The Nathan Peterman Experience is over.
The Buffalo Bills released the much-maligned second-year quarterback Monday night. The writing was on the wall for such a move after Peterman was passed over as the starter Sunday in favor of recently signed Matt Barkley. It was the second time in the last month that the Bills elected to start a quarterback they signed less than two weeks before to start over Peterman, following veteran Derek Anderson being plugged into the lineup in Week 7 against Indianapolis.
Barkley's performance against the Jets, as well as the improving health of the team's starter, rookie Josh Allen, likely factored into the decision to release Peterman. Coach Sean McDermott said earlier Monday that Allen will be back in the starting lineup following the team’s bye week, provided he’s medically ready.
“Josh is our starter when healthy, and his development is important for him and for us as we move forward,” McDermott said. “It's important that he gets as many reps as he can get in live game action.”
Allen threw again Monday and continues to make progress in his recovery from a sprained elbow that has kept him out of the last four games. There was at least a question about whether the Bills would play Allen in Week 12 after Barkley carved up the Jets in a 41-10 victory.
“There's something to be said for energy and momentum and what not,” McDermott said. “At the same time, I know what Josh can do, and when healthy, he'll be our starter. But I don't dismiss (what Barkley did Sunday) and I certainly appreciate what Matt gave us yesterday.”
Barkley finished 15 of 25 for 232 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The Bills, though, won’t be taking the hockey approach of “riding the hot goalie.”
“I thought Matt performed extremely well yesterday,” McDermott said. “There's certainly some plays he'd like to have back, but to come in and do what he did on a short run-up basically to it, was very impressive. Like I said after the game, I liked the look in his eye, the energy that he gave our offense.”
Anderson remains in the NFL's concussion protocol, but with the team entering its bye week, it's possible he could be ready for Week 12 along with Allen. If that's the case, it would have given the team an unnecessary surplus at the position. McDermott spoke to the media in the early afternoon and said he would review the team's quarterback situation with General Manager Brandon Beane when asked whether keeping four quarterbacks was a possibility.
"We'll see," the coach said, adding that he was "still confident" in Peterman.
That confidence evaporated about seven hours later and Peterman was released. The Bills do have an opening on their practice squad, so they could theoretically stash Peterman there if he clears waivers.
Either way, Peterman's release brings to an end what was largely a disastrous two-year stretch. A fifth-round draft pick in 2017, his first start came in Week 11 of his rookie year, the infamous, five-interception first half against the Los Angeles Chargers. Peterman was benched after that, but called upon to start again in Week 14 after Tyrod Taylor was hurt. Peterman suffered a concussion in that game, which was played in a blizzard against the Indianapolis Colts.
His final appearance as a rookie came in the wild-card playoff game against Jacksonville, when he replaced Taylor for the Bills' final drive, trailing 10-3. In four plays, Peterman fumbled the ball out of bounds, took an intentional grounding penalty and threw the game-clinching interception.
Despite that adversity, he was part of a three-way quarterback competition this offseason with Allen and veteran AJ McCarron. Peterman played so well in the preseason – 33 of 41 (80.5 completion percentage) for 431 yards, three touchdowns and one interception – that he won the starting job for the season opener.
When the games started to count, though, Peterman reverted back to his rookie form. He was benched in the third quarter of Week 1 for Allen after going 5 of 18 for 24 yards and two interceptions against the Baltimore Ravens for a 0.0 quarterback rating. Having traded McCarron to Oakland, however, the Bills had no choice but to keep Peterman on the roster as Allen's backup. That meant he was only a play away from being called upon again, and that play came in Week 6 at Houston, when Allen suffered a sprained throwing elbow.
Peterman replaced him and gave the Bills the lead with a nice touchdown pass to Zay Jones, but after the Texans tied it, he threw a pick-six that cost Buffalo the game. By that point, Peterman's status as a national punchline had been cemented.
Still, however, the Bills were in a position with Allen hurt that they couldn't move on from Peterman. Anderson was thrown into the lineup to face the Colts the week after the Texans' loss, with the coaching staff deciding a 35-year-old who had been with the team for less than two weeks would be a better option. The concussion Anderson suffered the following week against New England once again forced Peterman into duty.
He completed 31 of 49 passes for only 188 yards against the Chicago Bears in a 41-9 loss, starting and finishing a game for the first time in his career, but was intercepted three times – one of which was returned for a touchdown.
"You want to win every game you’re out there,” Peterman said after the loss. “You want to complete every pass. It’s never easy, but it doesn’t mean you should ever stop trying. That’s always what I’ve been about is fighting to the end, and that’s what I’ll continue to do.”
While a case can be made that two of the three interceptions against the Bears weren't his fault, they added to the national perception of him as a quarterback. In his career, Peterman threw as many pick-sixes (three) as touchdown passes. In 130 regular-season attempts, he had three touchdowns and 12 interceptions, an interception rate of 9.23 percent that is one of the worst of all time.
Throughout his tenure, Peterman never hid from his struggles – an approach that earned him the respect of teammates and the coaching staff.
"I think that stuff happens in life, whether good or bad," he said prior to his start against the Bears. "How you react to it is really what I think makes you who you are, and I think that's what's made me who I am with everything I've gone through in the past. That's who I am standing in front of you today."
That's admirable. Ultimately, however, his performance fell far short of acceptable far too often.
Linebacker Matt Milano is in the NFL’s concussion protocol after getting hurt Sunday against the Jets. Rookie cornerback Taron Johnson continues to deal with a shoulder issue that has nagged him for much of the season, McDermott said.
Milano, Johnson and the rest of the Bills’ banged players – a list that includes Allen, Anderson, tight end Charles Clay (hamstring), defensive end Trent Murphy (knee) and running back Chris Ivory (shoulder) – will get the rest of the week off to recover.
The team did film review Monday before being dismissed for the bye week.
“Where the bye is in particular, it's late in the year, so I thought it was important that they get some rest, recover and hit the reset button a little bit here,” McDermott said.
The coaching staff will stick around to review the season’s first 10 games and make adjustments for the final six.
“It's easy to get hung up on one game,” McDermott said. “The process continues with us, though, as we continue. This week as coaches, we'll be in and build awareness around what we've done well, where we need to improve, and then turn our attention to Jacksonville.”