In March of 2015, the Buffalo Bills signed a free agent quarterback who had been primarily responsible for watching Joe Flacco lead the Baltimore Ravens to several playoff appearances. He wasn’t given much of a chance to beat out former first-round pick EJ Manuel or veteran trade acquisition Matt Cassel for a starting job, but had a good chance of making the team as a third quarterback who could factor in to some gadget plays.
Fast forward two-and-a-half years. That same quarterback is coming off of his second Pro Bowl appearance, but the Bills have yet to end their playoff drought. That’s not likely to happen this year, but how much of the blame goes on the quarterback’s shoulders?
Name: Tyrod Taylor
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 215 lbs.
College: Virginia Tech
Draft: Round 6, Pick 180 by the Buffalo Bills (2011)
Financial Situation (per Spotrac): As you well know by now, Taylor re-negotiated his contract this past offseason and took a pay cut to stay with the Bills for at least one more year. His cap hit in 2017 is a little less than $10 million; that figure jumps to just over $18 million next year, but the Bills could save about $9.4 million in cap space by cutting him loose prior to next season. I’m sure we’ll be debating the finances plenty over the course of the year, especially if Taylor plays at the level he’s played at so far in Buffalo.
2016 Recap: Taylor’s 2016 wasn’t a huge departure from his performance in 2015 It was a step in the wrong direction, but an understandable one.
Taylor played one extra game last year, yet he passed for 12 fewer yards and three fewer touchdowns while being sacked a league-high 42 times. On the other hand, he maintained his extraordinarily low interception total of six while leading all quarterbacks in rushing with 580 yards, scoring on the ground six times. Also, while his passing numbers were down, top receiver Sammy Watkins missed eight games (and clearly played at less than 100% in a few others), forcing Taylor to rely on overmatched and/or substandard receivers like Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin, and primary return man Brandon Tate at times.
Most importantly, one number remained the same: the Bills won seven games with Taylor under center in each of the last two seasons. He wasn’t the only factor in the losses, but there were plenty of wins where he played second fiddle to LeSean McCoy or the defense.
Positional Outlook: After some late maneuvering, the Bills are rolling with Nathan Peterman as a reserve and veteran utility man Joe Webb as the third-string quarterback who might see some action with other units at times. Taylor is the starting quarterback until circumstances dictate otherwise.
2017 Offseason: The drama was nigh unbearable at times. Taylor had surgery in January, and the Bills responded as if they weren’t aware of the possibility. He started posting workout videos to show where his rehab was at the team’s facility after Sean McDermott was hired, and eventually renegotiated his contract to ensure he’d remain with the Bills in March.
On the field, he didn’t play very well in the limited action he saw, even throwing two interceptions against the Philadelphia Eagles. He suffered a concussion early in the game against the Baltimore Ravens and entered the concussion protocol, from which he emerged on Wednesday to ensure he’d be the Bills’ starting quarterback when they open the season against the New York Jets.
2017 Season Outlook: I have never in my life seen an athlete who is as polarizing for what he does on the field than Tyrod Taylor. His supporters endlessly tout his speed and deep-throwing prowess while blaming the team’s issues on just about everybody but Taylor, while his detractors lean on his unwillingness to throw to the middle of the field and his tendency to hold on to the ball for far too long.
At the end of the day, the Bills aren’t a terribly talented team at most positions, which certainly doesn’t do Taylor any favors. At the same time, he leads a non-playoff team in a league where quarterbacks are shouldered with the most responsibility for a team’s successes and failures (among players, at least), and at least part of that is on him.
The Bills are likely to miss the playoffs again in 2017, and Taylor is looking at another bottom-tier receiving corps to throw to this year. There will be plenty of debate about his performance and the impact on the team, but it doesn’t change the fact that this is almost certainly his final season in Buffalo.
Unless he leads the Bills to the playoffs.