New Bills offensive coordinator Rick Dennison has contributed to coaxing the best out of a selection of NFL quarterbacks that ranges from bad to good, with plenty in between.
As the offensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos (two stints) and Houston Texans, Dennison worked closely with offensive-minded coaches Mike Shanahan and Gary Kubiak. Quarterbacks who operated in those West Coast offenses put up the best numbers of their respective careers.
Hence, the system being called “quarterback friendly.” Dennison also spent a season in Baltimore as the Ravens’ quarterbacks coach in 2014, when current Bills starter Tyrod Taylor was there as a backup. That connection has led to a natural connecting of the dots about Taylor’s potential return to the Bills in 2017.
If the Bills do, however, decide not to exercise Taylor’s contract option and decide to walk away, here are some of the other quarterbacks Dennison has worked with in his career who could be available either through free agency or a trade. Keep in mind that the Bills will also need a veteran backup quarterback if EJ Manuel leaves as a free agent, which is expected.
Jay Cutler: Cutler went 384 of 616 for 4,526 yards under Shanahan and Dennison in 2008 with the Denver Broncos, career highs in attempts, completions and yards for a single season. He had 25 touchdown passes, as well. In three total seasons with Dennison as his offensive coordinator, Cutler threw for 53 touchdowns in 37 starts. It seems like Cutler is rumored to move on from Chicago during every offseason, and this year is no different. He’ll be 34 at the start of next season and is coming off surgery to repair a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder. The Bears could release him with almost no impact on their salary cap, or could try to trade him. Cutler would cost $15 million next season for any team that were to trade for him.
Case Keenum: He started eight games with the Texans in 2013, losing all of them. Since that time, he’s started 16 more games, including nine in 2016 with the L.A. Rams. Keenum has shown he’s not a viable starter, but could make sense as a backup given his knowledge of Dennison’s offense. For his career, he’s completed 58.4 percent of his passes with 24 touchdowns and 20 interceptions, numbers that are remarkably bigger than Manuel in a slightly bigger sample size.
T.J. Yates: Another backup option, Yates’ only real playing time came in 2011 with Houston under Dennison. He started five games and appeared in six, going 82 of 134 (61.2 completion percentage) for 949 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions. During his stint as a starter, he helped the Texans clinch their first-ever division title and quarterbacked the team to a playoff win over Cincinnati. He ended the 2016 season as a backup with the Miami Dolphins.
Matt Schaub: A backup with the Falcons, Schaub had big years with Dennison in 2010 and 2012 in Houston, throwing for more than 4,000 yards and at least 22 touchdowns in both seasons. He’s bounced around the league since then and is strictly a backup at this point in his career, but he would be able to provide mentorship to a young quarterback.
Brock Osweiler: He’s scheduled to count $19 million against Houston’s salary cap in 2017, and that figure could jump to $25 million if the Texans cut him, but that might be their only viable alternative. Obviously, no team will trade for Osweiler at his current salary, so if the Texans bite the bullet, and the Bills move on from Taylor … could Osweiler end up in Buffalo as a holdover until someone else – probably a highly drafted rookie – is ready to take over? In 2015, Osweiler completed 61.8 percent of his passes for 1,967 yards, 10 touchdowns and six interceptions.