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2017 performance could lead Buffalo Bills to release Tyrod Taylor this offseason

With a subpar passing game in 2017, we look a little deeper to come up with some strengths and weaknesses

As the Buffalo Bills head into the offseason, they could shed some significant cap space and upgrade at several positions. In our first look at positions where the Bills could release their 2017 starter, we look at quarterback and Tyrod Taylor.

Hey look! Anther opportunity to argue about Tyrod Taylor. Sweet! Stop right there. Here’s some ground rules that apply to this dive. This is not a discussion on talent. Volume metrics already clearly show he’s below average. With 2,799 passing yards, he ranked 25th. Efficiency metrics like yards per attempt tell a similar story (6.7 y/a for 23rd place). There’s any other number of odd data points that have been beaten to death. You’ve seen ‘em all. Tyrod was 13th in QBR, 16th passer rating, 20th in ANY/A and so on.

No, this is a dive into some nuances of the data underneath the above that examines a few strengths and weaknesses of Tyrod Taylor and the Buffalo Bills. What follows is data aggregated by the NFL, sorting play calling tendencies and the resulting output of those decisions. As such, this also becomes a conversation about Rick Dennison, and to a small degree Nathan Peterman and Joe Webb. But mostly Tyrod.

Before we fully dive, Nathan Peterman’s applicable stats should drag most of these numbers down and there’s not much argument that his passes do much to elevate the whole (less than 50% completion with a longest pass of 21 yards). For Joe Webb, there’s one pass we’ll discuss, but overall his sub-30% completion percentage and 35 yards won’t impact this analysis in any positive way either. In short, there’s no argument to be had that Peterman or Webb inflated Taylor’s stats.

So then, the data really becomes a Taylor argument. This is a review of effectiveness. Also, these numbers were quite different in 2016. Those disclaimers aside, let’s look at what Taylor was effective at doing (and also not effective) in the 2017 Buffalo Bills offense.

Deep passes

The chart above shows a good amount of data on passes thrown by the Bills during the 2017 regular season. The bars show the scale of the number of plays to each segment of the field, with the raw number right below. You’ll also see average yards gained per throw and the completion percentage to each part of the field. All data points are compared to league rates and assigned the corresponding rank.

Of particular interest here is that the Bills called a significantly higher number of deep right passes than most teams. When considering our low volume of passing overall (31st in attempts), this becomes tremendously skewed. The translation is that the deep right throw was a staple of the offense. This becomes confusing when looking at the other data points. The completion percentage is nothing short of abysmal here, and the average gain is solidly in the “bad” category. If you want to discuss other QBs, this is exacerbated slightly by Joe Webb’s snowvertime pass to Deonte Thompson. At three times the average gain, Webb elevates the average here and is the only instance where another QB makes things look better. Which means Taylor was actually a little worse than the already terrible metrics show. Taylor was incredibly ineffective here.

Switching to the left side of the field, we’re rarely throwing this way, but likely in line with our low passing volume. Our average gain is approaching elite status. Taylor’s accuracy to this part of the field was remarkable, with only five teams hitting on more of these passes than the Bills. Taylor was one of the most effective passers in the league here.

While sample size becomes quite problematic in drawing too many conclusions for deep middle passes, the results were nothing short of terrible. Since we’re not talking hypothetical or talent evals here, the conclusion is that Taylor was the least effective QB in the game with these.

Short passes

Let’s start on the right again. The Bills threw to the right side on short passes infrequently compared to peers but in line with their overall passing attempts. The data suggests it was wise not to highlight this part of the field. The average gain was terrible and no team was worse on completion percentage. The Bills were not a threat in this area of the field at all and Taylor was the least effective QB here.

Jumping back to the left side we again find a good amount of disparity. The average gain improves some and the completion percentage skyrockets. While the gain per play certainly could be better, the frequency that this turned into a positive play suggests this was an effective part of the Bills offense.

And now we reach the most shocking data set. Over the middle on short throws, Buffalo was at the top of the league. The incredible completion percentage is far and away better than any other part of the field, even when comparing to peers (only the Chargers were better). The argument I’m sure many people are already formulating is that Taylor’s high percentage in this part of the field is due to his selective nature and tendency to check down. The data won’t illuminate anything on talent (like throwing into tight windows, etc). However, it does clearly show that the Bills were shockingly effective at moving the ball with these throws. Only four teams were better in fact. Combining the two data points indicates that Taylor hit these with absurd accuracy and that on average these plays moved the ball quite well. In terms of effectively moving the ball in a particular offense, Tyrod Taylor was elite in short passes over the middle.


To reiterate one more time, this is not a talent evaluation of Taylor, but rather a look at what he was successful executing in the 2017 offense. As a key cog in that machine, Taylor deserves more than a fair share of the accolades (short middle) as well as blame (deep right and middle).

Ultimately, the Bills’ offense fell well short of the mark in 2017 and this data does nothing to disprove that. The information above merely points out the relative effectiveness of six areas on the field in the passing game. As with all other Taylor discussions, the end result is that he’s got some really strong points and some really weak ones. Anyone committing to Taylor will need to scheme around flaws to make the most of his talents.

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