Boy, what an amazing 48 hours following Sunday’s overtime loss to the Miami Dolphins. Rex Ryan, gone. Rob Ryan, gone. Bills playoff hopes, gone. Tyrod Taylor, to the bench and in goes former first-round pick EJ Manuel.
It’s difficult to fully comprehend and wrap your head around everything that has happened in what seems like an incredibly short period of time.
Most importantly, it’s difficult to fully understand why Taylor, who’s coming off the best performance of his career, is being benched for EJ Manuel, whom I think we all agree is a step down talent-wise from Taylor. The media can speculate and they’ll know just as much as you and your friends going back and forth over a cold beer.
The fact of the matter is the Bills are doing the right thing. By benching Taylor, the organization is rightly protecting their ability to make the decision on Taylor’s future with no clauses or circumstances. He’s healthy and has given them 29 games to chew on before the league year deadline arrives.
This isn’t a “final tryout” for EJ Manuel. This isn’t the Bills hinting their impending decision is already made. For once, they’re truly making the right choice. Although I believe the choice to pick up Taylor’s option will, in fact be difficult, Taylor displayed the sort of attributes pundits and Bills fans have been waiting for for two seasons.
Having said that, it could definitely be a mirage.
Let’s look at a few plays from Sunday that I walked away thoroughly impressed with:
I’ve been extremely critical of Tyrod Taylor all season long. It’s not because I don’t like him or because I’m attempting to be Buffalo’s version of Skip Bayless, it’s because these are the sort of plays Taylor has shown he’s capable of making. My colleague Chris Trapasso has been a firm believer that Taylor’s struggles can be largely attributed to key injuries to players like Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods. I’ve been skeptical of that, and I do think we’ve seen this story play out before as recent as last season.
In the Bills final game against the New York Jets (when the team’s playoff hopes had already been shattered) Sammy Watkins had 11 catches (on 15 targets) for 136 yards. I remember the narrative being something like, “they’ve finally figured it out, next season man...”
Well two games in and Watkins hits the IR and Taylor’s inconsistencies resurface. This play, perfectly displays what CAN be when both Watkins and Taylor are on the field and clicking. Watkins ability to get behind even the deepest defenders and Taylor’s ability to get the ball to him in stride make for one a juicy combination. Combine that with the league’s best run game and you really wonder why Taylor’s contract is even in question, yet here we are.
His deep ball ability is maybe the best I’ve ever seen. Truly, and this isn’t lip service, the Taylor/Watkins deep ball effectiveness rivals the connection between Tom Brady and Randy Moss.
I love, LOVE this play call/design. It’s terrific. They’re exploiting a part of their game plan that has consistently worked against any defense; their speed option look. It’s the sort of play development I couldn’t wait to see Greg Roman implement. We’re extremely effective running this play, well, let’s throw ‘this’ wrinkle in there and turn this thing on its head.
Want to know how well this play worked? Watch every Dolphins linebacker take 3-5 steps toward the option play and leave the middle of the field wide open. I would have loved to see Taylor throw a fake pitch in there to sell it even more but I’m not going to split hairs on this play.
Not only was the play call grade-A, the execution may have even been better. Have a quarterback who struggles to throw over the middle of the field? Find exotic ways to put him in positions to be successful. Anthony Lynn does just that and Taylor throws a strike to Watkins who doesn’t have to jump, or reach back for an inaccurately thrown ball. Instead, he makes a routine catch on a ball that carries him out-of-bounds where there are no defenders ready to pounce on him.
This play makes me want to see more from both Lynn and Taylor. It makes me think that when Lynn gets the reigns to this offense, plays like this will be a regular.
I must be crazy gushing over an incomplete pass, right? Well, call me a sucker for beautifully thrown deep balls but man, was this a thing of beauty. Again, it’s the type of throw we all know Taylor is capable of making but hasn’t made consistently this season.
I’ve been saying all season long that Taylor operates from under center far more effectively than out of shotgun. His mechanics, on this play, display just that. What I believe happens a lot of the time is Taylor is forced to hold onto the ball out of the shotgun because many of his down field routes take a long time to develop.
When he’s under center and can take a 7-step drop like he does on this play, he seems to be in a better rhythm. He holds the ball just as long as he would out of shotgun but he doesn’t have wasted movements. Every move, every step, every hop in the pocket has meaning. When he releases the ball he’s balanced and on his toes.
Another colleague of mine Erik Turner from cover1.net has been logging all of Taylor’s drop and a trend has been set. There has been a constant effort to increase the depth of Taylor’s drops to move him further away from the line of scrimmage. Not every quarterback has the arm strength to increase the depth of the pocket and still get the ball out on time with zip and accuracy. I believe one of the reasons Taylor’s timing has been off is to better get used to this new wrinkle in his game plan.
It also gives a smaller quarterback like Taylor a better ability to see over his offensive lineman. I think I want to see more, guys.
I’ve done a poor job at keeping a level head and not making snap judgments on Taylor this season. Have I been wrong about Taylor? No. But I also haven’t been right. All I can do is look at the film and base my opinions appropriately on what I see.
What I’ve seen is a ton of inconsistencies. What has led to those inconsistencies will likely be up for debate until a decision on Taylor’s future is officially made. Do I believe Taylor can be the quarterback to get the Bills over their 17-year playoff drought? Yes. Do I believe he’ll get a third opportunity to show it? That, I just don’t know.
What I do know is Taylor is certainly better than guys like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Mike Glennon or an aging Tony Romo. Whether that belief is shared throughout an organization stuck in turmoil, I’m not sure.
Unfortunately, sitting and waiting is all we can do. Let’s just hope Doug Whaley rights this ship and puts someone in the position to make an educated choice on Taylor’s future. What’s most important is that the Bills have afforded the next coach that opportunity by sitting Taylor this week.
And for that, we thank you.
I hope my film breakdowns this season have been beneficial for YOU, the fan. I hope I’ve been a resource for those digging for more knowledge, for more substance. A college professor of mine would regularly say, “knowledge is power” and it’s something I truly believe in. Let’s hope the Bills share that sentiment.