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If the Josh Allen train derails, when might he be benched by Buffalo Bills?

A dive into the recent history of benched Buffalo Bills’ quarterbacks to look at how long Josh Allen might have if he bombs

Woah! Hey now, put the stones away. I know it’s not fun to talk about, but there’s a chance Josh Allen isn’t the long term answer at quarterback we’re hoping he is. We’ve talked ourselves into Billieving before and it hasn’t exactly worked out in recent memory. If for whatever reason Josh Allen doesn’t pan out, how long might he have before the plug is pulled? Time for a stroll down memory lane...


J.P. Losman

Drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the 2004 NFL Draft at number 22 of the first round, a friendly-fire injury in training camp robbed Losman of most of his rookie season. Appearing in four games (starting zero), Losman’s rookie season was mostly about being Drew Bledsoe’s backup. Named the starter in 2005, Losman lasted four games before being benched for Kelly Holcomb.

Losman was given chances to fight for the job and earned it back in 2006, beating out Holcomb for the entire year. In 2007 the team took the next guy on our list, Trent Edwards. Injury opened the door for Edwards and while Losman found himself under center again, the job had been lost.

Benched: Second season after four games

Trent Edwards

A third round pick of the Bills in the 2007 NFL Draft, Edwards took the field in the third game of his rookie season after Losman was injured. An injury to Edwards returned Losman to the lineup for Week 9 against the Cincinnati Bengals but Edwards returned in Week 13 to take on Washington.

Edwards was named the starter for 2008, missing two games due to injury. A hot start of 4-0 was followed up by a very disappointing 34 of a season. Edwards returned as the starter in 2009. He played out most of the year with that title but was benched after a Week 10 game against the Titans.

Benched: Third season after seven games

EJ Manuel

Taken in the first round of the now-legendary quarterback draft class of 2013 (pick 16), EJ Manuel found himself the starter his rookie year. Originally planning to roll with veteran Kevin Kolb the Bills were forced to put Manuel out earlier than expected when Kolb sustained a career-ending concussion in preseason. Manuel started ten games that year, losing six to injuries of his own.

In his second year, Manuel was once again the starter with a new veteran presence in the locker room in Kyle Orton. In Week 4 against the Houston Texans, a poor showing convinced head coach Doug Marrone to pull the plug on the Manuel era. The following year brought a coaching change, and a hand-picked quarterback in Tyrod Taylor.

Benched: Second season after four games

Josh Allen

Every situation is different, and Sean McDermott shouldn’t be expected to behave like Dick Jauron or Doug Marrone (at least we hope not). That doesn’t mean Allen can’t be benched. A slow start out of the gate in 2019 could make McDermott desperate. If Allen struggles, how long might they let him continue to take the field?

Josh Allen became the starter in Week 2 after Nathan Peterman flamed out Week 1. Allen started in eleven games, giving him the most first-year playing time out of anyone on this list. If Allen falters, recent Bills history leans toward a short leash in year two. Both J.P. Losman and EJ Manuel were pulled after four games in their sophomore season. While Trent Edwards was given a longer audition, it may have been extended courtesy of the battle he had with Losman. Historically the suggestion is that Allen will get at least a handful of games in 2019 to demonstrate improvement.

If we look by total games played, we see high variability. J.P. Losman was pulled after starting just four games—all in his second season. Allen has already surpassed this total and will start the season in 2019, easily surpassing the Losman line. EJ Manuel was given 14 games to show what he was made of. If Allen is still the starter for Week 4, he’ll have made it further than Manuel. Edwards had the most leeway, with 30 games under his belt before being pulled. Allen will need to make it to year three or reach the AFC Championship this year to match the Edwards line. Reaching the Super Bowl from a Wild Card spot would be the only avenue to beat out Edwards.

Will Allen be benched if he struggles? It’s possible, even if unlikely. Recent Bills history suggests coaches have little trouble moving on from struggling quarterbacks. It’s also noteworthy that all three prior quarterbacks dealt with injuries. Where logically it might seem quarterbacks would be given extra time to develop to make up for what was lost, it hasn’t played out that way in Buffalo. If Allen fails to impress it could wind up being Matt Barkley time.