Share this article

print logo

Jerry Sullivan: Give thanks, McDermott admits his mistake

In a roundabout way, Sean McDermott extended a Happy Thanksgiving to all suffering Bills fans around the globe at his weekly Wednesday press conference.

"It's Thanksgiving and we're in the hunt," McDermott said. "You sit around that table tomorrow and say, 'We're in the hunt'."

Well, I'm not sure all Bills fans will be singing McDermott's praises around the holiday table Thursday. Many will be more inclined to carve up the rookie head coach on social media when they're done with the turkey.

At least McDermott has returned to his senses. Shortly after 9:30 a.m., he announced that he would be returning to Tyrod Taylor as his starting quarterback at Kansas City this weekend, rather than throwing rookie Nathan Peterman back out there after his historically bad debut last Sunday at the Chargers.

As the big decision approached, there was speculation that McDermott might stick with Peterman. He had said earlier in the week that a leader didn't waver from his decisions. The thinking was, he wouldn't want to seem weak by bowing to outside criticism and going back to Taylor.

What They Said: Taylor, Peterman, McCoy, Williams, Wood, Zay Jones, Hyde on QB change, Chiefs and more

But there's no weakness in admitting a mistake. I have to give him credit for that much. It's faint praise, but at least McDermott didn't compound a colossal blunder by digging his heels in and making an even bigger one.

It's understandable if some fans wanted him to move on from Taylor and stay with Peterman. The Bills have been exposed as a playoff pretender and might as well be looking to the future. But McDermott can't have it both ways. He can't claim to be playing for this year and put Peterman out there as the starter.

A week ago, in explaining the "calculated risk" of the QB switch, McDermott said it wasn't his goal to be 5-4 and simply make the playoffs. He had loftier ambitions. On Wednesday, he was talking about sitting around the table and exulting about being in the hunt at 5-5.

Someone pressed McDermott about that contradiction, which made him seem like some wishy-washy rookie who was making it up as he went along.

"No, it's still the same," he said. "The mindset has always been the same. It's the mindset of developing, growing. Every week, you look to get better. You look to get better every rep, every play.

"We’re not focused on, ‘hey, playoffs’. We’re focused on what we’re trying to get to, a grander vision of what we’re trying to become. When we get there, you’ll know it. This town will feel it."

Right about now, the town must be a little confused. Are they trying to break the playoff drought or aren't they? McDermott has been middling this thing from the day he took the job. It sounds as if he wants credit for getting into the playoff hunt without actually going for it.

McDermott likes to project a resolute image, a clear vision, but he's been all over the place on the quarterback issue. He's been no better than Rex Ryan on QBs. That's what Terry and Kim Pegula get for giving unprecedented power to a novice head coach.

Maybe if they had hired a general manager first, they'd have drafted Deshaun Watson with the 10th overall pick. There's no way McDermott, a defensive guy, was going to make the call on the franchise QB while Doug Whaley was still in the building with a bunch of lame duck scouts.

By bringing back Taylor, he created this mess. He knew what he had with Tyrod, but said he gave the Bills the best chance to win. Taylor got them to 5-4, which is better than could have been expected. Suddenly, there was a pressing need to get a long look at Peterman?

If it's so essential to put a rookie on the field, how come Andy Reid – McDermott's mentor – has Patrick Mahomes, a true franchise quarterback prospect, sitting behind Alex Smith? Uh, because he's in a playoff spot.

For one week, Peterman gave McDermott his best chance to win. Then he threw five interceptions in one half. Tom Brady has thrown four in 22 games since coming off his suspension. Spare me the rationalizations about how many of those picks "weren't Peterman's fault."

"Obviously, Nate struggled," LeSean McCoy said. "He's a rookie, so we expected that. There's things he can learn from. Now Tyrod's the guy again. We're used to him. Not a lot has changed with that."

How could it change so quickly, I asked McCoy? How could a veteran be so matter-of-fact about Taylor losing the status of "best chance to win" for one week and getting it back again?

"Well, you see how the game went," McCoy said. "The game didn't go well."

In other words, it was the right move until it went wrong. Sorry, it's not that simple. If you dart into heavy traffic on the highway, it's a bad decision whether you get run over by a passing vehicle or not.

Players stand behind Sean McDermott's decision at quarterback

McDermott offered the lame excuse that rookies have to play sometime. It's ludicrous to suggest that the quarterback position is the same as any other, "one-eleventh," to borrow one of the coach's favorite expressions. NFL teams sit rookie QBs for a full season all the time.

He said the switch back to Taylor was his decision, as the first change had been. McDermott said he didn't meet with the entire 12-player council, as Taylor suggested after the Chargers game. But you can bet that some players told him to stop fiddling with their playoff hopes.

McDermott made the right move. He should stick with Taylor until his team is mathematically eliminated. That's the deal he struck when he brought Tyrod back, and he owes it to his team and his fans to see it through.

"A lot of teams wish they were in the hunt," McDermott said. "We're in the hunt. It's what you do with it."

He didn't want to dwell on the Peterman question. On 10 different occasions, he said the focus was on Kansas City, sounding like Bill Belichick the time he kept repeating that it was "on to Cincinnati."

It's on to KC. They're in the hunt. Enjoy your holiday. Give thanks and don't panic if you look up and see McDermott's head on top of the turkey.


There are no comments - be the first to comment