Column: Trading Tyrod Taylor was the Bills’ fatal mistake

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Cleveland Browns quarterback Tyrod Taylor (5) passes during the second half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Bill Feig)

Last year the Bills did it. They finally made the playoffs for the first time this millennium. Like most teams who are ready to compete year to year, they traded away the quarterback that got them there.

The Bills, and even the general public, did not appreciate how good Tyrod Taylor was during his tenure in Buffalo. Through his three years as a starter, Taylor threw for 8,857 yards, 51 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. He finished with a solid 22-20 record as the starter and averaged a passer rating of 92.5.

Last year, when the Bills finally made the playoffs for the first time since 1999, Taylor finished with 2,799 passing yards, 14 touchdowns, and just four interceptions. His 1 percent interception percentage was the lowest in the entire NFL. He also earned himself a QBR of 60.0, good for 14th in the league and higher than quarterbacks such as Cam Newton, Marcus Mariota and Pro-Bowler Derek Carr. His passer rating of 89.2 was 16th in the league, better than all three of the aforementioned quarterbacks.

However, that is just half of what makes Taylor so good. He is one of the best rushing quarterbacks in the league. He was second out of all quarterbacks in yards in 2015 with 568, first in 2016 with 580 and third in 2017 with 427. He has also reached the end zone 14 times over those three years, second only to Cam Newton.

Yet for some reason, people still question his ability to be a starter in the NFL. Even last season, Bill’s head coach Sean McDermott benched Taylor for their week 10 game against the Chargers, starting Nathan Peterman instead. Everybody knows how that worked out. Peterman went 6/14 for 66 yards, no touchdowns and FIVE interceptions in the first half before he was replaced by Taylor himself, who finished the game going 15/25 for 158 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. Taylor hadn’t been playing badly throughout the first half of the season either, as he had a 91.4 passer rating up until that point.

Taylor finished the season as the starter, and the Bills, with a little help from Andy Dalton, made the playoffs as a Wild Card team. They would eventually fall to the Titans in the first round, but even making the playoffs was a huge accomplishment for the franchise.

The Bills traded Taylor to the Browns in the offseason for the 65th overall pick in the draft. They would end up shipping that pick away on draft night, trading up with the Baltimore Ravens in order to take linebacker Tremaine Edmunds with the 16th overall pick. Edmunds has struggled so far this season, especially in pass coverage. Obviously, he is a rookie with a ton of time to improve, but it does not look great as of right now.

The Bills did make somewhat of a splash this offseason when they signed longtime Cincinnati Bengals backup A.J. McCarron to a two-year deal. He was expected to be their starter until they surprisingly traded him to the Oakland Raiders in exchange for a fifth-round pick.

That left the Bills with the choice of starting 7th-overall pick Josh Allen or Nathan “five-pick” Peterman week one versus the Ravens. They went with Peterman, who threw for a staggering 24 yards on 5/18 passing with two interceptions. He would go on to be replaced by Allen early in the third quarter and has since lost the starting job. Allen, who has been manning the helm, has been no stud either, going 18/35 for 245 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions through his approximately one and a half games.

Now, this is really no fault of Allen’s. He has been thrown into a terrible situation in Buffalo and has no help around him. What he could have benefited from is a year of sitting behind and learning from Taylor. It would then have put him in the position to be successful starting his sophomore year. Just look at Kansas City. Patrick Mahomes is killing it through two games and has clearly benefited from a year of sitting behind and learning from Alex Smith. Now, Baker Mayfield has that huge advantage.

This season, the Bills have gone from a playoff team to the laughing stock of the NFL. They are currently 0-2 and have been outscored 23-78. They are so bad that one of their players had enough and retired mid-game. Meanwhile, Taylor has taken over a Cleveland Browns team that went 0-16 last season and has led them to a 0-1-1 record with a legitimate shot at being 2-0 if not for major kicking problems. It wasn’t against bad teams either, as they tied the Steelers and lost to the Saints by just three points. Both teams were ranked in the top-10 by the majority of outlets prior to the season.

Trading Taylor is the biggest mistake the Bills made this offseason. They are already basically out of playoff contention and the future looks bleaker than ever. Most Bills fans would probably rather have Taylor starting for them this year than Allen or Peterman, even if it means losing out on Edmunds. Shipping him away was truly a fatal mistake.


Jorge Eckardt is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at jorge.eckardt@uconn.edu.

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