- The Buffalo Bills announced on Wednesday that they are benching Tyrod Taylor for rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman in Week 11.
- Many people suspected before the season that the Bills were tanking after trading several big-name players.
- At 5-4, the change at quarterback seems to signal a change in direction over the final seven games of the season
The Buffalo Bills caught many in the NFL world by surprise on Wednesday when they announced that they are benching quarterback Tyrod Taylor for rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman in Week 11.
The move comes after the Bills were blown out, 47-10, at home by the New Orleans Saints in Week 10, with Taylor going 9-of-18 for just 56 yards, no touchdowns, and one interception. In the fourth quarter he was replaced by Peterman who threw the Bills’ lone touchdown.
The timing of the move is eyebrow-raising. After the loss to the Saints, head coach Sean McDermott said Taylor would remain the starter – something apparently changed early in the week.
The Bills, at 5-4, have lost two straight games and sit in the final Wild Card spot in the AFC. They’ve surprised most observers with their hot start, buoyed by a stingy defense and and a passable offense led by Taylor, who has statistically been above-average this season. Taylor ranks 14th in completion percentage, 16th in passer rating, and second in interception percentage.
There’s reason to believe the Bills are re-evaluating their path this season. They may not view Taylor as their future franchise quarterback, but it’s unlikely that Peterman will be able to take over for Taylor and improve the Bills’ offense. As ESPN’s Bill Barnwell noted, rookie quarterbacks drafted in the fifth round typically don’t excel on the field. ESPN’s Mike Rodak wrote Peterman could “torpedo” the Bills season, arguing, however, he’s worth a look if the Bills don’t believe in Taylor.
The Bills restructured Taylor’s contract over the offseason, essentially making it a year-to-year deal after agreeing to a six-year, $90 million extension in 2016. Taylor has $1 million guaranteed next season, with a $6 million roster bonus, meaning he’s likely to hit free agency this offseason. Since a dispute over Taylor’s contract last season, Taylor’s future with the team has always seemed tenuous.
Prior to the season, many suspected the Bills were tanking. They let star cornerback Stephon Gillmore walk in free agency and acquired draft picks for trading star receiver Sammy Watkins and cornerback Ronald Darby.
McDermott disputed the idea that the Bills were tanking early in the season to Sports Illustrated. On Wednesday, McDermott’s message sounded slightly different – as if the Bills don’t merely want to be a team that gets booted in the Wild Card game each season.
“We’re here for more than five wins,” McDermott said. “That’s why I’m here. That’s why I was brought here. That’s the vision. It’s nothing more than that. It’s about getting us to where we’re trying to go to win a championship. Everyone wants to get to the playoffs, I understand that, and that’s important.”
McDermott also said that there’s no great time to make a change at quarterback.
It’s possible that after two bad losses the Bills decided to press the reset button on this season, evaluate Peterman, and consider their quarterbacks heading into what’s considered a deep and talented quarterback draft.
Despite a 5-4 record, the Bills have just one win over a team currently above .500. With a team clearly in a re-tooling phase, Buffalo may have decided to shift gears and continue that phase, rather than chase the playoffs with a team that looked good, but not exceptional.