If an analyst breaks down the second-year statistics of every Buffalo Bills quarterback ever drafted, the results will not be overwhelming. Since the team’s inception by their late great patriarch, Ralph Wilson Jr., in 1960, the Bills have drafted a total of 33 quarterbacks—including their time in the AFL—and 11 of those quarterbacks started at least one game in their second year.
It’s hard for Bills fans to forget the disastrous second season of Nathan Peterman. Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane saw promise in the quarterback from Pitt and hoped that Peterman’s talent and growth could keep Josh Allen on the bench for at least part of a season, but not-quite-three quarters and a 0.0 quarterback rating later, Peterman was benched and Allen was tossed into the fire. Thanks to injuries, Peterman appeared in three more games and was forced to start another. He was intercepted seven more times before the team released him.
Is the story of Peterman indicative of how badly the Bills understand quarterback talent and development? Bills Mafia will find out in the 2019 season with their young gun, Josh Allen, the Paul Bunyan-esque figure from Wyoming.
The quandary of Jim Kelly’s second year
Jim Kelly is typically not considered a rookie when he played for the Bills in 1986 because of the two years he played for the Houston Gamblers in the USFL. If the league had considered him a rookie, he would have been in consideration for the Rookie of the Year in 1986.
But in his second season starting for the Bills in 1987, Kelly started twelve games with six wins and six losses, amassing 2,798 yards passing. His completion percentage was 59.7%, and he finished the year with 19 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Despite starting only 12 games, Kelly was selected to the Pro Bowl in his second year in the NFL.
Four Buffalo Bills quarterbacks had a winning record in their sophomore season
Of the 11 quarterbacks drafted by the Bills who started at least one game in their second season, only four had a winning record, and only one played a complete season. Joe Ferguson went 9-5 in 1974 and led the team to the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons with the help of star running back O.J. Simpson. This also represented the first playoff game for the Bills since the AFL/NFL merger.
The three other signal callers with winning seasons are not so impressive. Todd Collins, drafted from the University of Michigan in 1995, went 2-1 in relief of an aging Kelly in 1996. Brian McClure, though throwing for zero touchdowns and three interceptions, won the one game he started as a replacement player during the NFLPA strike in 1987. Finally, though he played in all 14 games of his second season, the “Mad Bomber” Daryle Lamonica is considered to have only started one game at quarterback in 1964, which he won.
The Stats for the Rest
Starting with the most recent, here are the second-year stats of every drafted Buffalo Bills quarterback who started at least one game that season:
- Nathan Peterman: 2 starts (4 G), 0-2 record, 54.3 Comp%, 296 Passing Yards, 1 TD, 7 INTs
- EJ Manuel: 4 starts (5 G), 2-2 record, 58.0 Comp%, 838 Passing Yards, 5TDs, 3 INTs
- Trent Edwards: 14 starts (14 G), 7-7 record, 65.5 Comp%, 2,699 Passing Yards, 11 TDs, 10 INTs
- J.P. Losman: 8 starts (9 G), 1-7 record, 49.6 Comp%, 1,340 Passing Yards, 8 TDs, 8 INTs
- Todd Collins: 3 starts (7 G), 2-1 record, 55.6 Comp%, 739 Passing Yards, 4 TDs, 5 INTs
- Brian McClure: 1 start (1 G), 1-0 record, 52.6 Comp%, 181 Passing Yards, 0 TDs, 3 INTs
- Jim Kelly: 12 starts (12 G), 6-6 record, 59.7 Comp%, 2,798 Passing Yards, 19 TDs, 11 INTs
- Joe Ferguson: 14 starts (14 G), 9-5 record, 51.3 Comp%, 1,588 Passing Yards, 12 TDs, 12 INTs
- Dennis Shaw: 12 starts (13 G), 1-11 record, 51.2 Comp%, 1,813 Passing Yards, 11 TDs, 26 INTs
- Dan Darragh: 2 starts (3 G), 0-2 record, 46.2 Comp%, 365 Passing Yards, 1 TD, 6 INTs
- Daryle Lamonica: 1 start (14 G), 1-0 record, 43 Comp%, 1,137 Passing Yards, 6 TDs, 8 INTs
This list is hardly a murderer’s row at the position, with only one quarterback—Trent Edwards—eclipsing 60% completion percentage. Dennis Shaw had a disastrous second season with the Bills, leading them to a 1-11 record with 11 touchdowns and 26 interceptions. The 1971 Bills finished with the worst record in the NFL that year.
Only Jim Kelly, Joe Ferguson, and Daryle Lamonica had long starting careers in the NFL, though Lamonica only reached his potential when he joined the Oakland Raiders in 1967. The Bills do not have a long history of draft success at the quarterback position, and the statistics show the lack of development and talent through the years.
Josh Allen’s second year
Looking forward, it’s important that Josh Allen shows notable growth in his second season. Allen’s rookie year was not an abject failure. He made rookie mistakes early on but showed good improvement with his decision making and use of his athleticism as the year progressed. There will be bumps and bruises for the young signal caller in 2019, but it’s imperative that Brandon Beane, Sean McDermott, and Brian Daboll be more patient with Allen through the rough patches than some past Bills regimes were with young quarterbacks.