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Josh Allen just needs to be himself for the Buffalo Bills

Josh Allen’s arrival helped restore Buffalo Bills’ winning traditions

Buffalo Bills v New York Jets Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Why are people trying to run Josh Allen out of town? It’s pretty safe to say that being a Buffalo Bills fan would be far more miserable right now without him.

It took 17 years to break a playoff curse. Twenty-one years passed by, featuring 17 different* starting quarterbacks (*Matt Cassel cameo, included) between Jim Kelly’s last snap as a starter and Josh Allen’s first snap as a starter. And not one of those 17 quarterbacks proved to be the answer, despite the initially much greener grass that was observed.

If you’re of the superstitious fan variety, you might find yourself saying that “17 came in and broke that @#$%ing curse.” The third time was Bills Mafia’s charm — those numbers hit.

Once QB17 took over, things with the Bills began to swing, and swiftly, toward the good. Allen now holds team single-season records for the most passing yards and touchdowns. He’s just entered his sixth season at One Bills Drive.

Yet Allen’s the “problem” that needs to be “fixed.” Right? Makes sense. A quarterback who’s twice been a finalist for Associated Press MVP as well as Offensive Player of the Year finalist, and a Pro Bowl selection multiple times. Allen’s been selected as a second-team All-Pro, and holds the NFL record for highest passer rating in the postseason with a 149.0 rating in 2021.

In five seasons plus one game, Allen’s stats are thus:

  • As a passer: 1,633-of-2,607 (62.6%) for 18,633 yards, with 139 TDs and 63 INTs
  • As a runner: 552 attempts for 3,123 yards, with 38 TDs and 54* fumbles
    *The Bills’ official site assigns 30 rushing fumbles, meaning 24 would come as a passer

(Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference and the official site of the Buffalo Bills.)

In just six NFL seasons, Josh Allen is already third on the team’s all-time passer list. He’s 11th on the franchise’s list of all-time rushing leaders — with a real shot to take over seventh place if his 2023 season finishes similar to every other year to this point.

Almost all the Buffalo Bills do now is win, and that lines up well with when Allen took over as a starter in 2018. When they don’t exit victorious, it’s seldom that anyone can say the reason the Bills lost was because of Josh Allen.

While an intelligent argument exists that wins aren’t a QB stat, they sometimes actually are. You see, Pro Football Reference provides users with a handy QBR stat, and Allen’s is 52-25 in the regular season. Push aside his rookie season, and Allen has won 49 games (playoffs included) since 2019. It’s said there’s a stat to fit every narrative — let’s test that theory.

Among those 25 regular-season losses, how many can we honestly attribute to Josh Allen? While this list is subjective in nature, it’s striking that one has to think diligently to build a meaningful list. I’ll give it a try...

One from 2018

One from 2019

One from 2020

One from 2021

Three from 2022

Again, it’s a very subjective list. Someone else might add different games, or subtract from my list. I tried to simply look for turnovers that led to points for the opposition, instead of a score that swung in the favor of the Bills. It’s not a perfect method, certainly. The 2018 Jets loss was close. So was the Jaguars loss in 2021. That Jags game was terrible all around, at 9-6. The loss to the Patriots in 2019 is one of Allen’s more infamous games. After turning the ball over four times, Allen was eventually knocked out of the game. Many refer to that as a watershed moment that caused his career arc to ascend moving forward. Then there’s the blowout loss to the Titans in 2020 — where Allen turned the ball over a ton, yet it felt like the team lost for numerous other reasons.

But 2022 has a different ring. That Jets game, however Allen had the perfect throw to change the outcome at game’s end. Then against Minnesota, fumbling that snap in the end zone, then recovering and surviving to overtime — only to lose the game in overtime largely due to an interception. Finally at home against the Bengals in the playoffs. Another game where Allen didn’t do what was needed, yet it felt like the team lost for so many other reasons.

I believe, if anything, recency bias is at play here. How could it not be? Going back to his fumble in the regular-season home loss to the Vikings last season, there’s an argument to be made for Allen recently having cost the Bills a victory three times — and the two additional losses came on very big stages, the biggest moments when we’re used to seeing Allen shine. But wins and losses aren’t supposed to be a QB stat, right?

