In today’s NFL, quarterbacks are being paid at a premium. Even average quarterbacks are getting large money contracts. Recently, the likes of Brock Osweiller and Sam Bradford received big money deals without proving they are worth it. It was only a matter of time before Tyrod Taylor began asking for a new deal, and it appears he and his agent are finally doing so. However, many Bills fans do not support the idea of extending Taylor just yet. This morning, local Buffalo sports radio station WGR tweeted a poll asking if Bills fans believed the team should extend the quarterback before the new season, and the majority voted “No, let him prove it. (1)” This response begs the question:
Why are Bills fans not on-board with Tyrod Taylor yet?
When Ryan Fitzpatrick took over as the starting quarterback in Buffalo, the city embraced him. WGR created “Fitzmagic,” a song parodying Electric Light Orchestra’s “Oh, Oh, It’s Magic,” to celebrate their hope in the new leader of the Bills. The “Fitzmagic” mantra took to the field, as fans admired the quarterback’s grit and toughness. Fitzpatrick’s rugged style of play was identifiable with a blue-collar city like Buffalo, a city built on “rock and steel” as actor William Fichtner proclaimed in the What it Means to be a Bills Fan video produced by the team. The short lived adoration of Ryan Fitzpatrick was understandable.
We are one year into the Tyrod Taylor era in Buffalo, and his one season was far and beyond better than any season Ryan Fitzpatrick had on the Bills. Taylor proved to a better athlete than Fitzpatrick, as he displayed strong play-making ability and ran for over 500 yards in 2015. He proved his superiority in the passing game, as he exhibited arm strength and accuracy that Fitzpatrick never had. When it came to decision making, Taylor again showed his supremacy over Fitzpatrick. He scored 24 touchdowns and only turned the ball over seven times. Taylor’s high number of deep throws and explosive runs also made him more exciting to watch than Fitzpatrick. So, the question remains:
Why hasn’t the city of Buffalo rallied behind Taylor the way they did Fitzpatrick?
Could it be fear?
Buffalo Bills fans have suffered more heartbreak than most team’s fans. There have been too many times where the fan base fell head over heels for a player only to be left devastated by that same player’s downward spiral. Ryan Fitzpatrick being a prime example of a player getting a big contract too early and making Bills fans eventually react like Lloyd Christmas after seeing his best friend Harry go on a date with the woman of his dreams.
If Bills fans’ reasons for not wanting to extend Taylor after only one season are due to fear of another heartbreak, they make a fair argument. However, there are other possible reasons for the fans not rallying behind their quarterback the way they did with Fitzpatrick.
Buffalo is a blue-collar city that loves to identify with its players. Bills fans want players with tenacity, toughness, and most of all: grit. Jim Kelly and Doug Flutie displayed grit, which made fans admire them for more than just their great play. Fitzpatrick, while not the talent Kelly and Flutie were, illustrated that same toughness on the field that Buffalo venerates. He wore his wedding ring in games, played through injuries, dove head first into linebackers, made blocks for his running backs, and grew a ferocious beard.
If fans are looking for these qualities in Tyrod Taylor, they will not find them. He is a finesse player, whose raw athleticism enables him to run around defenses rather than through them. With finesse comes durability concerns, though, and Taylor missed two games due to injury in 2015 causing frustration for Bills fans.
However, he displayed toughness when he played through significant injuries for the remainder of the season after taking heavy shots from defenses. Tougher than he is given credit for, Taylor does not get the respect and admiration Fitzpatrick received from Buffalo for grittiness. His assumed lack of toughness plays a role in the lack of support he gets from the fan base. However, darker and more unsettling question exists as to why the city of Buffalo has not rallied around Taylor like they did Fitzpatrick:
Is Racism Involved?
This is not to say that anyone who does not like Tyrod Taylor is racist, but ignoring the race problem in Western New York would be irresponsible. Buffalo news station WIVB reported a study in 2015 giving evidence for Western New York being one of the most racist regions of the United States. Also, a study done by Salon.com illustrated that the city of Buffalo ranks eighth in the country in the amount of anti-Black tweets sent by city inhabitants. I know the retorting argument: the city worships Black athletes like Andre Reed, Bruce Smith, Thurman Thomas, and Darryl Talley.
A look at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sundays shows plenty of fans wearing jerseys of Black players such as Sammy Watkins, Lesean McCoy, Jerry Hughes, Stephon Gilmore, and Marcell Dareus. However, all of these players have one thing in common: they are not the quarterback of the Buffalo Bills.
The quarterback of the football team is its leader. His face represents the franchise. In Buffalo, the face of the Bills can be the face of the city. In a city regarded as being one of the most racist in the country: perhaps having Tyrod Taylor, a Black man, as the face of the franchise is problematic for many Bills fans. Perhaps the color of Ryan Fitzpatrick’s skin played a large role in why Bills fans rallied behind him and his sub-par play, and why they do not seem to be supporting a far superior quarterback in Tyrod Taylor.
Regardless of why many fans are not in favor of extending Taylor before the 2016 season begins, he will get one.
Because he has leverage.
Imagine the Buffalo Bills without Tyrod Taylor in 2016. Their season would be a disaster. EJ Manuel for sixteen games? Not happening. Rookie quarterback starting? Not happening. New starter through free agency? No one available is on the level of Tyrod Taylor. He is their best option for 2016, and probably for years to come. He may very well finish out the second year of his deal and bet on himself, but that would be foolish. He bet on himself in 2015 and had the best season by a Bills quarterback since Jim Kelly. After seeing the deals Bradford and Osweiller got, Taylor is in line for a big payday and has proven himself worthy of one. At least more worthy than Bradford and Osweiller. If the Buffalo Bills do not pay Tyrod Taylor, someone else will.