There were some comments in the thread of the post-humiliation write-up regarding quarterback Tyrod Taylor and the offensive coordinator, Rick Dennison. The thought seemed to be that Taylor was being hamstrung by Dennison’s scheme. It’s true that Dennison’s preferred offense is built on a zone blocking rush attack augmented by a quick passing game. Former head coach Chan Gailey called it stretching the field horizontally. The comments noted that Taylor represents a square peg while Dennison’s scheme is a round hole. This is true, as far as it goes.
It is also true that Taylor is who Taylor has been. In his two seasons under mercifully departed Rex Ryan, Taylor was the epitome of conservatism. He threw a lot of low-risk/low-reward short passes to guys who were very clearly open. He threw a smaller number of low-risk/high-reward long passes to receivers on go routes, typically when they were in single coverage and near the sideline. Under Dennison, we have seen Taylor throw fewer low-risk/high-reward passes, but that is due largely to the fact that general manager Brandon Beane shipped off Taylor’s downfield security blanket, Sammy Watkins, to the Los Angeles Rams. The point is that there wasn’t much difference in 2015 Taylor, 2016 Taylor, and 2017 Taylor through the New Orleans Saints game.
Taylor’s measly number of yards against the Saints led head coach Sean McDermott to bench him. On no fewer than four third-and-long situations, Taylor threw a low-risk/low-reward underneath pass that guaranteed a punt. While McDermott shouldn’t have said Taylor was the starter in the moments following the game, McDermott probably wasn’t lying; he just hadn’t seen the game film yet and processed how badly Taylor’s conservative play was hurting the offense.
McDermott seems like the type of guy who would explain his decision to Taylor with a video presentation of that game film, possibly in the form of a PowerPoint presentation, so Taylor – by all accounts a bright guy in addition to being a snazzy dresser – would have understood exactly why McDermott made the decision. Taylor, being a class act if not a franchise quarterback, responded by saying all the right things and seemingly trying to rally the team to Peterman’s side after each interception the rookie threw on Sunday.
The first interception clearly was not Peterman’s fault at all, as he hit fullback Patrick DiMarco right in the hands. While announcer Moose Johnson tried to shift the blame for interceptions two and three to the offensive line – never mind that Peterman should know better than to throw into the middle of the field off his back foot while falling backwards – Taylor watched McDermott send Peterman back onto the field when the game wasn’t yet ridiculously out of hand. Taylor watched McDermott send him back out after the fourth interception, and might have had to see him do it again after the fifth if the half hadn’t come to an end.
Put yourself in Taylor’s shoes. Your boss took you off the project and replaced you with some newly-hired, straight-out-of-college kid. The kid screwed up. Again. And again. And again. You could choose to view your boss is a stubborn, stubborn man more interested in his pride than the results. Or, you could choose to see that your boss was so deeply unhappy with your performance that he was willing to ride out a certain number of screw ups before handing the project back to you.
Taylor doesn’t seem the sort to shift blame, which makes him more likely to adopt the second approach than the first. That McDermott waited so long to pull Peterman has hopefully awakened a sense of urgency in Taylor. He certainly responded as though he understood the message when he entered the game in the second half. Taylor’s stat line wasn’t particularly impressive: 15-of-25 for 158 yards, 1 touchdown, and a 91.8 rating. When you think about it, though, that is more production than Taylor had for the entire game in Carolina, and close to his production in entire games in Atlanta, in Cincinnati, and against Oakland. More to the point, Taylor was throwing the ball 10 yards or more down the field on many of those 25 passes.
Will we see a new Taylor? Maybe. He did still have a pair of consecutive check-downs for minimal yardage, so old Taylor clearly hasn’t left the building. The shock of being benched and the liberty of playing in a game that was well and truly over long before Taylor saw the field may both wear off quickly. If new Taylor throws some moderate risk passes and sees them picked off, then old Taylor will almost certainly return to the fore-front. On the other hand, if new Taylor has success next week in Kansas City, then new Taylor might stick around for a while.