With training camp right around the corner, all eyes will be on the quarterback position. Since draft night Sean McDermott has made one thing quite clear; this is an open competition. At this point, it’s anyone’s guess who will win the job.
Based on the second-year coach’s words, it lends to reason that the top performer will be handed the reigns when the Bills take on the Baltimore Ravens in week one. Under normal circumstances, the best player should win the job, but the team’s situation on offense is far from normal.
To Bench, or Not to Bench?
At the moment, the Bills have what can be considered the thinnest pool of offensive talent in the entire league. The wide receiver group is weak (and injury prone) while the offensive line is a wreck after losing both Eric Wood and Richie Incognito during the offseason.
Unreliable receivers and a bad offensive line. Where have we seen this before? Josh Allen might be able to tell you.
Regardless of whether or not you feel that Allen will develop into an All-Pro quarterback in the NFL, his supporting cast in Wyoming last season was far from stellar. Leading up to the draft, his supporters often pointed to a sieve of an offensive line and a far from sure-handed receiving corps as the main reason for his less than ideal numbers in the Mountain West.
With that in mind, would it really be wise to thrust the rookie signal-caller into a similar situation as he tries to improve his faulty mechanics and narrow field vision? Regardless of whether or not Allen has the best preseason performance of the group, the organization would be wise to let him ride the pine for a majority (if not all of) his inaugural season.
Historically, the Bills have had a terrible track record when it comes to rushing young quarterbacks with pedestrian supporting casts. Confidence plays a huge role in the development of young players under center and for as level-headed as Allen seems, it makes little sense to set him up for failure right out of the gate.
Sure, he’ll get valuable playing experience, but at what cost? If Brandon Beane does intend to address his offensive talent pool (pun intended) next offseason, then perhaps he would be best suited holding off on debuting his shiny new quarterback until 2019.
In short, the risk outweighs the reward.
Learning From the Past
Let’s make one thing clear right out of the gate; no, Josh Allen is not comparable to E.J. Manuel. Still, their respective situations do have several parallels. Both came into the league with glaring holes in their game, high ceilings, and a winning attitude. As a rookie, Manuel said all of the right things. His demeanor was always positive and the game never seemed too big for him from a psychological standpoint.
Through his first few starts, Manuel performed admirably and was able to lead the offense with a certain swagger that had been missing in Western New York. As soon as the lumps starting coming and teams started to figure out the Bills gameplan (which was a complete disaster under Nate Hackett), the wheels began to fall off. The ballsy, confident quarterback from week one had been replaced with a timid headcase who was afraid to take risks with the ball. Despite always remaining positive in front of the camera, it was clear that repeated failures and increasingly poor offensive performances had gotten to him.
Now serving as a backup on the Oakland Raiders, Manuel spoke on his time in Buffalo earlier this week, revealing a cautionary tale of just how easy it is to ruin the mental composition of a young passer.
“But that would be the answer to (why it didn’t work out in Buffalo?), my confidence,” Manuel stated. “But I’m glad I went through what I went through in Buffalo, because it taught me a lot.”
This statement isn’t really a surprise, but it still showed that a guy can say all of the right things and display a positive attitude while still fighting a battle between their ears that can adversely affect their play on the field.
Allen and Manuel are different people, and just because one player went through what he called “somewhat of a depression” as a result of his struggles (and eventual benching) it doesn’t mean that Allen will suffer the same fate should he face adversity as a rookie. Still in all, is the juice really worth the squeeze?
Let’s face it, Allen isn’t an Andrew Luck type of prospect, and there is a pretty slim likelihood that he can step up from the jump and set the league on fire. On a team that is sure to struggle due to a lack of talent, it makes no sense to even take the risk.
At the end of the day, the management team in Buffalo will do what they think is best to help the team win. Fans should hold out hope that the pressure to repeat as a playoff team doesn’t cloud their judgement. It would be better to see the team fall short this year and then regroup in the offseason to set Allen up for success in 2019.
Not only does it buy him more time with an already skeptical fanbase that has been known to turn on quarterbacks rather quickly, but it will allow him to start his career off surrounded by talent (something the Bills should have no trouble acquiring next season with north of $70 million in anticipated cap space).
Editor’s babble: This might be the most interesting QB battle at training camp we’ve seen in awhile. One thing we all know is that no matter who gets the starting nod, they will be criticized by those wanting someone else to start. Fortunately, ‘McBeane’ aren’t easily swayed by public opinion and Josh Allen will start when they think he’s ready. Thanks to Anthony Sciandra for his superb contributions to our blog. You can follow Anthony on Twitter @SciandraSports.