The biggest loser after the Sammy Watkins trade isn’t the Buffalo Bills or the Los Angeles Rams, it’s Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor.
He’s been taken advantage of, deceived by an unorganized ownership, and set up to fail amid his last opportunities to bolster his value prior to hitting free agency.
Red flags have sprouted everywhere over the Buffalo Bills organization for the past few years. The hirings of not one, but both Ryans (Rex and Rob) were among the first glaring signs of eventual chaos.
But the first major chapter in the demise of Taylor’s saga with Buffalo was his benching in the final game of last season.
Taylor’s contract involved a clause saying that if he could not pass a team physical on March 11, much after the season had ended, the Bills would be forced into picking up a $30.7 million option year. With the Bills out of the playoffs, the team decided they would keep Taylor out of the last game of the year to avoid the risk of Taylor seriously hurting himself. This sent a message that seemed loud and clear saying the Bills were ready to move on from Taylor.
That part made sense. If the Bills were not inclined to keep Taylor in 2017, then why would they risk him getting hurt in that last game and possibly activating the injury clause?
Doug Whaley, who was the Bills GM at the time, and Terrence and Kim Pergula, the Bills owners, then proceeded to forego a flurry of perplexing moves and messages to the media, and everything, including Tyrod Taylor’s job outlook and the Buffalo Bills’ chances in 2017, vanished into the oft-frigid air of upstate New York.
Rex Ryan was fired prior to the end of last season. Ryan consistently backed Taylor as Buffalo’s head coach and was one of the leaders of the charge against sitting Taylor at the end of the year, believing he should have the opportunity to show off his skills to build contract leverage for his next team. Ryan put off the benching as long as he could but who knows how much earlier ownership would’ve liked to do so.
Rex Ryan, simply put, was not a good coach for the Buffalo Bills (has he been one anywhere?) but part of his firing probably also stemmed from heated debate over the Taylor situation.
Then, at the end of the year, Whaley let the interim head coach, Anthony Lynn, who was very popular among the players, leave to San Diego. He also let the backup quarterback, EJ Manuel, leave to Oakland.
And just as it appeared the Bills were ready to clear house, something changed.
Haley decides to hire Rick Dennison as his new offensive coordinator. Dennison served as the QB coach in Baltimore, where Taylor served as Joe Flacco’s backup for several years. Upon hearing the news, speculation surfaced questioning whether the Bills now intended to keep Taylor as their starter.
Then, news broke: Whaley and Taylor restructured a contract to a team-friendly, two-year deal. With a deal like that, Taylor was essentially saying he’ll stick around and take less money so the team could equip him with the right weapons and give him a chance at winning a title; trusting that he could rely on the GM to work the cap and find the pieces. Trusting that he would have a starting job on a team that could contend.
Draft night later came and went and the Bills took a quarterback in the middle rounds; No one that would be a threat to Tyrod’s job so it wasn’t perceived as anything major.
Until GM Doug Whaley, seemingly out of the blue, was fired shortly after the draft.
It isn’t clear where the miscommunication was between ownership and Whaley, whether they were unhappy with the decision on Taylor’s contract or the decision to take yet another mid-round quarterback to be someone of little real competition to Taylor, or a farrago of reasons, Whaley was let go.
And then the story really gets interesting.
We fast-forward to early May and to an interview with Peter King of The MMQB and the Bills new head coach Sean McDermott, and newly appointed general manager Brandon Beane. He asked the duo “whether or not the team’s quarterback of the future is currently on the roster”. The question wasn’t supposed to be a difficult one, but McDermott and Beane panicked and, as one writer put it, “verbally short-circuited” and gave probably the worst kind of an answer possible.
“He is, in Tyrod Taylor,” McDermott said.
Which was a great answer…if they left it at that.
“And then when you look at the competition we have behind him,” McDermott continued. “We’ve drafted Nathan Peterman, we’ve added T.J. Yates, and then Cardale Jones in the draft a year ago.”
“We have open competition everywhere,” added Beane, “Let them fight it out and earn the right to start on this team.”
Hold on a second.
“Can we guarantee he is on our roster right now?,” McDermott continued as he dug his ditch even deeper into the ground, “That remains to be seen and that is true at a lot of positions on our roster.”
There’s a lot to take away from that.If Taylor is the future, why immediately mention those two younger quarterbacks? Especially considering T.J. Yates’ is barely skilled enough to put on a pro uniform and Peterman was viewed as a project QB at best.
If Taylor is the future, why immediately mention those two younger quarterbacks? Especially considering T.J. Yates’ is barely skilled enough to put on a pro uniform and Peterman was viewed as a project QB at best.
In that interview, the duo spun a complete 180, deriving from “decisive quarterback of the future” to “might not make the roster” in regards to Taylor. Confusion set ablaze within the Buffalo media as yet another big red flag started to wave in front of the Buffalo QB.
Taylor took that restructured deal back in the offseason trusting he’d be repaid with a stronger roster and a starting job. In return, he lost the GM who made him all of those promises, the assurance of a starting job, any faith from the front office…
and just this week, he lost his no.1 wide receiver. 5-star talent, 4th overall pick from three years ago and favorite target of Taylor’s, Sammy Watkins was traded to the Los Angeles Rams. The trade of Watkins to LA, which was analyzed by several of the fine writers here if you’re looking for more details, should be the final straw for Taylor.
The Bills are now officially engaging in a rebuild. They’ve accumulated several picks towards the top of next years draft and, apparently, have zero faith in Taylor’s ability to help lead them to the playoffs this year.
Which is odd, even if we disregard the Taylor situation, because the Bills roster really wasn’t that bad. LeSean McCoy. Sammy Watkins. One of the best defensive lines in the league. An improved coaching staff, including an old mentor of Taylor’s. The team was inconsistent, but they weren’t the Jets. Tanking didn’t appear to be right on the horizon.
There is already speculation Taylor will be traded this year (watch out Jets and Broncos fans), or, at the very least, cut before the start of next season.
Maybe the school of thought is that if the Bills can’t beat the Patriots now, why not build for the future? I don’t know.
But what I do know is that Tyrod Taylor must be furious with the Buffalo Bills.