The Buffalo Bills released second-year passer Nathan Peterman on Monday night heading into their bye week, ending the saga of one of the biggest punchlines from the past several years. The former fifth round pick will head to the waiver wire, and if he clears waivers the team could conceivably opt to roster him on the practice squad.
Peterman, billed as a pro-ready passer with a lack of arm strength, impressed Bills coaches early in his career. He had a solid preseason debut, and with Tyrod Taylor scuffling, Sean McDermott gave Peterman a shot at the end of a blowout loss to the New Orleans Saints. Following that, McDermott tried calling Peterman’s number the following week and had him start against the Los Angeles Chargers, only for the decision to infamously backfire. Peterman’s first start finished with 5 interceptions, a fumble, and 66 yards on 14 passes, and the rookie was benched. An injury to Taylor returned Peterman to the field two weeks later, and he had a brief moment of success in blizzard conditions as the Bills took down the Colts.
Peterman also made an appearance at the end of Buffalo’s playoff game when Taylor went down with a concussion, throwing an interception to shut the door on any chance of a comeback.
Heading into the 2018 offseason, the Bills envisioned a three-way battle between Peterman, veteran free agent AJ McCarron, and rookie Josh Allen. Peterman’s preseason performance was outstanding by any measure. (33-of-41 passing (80.5%), 431 yards (10.5 YPA), 3 touchdowns, 1 interception that bounced off his receiver’s hands.) He looked like he’d overcome his rookie year limitations, and the Bills felt comfortable naming him the starter and trading away McCarron, who’d lost time to injury.
Instead, Peterman went right back to his roots - completing 5-of-18 passes for a pathetic 1.3 yards per attempt, throwing two picks, and being benched by halftime for the rookie Allen in a blowout loss to the Ravens. He rode the pine for five weeks, re-entering the picture after Allen suffered an elbow injury against the Texans. Peterman threw a touchdown to give his team the lead, but cancelled it with a back-breaking pick-six (and another interception killed any comeback hopes).
The Bills, at this point, were looking to move on from Peterman. They promoted newly-signed Derek Anderson to the starting role, despite his unfamiliarity with the playbook. Anderson lasted two games before suffering a concussion. Peterman had one more start, a disaster in Chicago with three more interceptions. The next week, Buffalo started Matt Barkley, another short-term signing, and Peterman’s roster time was clearly at its end.
Peterman, in his time with the Bills was like a darker, or perhaps more woeful version of Ryan Fitzpatrick. Think Charlie Brown’s attempts to field a baseball team. Like Fitzpatrick, Peterman managed to nudge his way into a starting job even when his own team didn’t intend it. While Fitzpatrick demonstrated unsustainable runs of success followed by merciless misfortune, Peterman just skipped right to the final chapter in each appearance. Even when he wasn’t the one baited into bad throws, his teammates seemed to play worse when he was on the field - like the Bears game, where each interception was the result of his receiver misplaying the ball.
With three touchdown passes to 12 interceptions, 4.2 yards per attempt, and a 52.3 completion percentage, Nate Peterman had the worst results of any NFL quarterback since Ryan Lindley came along. He was a punchline every time he played for the Bills. Now, for both his sake and theirs, that era has mercifully ended.