Late in last week's loss at Carolina, with the Bills one big play from an upset and a 2-0 start, some fans must have been conflicted. I could hear them thinking, "Here they go again, screwing up the high draft pick."
It's understandable if some fans wanted this team to go fully into the tank, as the Sabres did. They're willing to bite the bullet and lose big now to get a high pick, knowing that Tyrod Taylor isn't the answer and the Bills are almost surely going to take a franchise quarterback in the draft.
Presumably, a true fan wants his team to win every game. But as the last 17 years have shown, getting the QB is more vital in the long term. People assume the Bills, with two first-round picks, have enough "currency" to get their guy in April. But it'll be more difficult if they finish 8-8 and the Chiefs make the playoffs.
That makes Sunday's game against Denver so fascinating and, yes, conflicting for the tank crowd. A win over an unbeaten contender would establish the Bills as a playoff contender and really complicate matters.
On to this week's Mailbag:
Rick McGuire asks: The odds that 3 or more franchise QBs come out of next year's draft is slim. I'm monitoring the top 5 (Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield, Mason Rudolph, Josh Rosen & Lamar Jackson) and think Mayfield could be the guy for the Bills. Who do you like?
Carl Wagner asks: At what point can we start getting excited about "Rudolph the Franchise Savior" (aka Mason Rudolph)? 6'5, big arm, NFL accuracy, goes through progressions, throws receivers open, cool name, looks talks and acts like a franchise QB. Seems like everything we've been waiting 20 years for.
Sully: I won't pretend that I'm glued to the college games on Saturdays or watch film of the top quarterbacks in my study (I don't have a study). But it's clear that this could be one of the best QB classes in years, perhaps the most talented since the famous 1983 class with Jim Kelly, Dan Marino and John Elway.
But I watched Darnold lead USC over Texas last weekend and can see why many of the draft gurus, including Mel Kiper, see him as the best of the bunch -- assuming he comes out after his redshirt sophomore year. Darnold is 6-4, 225, has a strong, accurate arm and has the poise and command you want from an NFL quarterback.
By the way, Darnold's grandfather, Dick Hammer, was an Olympic volleyball player for the U.S. in 1964, a basketball player at USC, and one of the original Marlboro Men in the cigarette ads in the 1970s.
Rudolph, who is 6-5, 230 pounds, is also an intriguing prospect (you have the Christmas carol in my head now, Carl). He's the guy I projected for the Bills in our preseason NFL issue. That assumed the Bills couldn't get high enough in the draft to take Darnold.
Last Saturday against Pitt, Rudolph was 20-for-28 passing for a team-record 423 yards and five touchdowns -- in the first half. Through three games, the Oklahoma State senior has completed 72.3 percent of his passes for 1,135 yards and 11 TDs, with only one interception.
Still, you can't go overboard about college numbers. Countless prospects have put up big stats in college and done nothing in the NFL. It's hard to translate. Scouts aren't that high on Rudolph, who has a passer-friendly offense and great receivers. They question his arm strength and accuracy.
Rudolph will get his first serious test on Saturday when Okie State plays No. 16 TCU in the Big 12 opener for both schools. I'm not wild about Mayfield. He strikes me as another Johnny Manziel.
Bill Nelson asks: Your thoughts on my timetable for switching QBs from Tyrod to Peterman: Bengals would be good first game for a rookie QB, albeit on the road. But, the best time to switch would be Week 6, after bye.
@terrapinwill asks: If Tyrod isn't the future, which seems obvious, why not play the kid? What's to be lost, except maybe more games and better pick?
Sully: I can see why people would clamor for Nathan Peterman, especially after Taylor's performance against Carolina. Tyrod won't be in Buffalo next season. They should get a look at Peterman in real games at some point.
But Sean McDermott does have something to lose if he plays Peterman now -- his locker room. Taylor is his starter and a captain. It would look like panic and a betrayal if he went away from him now. Tyrod still gives them the best chance to win. They scored their most points in 18 years last season.
Bill presents a reasonable scenario for making a switch. If the Bills lose to a bad Cincinnati team and Taylor keeps adding to his chronicle of road woe, it would give McDermott an opening to give Peterman a shot.
Stephen Bell asks: If it’s as obvious as it is to fans, why doesn’t Tyrod Taylor audible more? How many times Sunday did the Bills come to the line, see eight or nine Panthers stacked against them and hand it off anyway?
Sully: I asked Taylor on Wednesday. "We're getting to that," he said. "As you progress in the offense, as I progress in my relationship with Rico (OC Rick Dennison), the comfort level of him allowing me to do that. On the certain packages we definitely have plays that I can audible (out of), but it's not a free-range thing every play."
Later, a Bills PR man told me it's not as if Taylor can't call audibles. He has the authority to do so. But when the QB says they're "getting to that" and needing to progress to a "comfort level," it seems evident that his ability to change plays is limited right now in the new offense.
Taylor has been in the NFL for seven years. You'd think he would have "free range" to audible at this stage of his career.
Chuck Osborne asks: Why are the Sabres not signing Jack Eichel and taking the chance of losing him? I can't understand that at all.
Sully: Calm down, Chuck, Eichel isn't going anywhere. The Sabres wanted him to sign an extension before the season, but it looks as if he's going to bet on himself having a big third season and warrant a deal close to the eight-year, $100 million contract that Connor McDavid signed with the Oilers.
The Sabres are probably offering something midway between McDavid and the eight-year, $68 million deal that Edmonton gave Leon Draisatl in August. There's no hurry to make a deal. Eichel is under contract and the Sabres will get him signed to an extension at some point in the next nine months.
Eichel will eventually sign an eight-year deal. The only question is for how much. I'm guessing something in the eight-year, $90 million range. They tanked two seasons to get him. No way they can justify low-balling the guy.
@buffalodad asks: Do you take your golf glove off while putting? Do you agree uphill putting is easier than downhill?
Sully: Yes and yes. But putting is never easy.
@Gonzo English asks: Do you button your dress shirts from top to bottom or bottom to top?
Sully: On the rare occasions where I wear what qualifies as a dress shirt, top to bottom.