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McDermott: Nathan Peterman to start at quarterback Sunday

Posted at 9:42 AM, Nov 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-15 12:19:48-05

After back-to-back lopsided losses, the Buffalo Bills are making a change at quarterback. Bills head coach Sean McDermott announced on Wednesday that Nathan Peterman will start Sunday's game against the Los Angeles Chargers.

Peterman played late in last Sunday's blowout loss to the New Orleans Saints, but McDermott said after the loss that Tyrod Taylor was still the starter going forward. Today, he told media that he made the decision to switch quarterback on Tuesday.

READ MORE: Bills' Tyrod Taylor on being benched: "I don't agree with the decision"

McDermott says the decision is about becoming a better team.

McDermott had said both on Sunday after the Saints loss, and again on Monday, that Taylor was the starter. He said he made the decision to change quarterbacks on Tuesday, and informed the entire team of his choice on Wednesday morning.

When asked if this would be a permanent move, or just a one-time start, McDermott replied, "We'll see."

Joe B's Take

Well, I certainly wasn't expecting that to kick things off on Wednesday morning. 

Considering where they are in the standings, still holding on to one of the two Wild Card positions in the AFC through the first 10 weeks, this is a genuine surprise from a Bills team that had played well through the first seven games of the season.

What transpired over the last two weeks, though, seemed to be enough for the Bills to pull the trigger and move Taylor to the bench for the second time in his career with the Bills.

And admittedly, I was wrong. 

I didn't think the Bills would make the move as long as they had a playoff breath. That's the usual logic within the NFL, but the Bills defied that usual logic, which you have to respect.

The Bills were desperate for the offense to do something to try and counter what the Saints were doing on Sunday, and they got next to nothing from Taylor who rarely took chances down the field -- and opted to check down when down by a large margin in the second half.

When Peterman came in, I was expecting him to be up against a prevent defense run by the Saints as the game was well into garbage time. However, while the Saints were in zone coverage, it certainly wasn't a soft zone and Peterman did something that we haven't seen much from with Taylor.

He threw the ball with anticipation multiple times, and he was only in the game for 11 plays. Peterman attacked both the short and intermediate areas of the field, and it was clearly the best the offense had looked since the first series of the game -- and that was without a running game. Now, you also have to consider that he threw a pair of really errant passes and that the Saints didn't have their full starting defense in the game.

Even still, after reviewing the game on All-22 on Tuesday, it was hard to come away from that game and not be at least a tad impressed by the rookie doing that after being on the bench for two-and-a-half months.

However, let's not kid ourselves: the timing of this is shocking. 

McDermott seemed hellbent on winning this year and gave no real indication in both of his appearances to the media on Sunday and Monday that this was even a consideration.

Taylor is a popular entity within the locker room, as well. Players like LeSean McCoy have been incredibly vocal in their support of Taylor, even going to the lengths of saying that he doesn't know why Taylor doesn't get more credit for the things he does on the field. This decision is likely to be an unpopular one with some of the players that have grown to deeply respect and appreciate everything Taylor puts into the job.

Taylor had seemed to slightly progress in the areas that the Bills had desired him to. He settled into the pocket much more than in past years, and earlier in the season, he drove the ball down the field with some highlight reel throws. However, there was always one lingering question.

Did he actually fit the offense that offensive coordinator Rick Dennison wanted to run?

Early in the year and even in the preseason, it was clear that Taylor wasn't comfortable with certain parts of the offense. Most notably, it was when Taylor had to line up under center and perform either a three or five-step drop. It just didn't come naturally to Taylor, and with him as the starter, they evolved into a mostly shotgun-based scheme.

As uncovered by Matthew Fairburn of NYUpstate.com, the Bills started tinkering with their blocking schemes near the middle of the year to try and generate more offensively, and you would have to think that is a byproduct of not being able to operate under center and without those short drops to keep a defense honest enough.

If I had to guess, despite Sean McDermott saying that it was his decision, I would tend to believe Peterman's natural fit into the Dennison offense is one that the offensive coordinator pushed for to the head coach.

Now, the question is, what are we about to see?

We'll likely see a lot more anticipatory throws from the rookie, which will be a welcomed sight for Bills fans that have been wanting that from Taylor for the past two-and-a-half seasons. What it also means is that we'll see much more of the offense that was shown in preseason and earlier in the season.

I'd anticipate we see less shotgun, more three and five-step drops, and a lot more play action to help take some pressure off the running game.

We're also going to see a lot more errant throws from Peterman than we saw from Taylor, and in turn, we're going to see the Bills likely turn the ball over a bit more than we've grown accustomed to over the past few seasons. Peterman will take more chances down the field than Taylor, and certainly isn't afraid of a tight window throw. His deep accuracy is something I'd like to see improve, but with him at the helm, if Dennison wants that shot to be taken, it will be taken -- so we're bound to see it.

Let's also not forget what GM Brandon Beane said repeatedly in the offseason about his number one belief of what trait a quarterback should be able to possess: being a good pocket passer. And while Taylor has certainly improved from past years, he has still shown much hesitation in the pocket and the rookie Peterman is a better fit for that style of offense.

What this also signals is that even though the Bills are in the playoff race, that this is still the first year of what they are trying to do: rebuild the roster to the highest level -- not just for short-term gains.

In that respect, I like the boldness of the move, despite the timing being a little peculiar. I've been impressed by McDermott and Beane's ability to turn the roster over while still remaining competitive this year, and this falls in line with the bold moves that they've made since a few days before training camp started.

They are in it for the long haul, and it's abundantly clear that they don't believe Taylor is a part of that plan. While it may come to a situation where Peterman struggles and they need to go back to Taylor down the stretch of the season, don't be fooled: unless something drastic occurs between now and the end of the season, Taylor just isn't in the plans for the Bills moving forward.

You simply can't just make this move at this point in the season, and then put the stuffing back into the toy and pass it off as brand new. They knew the magnitude of this decision and what this signals moving forward at the most important position in sports, and they chose to go through with it.

There was a chance before the season that Taylor could work his way into those plans with showing signs of progress in the pocket, but regression over certain key points in the season likely sealed his fate. I think Taylor is a solid quarterback and has helped them stay in games by not turning the ball over, and he's likely to find at least a competition for a starting job elsewhere in 2018.

It's clear that the Bills don't value him enough to start in a crucial game in Week 11, and in turn, it makes the notion of them keeping him at $18 million in 2018 a bit of a longshot.

However, what was Taylor's ceiling? Was he a going to lead this team to the Super Bowl? Probably not. Was he good enough to get this team into the playoffs? Most likely, yes.

But it's clear with McDermott's statements on Wednesday that their goal is bigger than the playoffs: they want to win a Super Bowl in Buffalo.

I like bold moves. I like going for it on fourth down. I like going for the two-point conversion more often than not, so I would be a hypocrite if I said I didn't like going out on a limb like this for the Bills.

Too often, we've seen the Bills try to do just enough to save jobs, to stay competitive, to not go out on a limb because of fear of the unknown. That is no longer the case.

They now have an extended look to see if Peterman can be their guy this year and into the future, and as long as he holds on to the job, he's going up against two of the best teams in the AFC three separate times (Kansas City, New England), and a really good defense in the Los Angeles Chargers.

Do the Bills have their quarterback of the future in Nathan Peterman?

We don't know, but the Bills are about to find out -- with ample evidence -- before they go into the most important offseason in the McDermott and Beane era to try and reshape the roster for sustained success.

And I, for one, can't wait to see it all unfold.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia