I have said it before and I’ll say it again, there is a difference between a franchise quarterback and an elite quarterback. To me the definition of franchise quarterback is someone who can lead a team to wins, and not cost them games. That is exactly what I believe the Bills have with Tyrod Taylor.
Taylor is a consistent quarterback that has managed games and put the Bills in a position to win far more games than he has cost them. Two games stick out in my mind when talking about the far ends of Taylor’s spectrum, the New England game week two of 2015, and the Tennessee game in week five of 2015. First the New England game. The Bills trailed 40-32 late in fourth quarter when Taylor threw is third interception with 1:15 to go. His third interception ended a miserable day in which the Patriots could have, and should have, beat the Bills by 24 if they weren’t trying to run up the score by forcing the ball to Scott Chandler so he could score. Although he also threw for three scores and ran for another, the game falls on Taylor’s shoulders as a quarterback. Those turnovers led to points that cost the Bills the game. But that was week two of his first year as a starter, the learning was just beginning.
Three weeks later, Taylor came full circle and single handily won the Titans game in Tennessee. Taylor was responsible for both Buffalo touchdown’s as he ran for a score and threw another in a 14-13 road victory. The pivotal point of the game came with eight minutes to go in the fourth facing a 3rd and 23. Taylor took the snap avoided two sacks and darted for 24 yards and a first down. The horse collar tackle tacked on another 15 yards. Two minutes later Taylor hit Chris Hogan for a touchdown and the Bills hung on to win.
The most common argument I hear against Tyrod Taylor is that his “numbers aren’t great”, “he hasn’t thrown for 300 yards”, and “can he win a shootout”? I will be the first to admit Tyrod Taylor’s numbers aren’t the flashiest. But are they supposed to be? The Bills formula for success is to run the ball, don’t turn it over, and play solid defense. That formula has worked thus far as the Bills, 4-2, are currently the 6th seed in the AFC. A share of the credit has to go to Taylor, who thus far this season has managed games well enough by limiting turnovers, even with depleted talent at wide receiver, to win four games.
Perhaps the most overlooked aspect of Taylor’s game is his feet. At least three times a game he has had the ability to turn a negative into positive yards. The escape from a sack move is just one detail. In today’s game of read option offenses, Taylor is as good of a weapon as anyone. Defenses are forced to use one of 11 defenders to put a spy on Taylor and respect his feet. He is currently the top rushing quarterback in the league through week six.
Accuracy is not always 100% with Taylor, I’ll be the first to admit that. I have seen him miss open guys down filed and make awful throws on a 10 yard out. Taylor has missed at least two touchdowns this year by over throwing wide open receivers. That is frustrating. However, those are the things I believe get corrected only with reps. But, on a run heavy team, Taylor has only thrown the ball 165 times this season, 26th most in the NFL. The limited attempts also puts him at the very near bottom, 30th, in yards per game with 179. Taylor is not asked to be a passing machine. For what he is asked to do he does well, as Taylor currently sits at number nine in ESPN’s Total QBR with a 67.7 rating. Taylor is ahead of names like Brees, Dalton, Manning, Flacco, Wilson, and Newton. QBR, as defined by ESPN, “incorporates all of a quarterback’s contributions to winning”. This includes limiting turnovers and scoring touchdowns with your arm or feet.
Everyone wants a Super Bowl winning quarterback yesterday, but it’s not practical to think that’s the way the league works. More so shouldn’t a quarterback have more than one and quarter seasons to be judged? My argument for those who don’t like Taylor has always been he still deserves time to prove himself. Great stats don’t come overnight and don’t always translate to wins. But since the doubters bring it up let’s just take a look at those numbers over his first 20 starts, statistics that may open the eyes of those who have doubted Taylor.
Many of the great signal callers have needed time, more than 20 starts, to develop including Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Russell Wilson. And believe it or not Tyrod Taylor is not far behind some of the top level talent in today’s league. Since the Super Bowl should be the benchmark to base talent from, let’s compare Taylor with the last five Super Bowl champions. (Reminder that is, in natural order, Eli Manning, Joe Flacco, Russell Wilson, Tom Brady, and Peyton Manning) Taylor has more yards in his first 20 starts than three previous champions, more passing touchdowns than two previous champions, more total touchdowns than four previous champions, and the fewest interceptions thrown than all previous Super Bowl winners.
The point of the chart is to show that in 99% of the cases it takes time to develop a quarterback. I am not saying Tyrod Taylor is the next Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, I am not even saying at some point Taylor wins a ring, but what I am saying is with just 20 games into his career as a starter Bills fans should be more confident than skeptical. Fans need to forget about 400 yard, five touchdown performances and instead enjoy wins. case in point, Philip Rivers is an exceptional quarterback that puts up fantasy numbers with the best of them, but how far has that gotten him and the Chargers?