It took having his first decision on who to start at quarterback go horribly wrong for Sean McDermott to see the light, but at least he wasn’t too stubborn to see it in fairly short order.
One game into the season, the Buffalo Bills are allowing the Josh Allen Era to begin.
McDermott didn’t leave himself a choice, of course. Nathan Peterman was the face of last Sunday’s unmitigated disaster that was the 47-3 opening-day loss at Baltimore. He didn’t look the least bit ready to handle a job that never should have gone to him in the first place, as evidenced by the zero first downs, zero points and 0.0 passer rating that will be forever engraved in his performance before he was yanked for Allen early in the third quarter.
Despite the popular logic that making a rookie the starter for the season-opener would have been too risky, McDermott took what wound up being an even larger chance by going with Peterman.
It was a call that not only put an entire season in jeopardy, particularly with such a brutal-looking early schedule, but also raised disturbing questions about McDermott’s overall ability to grasp the big picture that a head coach must have.
Although he insisted to reporters Wednesday he “felt like (going with Peterman) was the right move and I’ll take that to my grave,” McDermott might very well have taken a big step toward avoiding digging a grave for himself. Despite the widely held belief that the Bills were bound to take a backward step after their playoff season of 2017, there is an equally strong perception that they’ll be taking a big step forward next year and beyond.
That is only going to happen if Allen is the quarterback the organization thinks he is. And the only way to find that out is by playing him.
McDermott failed to see that, because he leaned far too heavily on Peterman’s off-field stability as a person, thinking that gave him the necessary ingredients to handle the enormity of the task of taking on the Ravens’ dominant defense. McDermott also lent far too much credence to Peterman’s strong preseason performance and Allen’s struggles in his lone start of the summer against Cincinnati that generated an inordinate amount of overreaction.
What McDermott needed to do was zero in on the respective skills of the two quarterbacks he has. Peterman’s were never good enough to warrant being a starter, something he demonstrated when he was pushed onto the field to face the Chargers last year.
Allen’s talent was special enough to prompt the Bills to make him the seventh overall pick of the draft, and it should have prompted McDermott to do the no-brainer thing in giving the rookie the keys to the offense from the beginning.
He didn’t, largely because his coaching history is rooted in defense. As such, McDermott makes decisions based on how they impact that side of the ball. He wrongly assumed putting Peterman under center would be a complementary component rather than something that only served to create a bigger disaster for the entire team.
McDermott owed this quick quarterback change to the rest of his players – especially on defense – because there was no way they could buy the idea of pressing forward with Peterman’s error-prone ways and inability to make big plays as a thrower and runner.
It also will have the residual benefit of appealing to a New Era Field crowd that undoubtedly would have not been ready to embrace showing up for the first home game of the season to watch Peterman.
Allen is going to make his share of blunders. That happens with rookies, as Sam Darnold showed with the pick-six that launched his career with the New York Jets. Whether Allen winds up having the kind of sterling performance Darnold rebounded to have against the Lions Monday night remains to be seen.
But one thing is clear: There is no turning back for the Bills now as there was with Peterman as the starter.
Allen is the present and the long-term future. The Bills must ride with him through all of the ups and downs with the confidence that they have the right guy.