Well, then how can we say Josh Allen’s losing the team games? Perhaps pushing this idea that Josh Allen’s the “problem” is the newest stat making the rounds. That is, information that he leads the league in turnovers since last year, with 20 interceptions and 19 fumbles. Those aren’t great numbers, especially paired together. (And even more so the case when you consider Super Bowl XXV.) But are they detriments to the team’s success?

In 2022, the team lost three games. By a total of eight points. They won 16 games. They hosted two playoff games. Allen didn’t blow up their season, even in the games where I saddle the “fault” to him (Jets, Vikings, Bengals playoff).

So, why suddenly are so many within Bills Mafia ready to either bench and/or move on from Josh Allen? The man bleeds for the fan base — holds himself to a standard few people can ever hope to attain, let alone as a professional football player, and genuinely likes Western New York.

Yet, here we are. Many looking for a quarterback who doesn’t run so often, risk so much, and sacrifice himself far too frequently all in the name of winning. It’s okay to be concerned about what’s next for Allen — continued improvement through development, leveling off, or regression. No matter the outcome of Allen’s future, is it worth jumping off his bandwagon, considering what could befall the Bills without him?

Is it fair to say we haven’t seen improvement from Allen, to such a degree that it’s hindering his growth and holding the team back? And if we say that’s the case, is he no better a quarterback now than he was as an NFL rookie? And is this all due to the loss of offensive coordinator and what some seem to imply is a fractured relationship with second-year offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey?

We’ve all heard someone say the following, perhaps you’ve even done so yourself:
“Allen needs Brian Daboll to return, Dorsey’s the problem with Allen and the team.”

Well, actually...

Allen under Daboll in 2021:

  • 409-of-646 (63.3%) for 4,407 yards (259.2 ypg). 6.8 yards per attempt
  • 36TDs (5.6 TD%), 16 INTs (2.3 INT%)
  • QB rating 92.2, QBR 60.7

Allen under Dorsey in 2022

  • 359-of-567 (63.3%), for 4,283 yards (267.2 ypg). 7.6 yards per attempt
  • 35 TDs (6.2 TD%), 15 INTs (2.5 INT%)
  • QB rating 96.6, QBR 73.4

First: My thanks to longtime Buffalo Rumbler TCMiller30 for sharing this information on Daboll and Dorsey in another post.

But that debate above? It needs to end. There is no way Allen has an issue with Dorsey if he personally requested him when Daboll left.

Allen led two drives in the preseason. He admitted needing to knock rust off in Week 1, with it being his first real live game in months. The team’s loss and Allen’s performance against the Jets on Monday Night Football — as atrocious as it seemed — may be better defined as something the coaches need to better address during preseason preparations.

What do you want Allen to say right after a game, especially in a loss that way? Was it not Allen who led the team on a game-tying field goal to end regulation? Following a stalled drive in overtime, they had to punt. Was it not the punt-coverage team that gave up the walk-off touchdown?

Again, I’ll ask: What do people expect Allen or any of these guys to say immediately after a game, especially when they play that way? I’ve gotta be better and such is pretty damn honest and fine by me. What is he supposed to say: You know, I made the right read, lost a step on my drop, saw the defensive end pressuring and decided a deep throw was better than a potential sack and fumble there.

Allen constantly said he needs to play smarter. Over and over: smarter. The weight he must feel?

Should Josh Allen play lights-out football in 2023, yet the team still fails to make the postseason, what then? Is it on Allen that they didn’t make the playoffs, and time to move on? Seems crazy, right?

Think of all the reasons Allen has endeared himself to the fan base, the league, and now serves at one of the NFL’s most visible faces. He’s lightning in a bottle, with one of the highest ceilings ever — a quarterback able to make touchdowns anywhere on the field, and often on boundaries no one before him could manage. I want Josh Allen to be everything he has been, and can become. I want the thrilling quarterback, able to will first downs with his legs and arms, giving the fans more hope than they’ve observed in generations.

With Allen, his great is better than almost anyone else in the NFL. And those moments are far greater than the lows. After this week, hopefully we can all begin to turn the page, choosing to talk about other things. Otherwise, it’s going to be a very long season for all the wrong reasons.

Let’s stop trying to run this guy out of Buffalo. Okay?