in any contract negotiation and that Taylor should want to stay in this offense even if it meant less money.

"If you want to play here, here’s how it’s going to have to happen," Gannon said in our virtual roundtable. "And if it doesn’t work, well, there’s the door. I’ll be honest with you: Guys like Tyrod, he’s better off staying in Buffalo for whatever they’re willing to pay him rather than go somewhere else. They have the effort and energy invested in the guy and he has a chance to start. Whereas if he takes a few dollars more — and it’s not going to be a whole lot more — and goes somewhere else, he has to start over again. ... And by the way, the teams looking for quarterbacks aren’t any good anyway!

"Would I like to play with LeSean McCoy? Would I like to play with Charles Clay? Would I like to play with Sammy Watkins? Are you kidding me? I want to stay where they want me. Sometimes less money helps you become a terrific player and then you go to the pay window as a healthy, productive, consistent performer and a guy who might have a terrific career for 6-8 years in a place. Whereas if you just run for the money, you’ll be on a corner in two years.”

 

 

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