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How Josh Allen uses handshakes to build rapport with teammates

It’s yielding results on the field, too.

Matt Warren is Associate Director of NFL coverage for SB Nation and previously covered the Bills for Buffalo Rumblings for more than a decade.

When the Buffalo Bills drafted Josh Allen in 2018, he was joining an established team with a host of veterans. He was handed the keys in just his second NFL game and has been a leader on the Bills since. But Allen wasn’t the most vocal player on that 2018 squad. He had to coexist with longtime NFL running back LeSean McCoy.

McCoy was known for voicing his opinions and had a bit of a reputation by the time the pair met. So what’s a young rookie QB in charge of the offense to do?

Slap hands.

Allen set to work earning McCoy’s trust by working out an elaborate handshake routine. By September, they had it built up before the first game of Allen’s rookie season when he was still No. 2 on the QB depth chart.

Despite the caption here, it was a little clunky. Right before the arm swing, it was a bit stunted in the middle. They had some opportunities to work on it throughout the season as McCoy scored three touchdowns and Allen ran in three more.

Even when he was injured, Allen was on the sideline celebrating with McCoy. (For a guy with a hurting right elbow, he gets after it.) You’ll notice the addition of the watch pause to the routine.

With Allen back on the field later in the season, his consistency in the handshake celebration has also improved. (McCoy, however, seems to need a bit more work.)

The following spring during OTAs, the pair were caught on camera developing a new handshake. Sadly, this one never made it to the field as McCoy was released that August prior to the 2019 season.

But just because McCoy was gone did not mean the handshakes stopped. Allen continued developing the camaraderie with his teammates using this method. He didn’t get lazy and teach new players the existing handshake. He worked with each teammate to create new looks:

Center Mitch Morse, running backs Devin Singletary, Zack Moss, and Taiwan Jones, and backup offensive lineman Ryan Bates all have something different planned with Allen during pre-game warmups. Allen saves the really elaborate celebrations for his receivers, though. He and John Brown get after it following touchdowns.

Like McCoy, Stefon Diggs had a reputation for being difficult during his time with the Minnesota Vikings. Skol fans blew up Twitter when Diggs was traded to Buffalo, telling anyone in the #BillsMafia that the diva wouldn’t be able to get along with the Bills’ QB. Allen set to work with Diggs playing Madden, hanging out virtually and later in person, and developing this sweet handshake.

After three years, the handshakes are finally starting to gain national attention. After Allen ran in a touchdown this November, he celebrated with tight end Dawson Knox. The Checkdown and ESPN really liked the Hot Rod reference.

During the 2019 season, Allen sat down with Hall of Fame QB Jim Kelly to discuss celebrations. At that point, the young QB only had handshakes with a few players. He listed “Smoke” aka WR John Brown, WR Zay Jones (whose handshake you see in the video), center Mitch Morse, guard Jon Feliciano, and running back Frank Gore. Kelly asked “How do you remember all that?”

“Just practice. I don’t have any plays [in my brain], actually. Just handshakes,” responded Allen.

“We didn’t do a lot of practicing that back in the day,” said Kelly.