If Sean McDermott has any chance of solving a potential mounting quarterback crisis, he'd better listen to his head rather than his heart.
McDermott has spoken repeatedly about a strong locker room "culture" serving as the foundation to building a successful team. That might very well be true. But where the Bills' coach could get himself into trouble is allowing the firm belief that Nathan Peterman, the man, is the ideal embodiment of what he wants in a player to cloud his judgment in assessing Peterman the quarterback.
McDermott described Josh Allen as "week to week" with what an NFL source, confirming reports by The Associated Press and NFL Network, described as a sprained elbow he suffered against the Texans. Multiple reports have Allen missing some time; NFL Network said it might take "a couple of weeks" of rest, but no surgery is expected, as has been speculated elsewhere.
The bigger issue could be where the Bills go from here. Even if Allen's rookie rawness doesn't inspire a whole lot of short-term confidence, he's still far better than anything else the team has at the position. That's why the direction McDermott goes with a replacement, assuming one is needed, is drawing the greatest scrutiny he has received since he arrived in Buffalo last year.
Although the Bills have yet to officially rule Allen out of Sunday's game at Indianapolis, the fact that McDermott included Peterman as a possible starter when speaking with reporters Monday seems nearly impossible to fathom for pretty much anyone with a working set of eyes.
Not after what Peterman did in in those disastrous final moments of the Bills' 20-13 loss to Houston. Not after what has happened in practically every instance he has been on the field for a regular-season or playoff game since joining the team as a rookie last year.
The only question most media members had for McDermott on Monday was how he could justify keeping Peterman on the roster after his latest catastrophic blunders: a pick-six that gave the Texans their winning points and a second interception shortly thereafter to seal the Bills' fourth loss of the season.
The best response the coach could come up with was pointing to the good things Peterman had done earlier, including that lovely touchdown throw to Zay Jones to give the Bills a 13-10 lead on a day their defense was mostly smothering one of the more productive offenses in the NFL. He defiantly said that any player in whom he has enough confidence to put on the roster warrants every bit as much confidence to be a starter — Peterman included.
Sorry, but no one who is looking at the team objectively is buying that. Peterman's body of work is too broken for the few impressive plays he has made to overshadow his series of horrific ones.
It's fair to assume McDermott doesn't care about that. He all but certainly is dismissing it as "noise" that he and his team are better off ignoring.
But McDermott and the rest of the Bills' brain trust should be at a point of having seen enough of Peterman. They should have been at that point early in the third quarter of the season opener at Baltimore. That was when Peterman was mercifully yanked for Allen, a move McDermott later confirmed was permanent.
How Peterman continues to be an option to start is baffling, if not maddening. Yet, it brings us back to what largely factored into the decision that quickly went sideways against the Ravens: McDermott's unwavering loyalty to Peterman. He loves the guy's deep religious faith. He adores his high moral character. So far, McDermott has managed to block out the overwhelming opinion that Peterman is not good enough to play quarterback in the NFL.
This, however, figures to be something McDermott can't — or, at least, shouldn't — ignore. ESPN's Dianna Russini, after tweeting that Allen "will not start this Sunday," had a follow-up tweet that said: "There is a feeling in the organization that veteran QB Derek Anderson has to start or Sean McDermott is in danger of losing the locker room after Nathan Peterman’s latest performance."
If this came from a credible source within the Bills, it is worth all the attention McDermott can give it. For one, it would reflect there is at least some level of doubt about whether he will do the right thing, which is to keep Peterman away from the field. For another, it would indicate that fans and media aren't the only ones that don't see the logic in giving Peterman another chance.
If a fair amount of players share that perspective, it could very well do plenty to damage, if not destroy, the trust McDermott has worked so hard to build while implementing a program that requires everyone to fully embrace a united, team-first approach.
Look, it's hard to make an overly compelling case that Anderson should start. He's 35 and has spent most of his 13 previous NFL seasons as a backup. Until the Bills signed him last Tuesday, he was pretty well resigned to no longer playing.
Before last Wednesday, Anderson hadn't been involved in a football practice since January, when he was finishing his seventh and final season as Cam Newton's mentor in Carolina. The Bills signed him to mentor Allen. They weren't thinking all that much about him actually playing, at least not for an extended period.
But McDermott might very well have no choice — presuming he makes that choice with his head and not his heart.