Rumblings in Buffalo before the season even began were that Taylor was not the Bills' quarterback of the future and he was believed to be on a short leash. But through eight games, he has been nothing shy of stellar. He was 154-for-236 with 1,628 yards passing, 10 touchdowns, and just two interceptions, good for a 95.8 passer rating and 7.36 adjusted-yards-per-attempt, he even added 210 yards on the ground with two rushing scores.
Then, after Week 10, we learned just how short that leash was, after a game which I would call a hiccup, albeit a major one, in which he went just 9-for-18 with 56 yards, no touchdowns and one interception, a lowly 33.6 passer rating. For perspective, had he spiked his 18 pass attempts instead and gone 0-for-18 with no interceptions, his rating would have been 39.6, a slight improvement. Wednesday he was benched and rookie Nathan Peterman was given the nod to start Week 11.
There are a number of reasons why I think this was a rash decision, which I will explain as best I can, and as usual, mostly by the numbers.
First of all, Taylor has been statistically one of the best quarterbacks in Buffalo franchise history. Here are some of his career ranks among Bills quarterbacks with at least 100 pass attempts:
- Completion percentage: 62.99 (1st)
- Touchdown percentage: 4.59 (3rd) – behind Jim Kelly and Ryan Fitzpatrick
- Interception percentage: 1.40 (1st) – best in NFL history
- Passer rating: 93.5 (1st)
- Yards-per-attempt: 7.24 (2nd) – behind Kelly
- Adjusted yards-per-attempt: 7.48 (1st)
Certainly not a bad resume, but as any of the countless professional NFL analysts on Twitter will tell you, traditional numbers do not tell the whole story, and Taylor's traditional numbers paint a much prettier picture than some of his more modern numbers. So let's take a look...
One argument I saw on Twitter was that Taylor does not throw the ball deep, yet 14.6 percent of his attempts this year have been thrown 20-plus yards downfield, ranking fifth in the NFL. Rumor dismissed.
I also was told that he is a horrible deep passer; however, his passer rating on those balls thrown at least 20 yards down field is 90.4, which puts him at 16 out of 32, not fantastic, but a far cry from horrible, like Cam Newton's 77.7 rating, Matt Ryan's 65.2 rating, Philip Rivers' 65.0 rating, or Ben Roethlisberger's putrid 48.3 rating. Wrong again Twitter.
What about the fact that Taylor cannot throw under pressure? Well his 54.4 completion percentage and 82.3 passer rating, both fifth in the NFL say otherwise. In fact, only Tom Brady, Alex Smith, Marcus Mariota and Aaron Rodgers have higher passer ratings when throwing under pressure. Moreover, he is under pressure often, 38.3 percent of the time, sixth most in the NFL, compared to Drew Brees, who is under pressure the least in all of football, just 20.9 percent of the time.
But he's not a pocket passer, many have said. Well, Blitz readers, Twitter's wrong again. He averages 5.27 seconds in the pocket before scrambling, 11th most in the NFL, more time than even far less mobile under center men Ben Roethlisberger (5.20), Rodgers (5.04), and Brady (4.40).
The last thing I want to address, and hopefully dispel, is this third down conversion thing I have heard quite a bit about, and how Taylor cannot do it.
First of all, on third downs on which the Bills elect to pass, they average the second most yards to go, 8.67 – now, before you blame this on Taylor, too, the Bills also rank second to last in the NFL with only 194 pass plays on first and second down – yet, they convert on 38.5 percent of third downs, which ranks a respectable 10th, all things considered.
As for Taylor on third downs, he ranks third in completion percentage at 67.1, just ahead of Carson Wentz and Tom Brady, ninth in third down conversions, with 37, and eighth in third down conversion rate, at 43.5 percent, and let's remember, the Bills, due largely to their run game, are in the second-to-worst position to convert on third down on a pass play, averaging a third-and-8.67, when they elect to throw.
So now that I hope to have laid to rest the idea that Taylor is not a good quarterback, why have the Bills and Sean McDermott chosen to go with Nathan Peterman?
The best reason I can surmise is this: Buffalo is probably not going to the Super Bowl – sorry Bills Mafia – to no fault of Taylor's, though. Rather, due in large part to his supporting cast. Specifically, Buffalo's defense, which hadn't allowed more than 20 points in any of their first five games before bye week, but has since floundered, allowing an average of 30.5 in four games after it.
So perhaps McDermott is hoping to catch lightning in a bottle with Peterman? Perhaps he is an evil genius and is hoping the defense will improve as a sort of way to rally around Taylor, who is very popular among his teammates. Or maybe, and probably most likely, the Bills still don't believe Taylor is their quarterback of the future – just what we all heard about before the season began – and they are ready to start anew.
But I am confident in one thing, if Buffalo does not want Tyrod Taylor under center, there will be more than a couple teams who will, and if that is his destiny, I am equally confident that he will succeed.