Awhile back I babbled we should expect the unexpected from Sean McDermott… that he is a different kind of coach who will do whatever he thinks is necessary to win regardless of public opinion. He certainly proved those words to be true on Wednesday after making a bold move in benching Tyrod Taylor for Nathan Peterman this week when the Bills face Anthony Lynn and the Chargers in Los Angeles on Sunday.
There was commentary on social media afterward questioning if it was a smart move or hubris on McDermott’s part to make the drastic switch with the team at 5-4 and trying to gain their first playoff berth in 17 years. Anyone who thinks hubris was involved in making the decision to bench Taylor doesn’t get what Sean McDermott is all about.
Choosing to switch quarterbacks in the middle of the season on a team with a winning record is a relatively uncommon occurrence in the NFL. Replacing an uninjured veteran quarterback with a rookie takes even more guts to pull off.
That’s courage, not hubris.
There were a few subtle signs the switch might be coming after McDermott made a point to tell reporters on Monday that he understood why fans were concerned about Taylor’s struggles. In the past, whenever the subject of Peterman starting came up, McDermott always followed whatever he said with a strong statement supporting Taylor. Not this time. Just moved on to another topic.
If you watch the interview when McDermott announced the change, it’s clear this the switch was not made out of desperation. It also appears the decision to do so weighed heavily on McDermott. He knows this essentially makes it clear that Taylor is not the future at the quarterback position in Buffalo.
It’s easy to see McDermott cares a great deal about his players. He obviously struggled with the decision to bench Taylor, who’s displayed nothing but pure class in handling getting benched for a second time in his career with the Bills. Taylor agreed to take less money to stay in Buffalo, so it had to be difficult to basically give him a vote of no confidence at this point in the season.
Obviously the Pegulas are “all-in” on McDermott and Beane, giving them free reign to fearlessly gut the roster. Raise your hand if you thought six months ago this Bills team would jettison Sammy Watkins, Ronald Darby, Marcell Dareus, bench Tyrod Taylor for a rookie and still be in contention for the playoffs? Pretty sure no one could honestly claim they saw this coming.
My very early read on Nathan Peterman suggests this move may have been made in part because of his unusual intangibles as a rookie. Obviously Peterman’s skill set is a better fit for the version of the west coast offense used by Rick Dennison.
What’s not so obvious is what is “under the hood” with Peterman. Though there’s only a very limited sample size of his NFL work to substantiate this, when Peterman enters a game it’s like watching a car with a sputtering carburetor suddenly shift into a smooth ride.
He will be sorely tested, no doubt. However, Mr. Peterman presents a different sort of persona than most rookie quarterbacks. There’s no way to teach anticipation or vision and he has both in spades.
The brain is a strange organ. Some people have incredible acumen at sizing up a situation in just a nanosecond and taking appropriate action. Others “freeze frame” and are unable to move quickly into action. How we process data differs as well.
The popular terms “left-brained” and “right brained” come from research that shows how information is processed differently in the brains of individuals. These are very difficult variables to accurately measure, but unique patterns do exist in determining how a person processes information.
I suspect someday NFL teams will extend their use of virtual reality to examine these differences in quarterback prospects in the future, but as of now it’s very hard to determine which quarterback’s mental skill set is best suited for success in the NFL.
Obviously McDermott saw something in Nathan Peterman’s demeanor that led him to believe he has the ability to see the entire field, process it quickly and get the ball to its target in rapid fashion. Let’s remember Peterman was a McDermott pick because Brandon Beane had not been hired yet. It’s also pretty clear the quarterback choice was McDermott’s, not Whaley’s… who was on his way out the door the following week after the draft.
Whatever generated the decision to change starting quarterbacks, it’s clear McDermott and Beane don’t give a fig what the national or local media thinks about the move. It’s bold. It’s brash. And it just might work.
For what it’s worth (probably not much), I have a feeling Nathan Peterman will be more than just fine, and Tyrod Taylor will go on to find his niche with a team willing to build the necessary pieces around him for him to be successful. There could be a happy ending for all of us. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Editor’s babble: After picking up my jaw off the floor, I submit this babble for your careful consideration. You can find me on Twitter @RobynMundyWYO.