– Evan Sally
When did you first start to believe?
Was it after a 13 yard out to Deonte Thompson to pick up 3rd and 7 against the Browns in preseason?
Was it after you saw an ESPN documentary about his journey to the NFL?
Was it after a 51 yard beauty of a touchdown pass to Percy Harvin versus the Colts?
Was it after he led a comeback attempt scoring 3 touchdowns in 8 minutes after being down by 24 to the Patriots and made even the great Tom Brady sweat?
Or was it after he played one of the finest games a Bills quarterback has in years against the Dolphins?
When did you first start to believe in Tyrod Taylor?
For many the answer to that question is “I haven’t yet.” And who could argue with that? Tyrod’s played 3 regular season games and there’s no question that he looked good for the most part. But we’ve seen our share of relatively unknown quarterbacks show up and dazzle us for a few games only to fizzle out and leave Bills fans disappointed. Ryan Fitzpatrick. Trent Edwards. JP Losman. These names haunt us. Hell, even Drew Bledsoe, the best quarterback the Bills have has in the past 15 years, was wildly inconsistent. We’re scared to commit to a quarterback because we don’t want our hearts to be broken again. We remember when JP Losman led the BIlls to an improbable last minute win against Houston. We remember when Trent Edwards beat the Chargers to take the Bills to 5-1 and was an early favorite for league MVP (Yes that actually happened). We remember Ryan Fitzpatrick and his Harvard degree leading the Bills to a 5-2 start and the first win over the hated Patriots in years. We also remember each painful collapse that followed.
Bills fans are terrified of false positives. All 3 of these situations had factors about them that should’ve given us pause, and after the subsequent collapse those flaws became clear as day. Fitz was a gun slinger that didn’t have the arm strength to back it up. Trent was terrified to take a chance throwing down the field and quickly earned his nickname Captain Checkdown. JP was a bit too comfortable throwing the ball downfield to heavily covered receivers and couldn’t read a defense to save his life. We don’t want to fall for the trap and feel foolish again.
Which leads us back to the new flavor of the month, Tyrod Taylor. What makes him any different? Wouldn’t a 6th round pick who’s been a backup his whole career be the perfect candidate to be the next Bills quarterback to start well, only to fall apart? Well, in a word, yes. Tyrod’s rise would be pretty improbable, no question. However at a certain point what we see on the field has to outweigh Tyrod’s resume. Let’s start with what’s most obvious: that arm is LEGIT. The way he’s able to throw the ball with just a flick of the wrist, no matter if it’s a 5 yard swing pass or a 40 yard bomb, is a thing of beauty. Which leads us to point two: deep passing accuracy and volume. For how many years have we seen a Bills quarterback load up to go deep only to have it accompanied by a feeling of terror or anger?
“Oh man I hope that doesn’t get picked off!”
“Why are we throwing deep on 3rd and blank, just get the first down!”
It often felt like the best we could hope for is an incompletion. For Tyrod, throwing deep comes easy, and he always gives his receivers a chance. And he’s not afraid to do it. Tyrod was willing to take the deep shot no matter what the down or distance was against Miami, no matter the score, no matter where they were on the field.
Point #3: He seems like an incredibly quick learner. Of course the Dolphins defense could end up being a complete mess and we’ll know more as we get some more context for this season. But how impressive was Tyrod’s improved pocket presence last Sunday? Week 2 versus the Patriots we all noticed Tyrod was drifting in the pocket, often times drifting into sacks. 8 of them to be exact. Those sacks crippled an offense that ended up scoring 32 points anyway. This week you could see that the coaches had gotten into his head and he responded. Tyrod faced pressure and he handled it like a champ. The best example being the last touchdown pass to Chris Hogan. You can see how he steps up in the pocket to avoid pressure and then even though he knows a hit is coming, he delivers a strike to Hogan anyway. I heard many say that play wasn’t that impressive because it was a broken coverage. But when you combine how he handled the blitz with placing the ball on a dime to Hogan on the sideline, yeah it’s pretty impressive. Many a quarterback would have had that pass drift 2 yards out of bounds if they had a defender bearing down on them.
I think the most important factor in all of this discussion is how fun it is. The Bills plucked a 6th round pick off of the Ravens bench and now he’s completing 75 percent of passes and leading the Bills offense to 100 points in 3 weeks. Of course no one believes that Tyrod will continue to produce at this current clip. But what if he did? What if what we’re seeing is the most improbable NFL success story in 10 years? I say allow yourself to dream of the possibilities and think of what this season can be if Tyrod plays even remotely like this for the next 13 games. We’ll have a quarterback on our hands that will be the toast of the NFL and we’ll have fan bases across the country jealous of us for once. Imagine that? Being cynical may be smart, and you may prove to be right. Hell this column could look very foolish in a month or two. But I think you should believe what your eyes are seeing and just enjoy the ride. Trust me the season will be much more fun that way.
Buy in. Take the plunge into Lake Tyrod. The water is fine.
– Evan Sally (@Evan_Sally)