Many Bills fans believe that all of 2018 is more of a laboratory experiment than an NFL season for the team, and its potential franchise quarterback and future Josh Allen.
There are at least 50 separate, crucial if not essential skills and qualities to playing the toughest position in all of team sports -- NFL quarterback. At any given time, less than a dozen out of eight billion in the world play it at an elite level.
In no specific order:
- Win games
- Win championships
- Show true leadership and mental toughness
- Have accuracy and arm strength
- Good ball-handling and play-action skills
- Read a defense at full speed under durress
- Handle a heavy rush
- Stand strong in the pocket under fire
- Step up in or slide in the pocket
- Have poise
- Follow game plans
- Think quickly and act decisively
- Be fearless, tough, and never panic
- Have the ability to run, scramble, and throw on the run both left and right
- Know and work the clock
- Throw left, right and down the middle; short, medium and long; and all with power, touch and accuracy
- Be coachable
- Call audibles
- Command a huddle
- Study film
- Withstand and play with pain
- Stay healthy
- Run the two-minute and four-minute offense
- And then play your very best at crunch time in the biggest games on the biggest stage with the most on the line under severe pressure.
Oh, and don’t be a jerk to your coaches, teammates, fans or anyone off the field. Ever.
All while 11 enormous maniacs are actually trying to rip your head off or bury a helmet into your sternum or spleen.
NFL rookies know how to do few of these 50 things until they get experience. And these 500 Days of Summer are only here to teach, tweak, and develop as many of those 50 in Allen as possible. As crazy as it sounds, if you can only do 35-40 of them, you have no NFL future.
Allen has a USS Carrier-load of God-given gifts and talent. He has a howitzer where his arm should be. He’s huge, tough and country strong; amazing agile, elusive and fast for his size. He comes from solid stock and humble roots. He has a great attitude, personality and style. He desperately wants to win, loves to win, and plays to win, and will sacrifice anything, including his body, to do it. We know all that.
And yet, still, he has 30 things he needs to learn, improve substantially on, or downright master.
How does anyone do it? A guy could have 49 of the essentials but if he didn’t have one of them such as arm strength, attitude, ability to handle severe pressure or read defenses -- just to name a few -- it is a death knell, and you simply cannot play that position in this league.
Last Sunday, Josh Allen took one small step for quarterbacks and one giant leap for the Buffalo Bills in his return to the starting lineup, after missing five weeks because two thugs simultaneously sandwiched him after he threw a bullet, and remarkably, neither was flagged.
Allen looked more poised in the pocket. He threw short, medium and long. He threw left, right and down the middle. He threw with power, touch and accuracy. He ran and scrambled and threw on the run. He handled, slid in, stepped up in, and avoided the rush under duress. He read defenses. He thought quickly and acted decisively. He was fearless and tough. He showed leadership, commanded the team and huddle. And more. Allen showcased maybe two-thirds of the essentials.
All in one game. Oh, and won the game.
And whoever said stats don’t lie, lied about stats.
In fact, everyone knows that 89.61% of stats are made up. Some will say Allen was 8-for-19 and inaccurate, but that would be inaccurate. Most of the game he was extremely so. And he averaged 20 yards a completion, which is off the charts. He averaged 8.4 yards per attempt, which would be seventh in the league.
Not to mention running for 100 yards, the most ever by a Bills quarterback in a game. I’m not counting those last two kneel downs as yards lost and neither should you, let alone the NFL.
Against the Jags, Robert Foster and Isaiah McKenzie added skills, spunk and speed to a tired wide receiver corps. And offensive coordinator Brian Daboll has put them in positions to succeed, with clever packages, formations, and timely play-calls that kept opposing defenses off balance the last two games.
The Thrilla in New Era changed the tenor and maybe the outcome of the game. Kyle and Lorax found the fountain of youth and themselves in Bold City’s backfield all afternoon. Matt Milano, Tre White and Jordan Poyer played like virtually every week this season, which was very good.
The crowd, buoyed by the Sabres and UB, was rocking. Buffalo’s main home teams, between the streaking Sabres, Bills and Bull have won, like, 20 games in a row, at least as of Wednesday night.
The Bills clubbed the Jaguars and, in turn, buried the Hackett. In their previous game, a shellacking of the NJ Jets, the Bills might have gotten Todd Bowles fired. This week, they got Nate Hackett scapegoated, er, fired. Can you make a case for Adam Gase when the Bills travel to Miami to gut the Dolphins?
But regardless of the Fish Fry in the sun in Miami, everything this year for the Bills is the 500 Days of Summer. They began on April 26, 2018 -- the day the Bills drafted Josh Allen -- and go all the way to opening week next year, early September 2019. We will start to learn one way or another if this is our time in the sun, and this guy is our guy. And just how many of 50 Essentials of NFL Quarterbacking does Allen possess.
Hopefully it’s not a short, wistful summer romance. But rather, the beginning of a long, hot, passionate love affair, between our adopted son, Josh, and this sports-obsessed city and franchise.
Pete Rosen is a screenwriter in Los Angeles, lifetime Buffalo fan, and may be found blathering daily at twobillsdrive.com.