In his postgame news conference, Tyrod Taylor offered little insight about the Bills’ second-half meltdown Sunday against the Raiders. He sounded like someone who paid attention during one of the public-relations seminars that NFL teams hold to help players handle the media.
The media can be harsh, but that wasn’t the case Sunday after the Bills blew a 24-9 lead and lost to the Raiders, 38-24. Taylor didn’t have Khalil Mack breathing down his neck with a microphone. It wasn’t as if Jay Skurski was going to step in front and return one of Taylor’s lame answers for a touchdown.
Often, when people are in shock, their instincts take over. Taylor’s performance while answering routine questions was scattered and uninspiring, much like his performance against the Raiders. He sidestepped pressure with several short, pithy responses that made him sound like a weak, incompetent leader.
On whether he was part of the reason for their offensive woes: “Lack of execution.”
On whether he change anything in particular: “Nope.”
On Mack making two terrific plays that led to turnovers late in the game: “Interceptions are unfortunate.”
On Mack’s overall performance: “Great player.”
Taylor had other responses that were slightly more in-depth, but he spoke mostly in general terms and offered little. In truth, the loss wasn’t entirely his fault. The defense crumbled and allowed three scoring drives on three possessions starting in the third quarter. Their special teams were poor.
But the quarterback also was terrible.
Taylor panicked in the third and fourth quarters and committed two turnovers. He refused to accept responsibility for Buffalo’s offensive failures in the second half. Just once, it would be nice if he stood up, held himself accountable and said, “I’m the quarterback. I’m the leader of the offense. It’s on me.”
Before anyone gets the wrong idea, this isn’t some media gripe. The media is merely a conduit to the masses. Taylor is a decent guy, but he lacks the self-awareness required for the position. Fans should expect better from a franchise quarterback. You don’t get that from Taylor, who has too much at stake to admit his shortcomings.
Taylor’s days in Buffalo appear to be numbered. The Bills have an escape clause in the five-year and $90 million contract extension he signed during training camp. Terry and Kim Pegula are generous people, but they’re not pushovers. Anyone could examine Taylor’s play, do the math and see he’s not worth the dough.
Buffalo could pay him $27.5 million and walk away from the contract after next season, but what does that solve? They can’t justify spending good money after bad and postponing the inevitable. They would be better off turning the page now on Taylor and resuming their search for a better player and leader.
Yes, they’re out there. Every year.
Derek Carr was a second-round pick in 2014. He has led the Raiders to six comeback victories in the fourth quarter this year alone, including Sunday. Taylor has one fourth-quarter comeback in his career. He was atrocious in the final quarter Sunday. He can’t be trusted with the game on the line.
Rookie Dak Prescott has an 11-1 record after the Cowboys selected him in the fourth round. Russell Wilson was a third-round pick. Kirk Cousins was taken in the fourth. Five starters for other teams were traded in their careers. The Bills keep missing these guys, which is one reason they keep missing the playoffs.
Matt Barkley, for heaven’s sake, has made two NFL starts. He didn’t even have an NFL job last season, but he threw for 316 yards in his first start for the Bears this year and led them to victory Sunday with 192 yards passing in the snow.
Taylor has never passed for 300 yards. He has thrown for fewer than 192 yards eight times in 12 contests this season. Am I suggesting the Bills get Matt Barkley, a former fourth-round pick? Good heavens, no. I’m saying it’s an indictment of Tyrod Taylor, a marginal quarterback who melts under pressure.
He has a 1-8 record when throwing more than 30 passes in a game. He’s dead last this season in passing yardage among quarterbacks with at least 200 completions. He’s behind Denver’s Trevor Siemian, a first-year starter and seventh-round pick in 2015, who has 195 completions. Only Andrew Luck has been sacked more.
No matter how many other QBs are overpaid these days, it doesn’t add up to $18 million per season for Taylor. The argument that he’s the best Buffalo has had in years doesn’t fly. He’s no better than Ryan Fitzpatrick or Kyle Orton, two other flawed quarterbacks of the recent past.
Taylor has more time to throw than any quarterback in the league. But he has only 25 completions of 20-plus yards this season, 28th in the NFL. He holds the ball too long, is late making decisions and gets sacked too often. His high completion percentage points more to his lack of vision downfield than his accuracy. His big arm is useless when he fails to find open receivers or misfires when he sees them.
Sammy Watkins threw up his hands in disgust Sunday after Taylor’s pass to him sailed over his head in the fourth quarter Sunday. It wasn’t the first time for Watkins, a gifted but injury-prone receiver. Imagine a healthy Watkins with a true franchise quarterback who would get him the ball.
With their playoff chances all but cooked yet again, the Bills should consider other options, whether it means playing Cardale Jones or EJ Manuel. They have very little to lose at this stage, other than a few games. They could measure Jones’ progress or make a decision on Manuel knowing they’re finished with Taylor.
While they’re at it, the Bills could take money set aside for Taylor for next season to cover Rex Ryan’s five-year contract worth $27.5 million. The two have been tethered since Ryan made Taylor his starting quarterback last season. If Taylor is pushed to the exit, he should hold the door for Ryan.
Rex has a .500 record with the Bills and is four games under .500 as an NFL head coach. He wasn’t compromised by financial restrictions. He’s had considerably more talent on his rosters than coaches who preceded him. He even was allowed to add his brother to help with the defense.
Ryan ran his mouth about the Bills’ red-zone defense, supposedly Rob Ryan’s specialty, during their four-game winning streak. But Rex has been noticeably quiet of late. Maybe it’s because opposing teams scored 14 times in their last 16 trips to the 20-yard line or closer. Buffalo is in the bottom half in points allowed.
The Bills had a five-hour flight home from Oakland after the game, giving them enough time to put Sunday’s game into perspective. As for the media, we’re back to asking the same questions we had after the Bills lost their first two games, the same questions hovering over the organization since last season:
Do they have the right quarterback? Do they have the right coach?
To steal a line from Taylor on Sunday: Nope.