All the hoopla and divisiveness of opinion before the draft about quarterback Josh Allen seems to have morphed into a hotbed of hostility on social media since the Buffalo Bills selected Allen as the seventh overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft. I’ve never seen a quarterback so reviled by a sizable number of fans, many of whom likely never even watched Allen play in college.
If you’re into podcasts, one of the best is The Bills Beat by WKBW’s Joe Buscaglia and The Athletic’s Matthew Fairburn – their latest posted on Sunday was a doozy. While their analysis of the quarterback battle was very interesting, the subject of social media fan reactions to Josh Allen (and others) captivated my attention.
Buscaglia and Fairburn pleaded for fans to take a deep breath and let the process play out as far as how Josh Allen will fare in the NFL. They pondered reasons why people seem to react with such vitriol on social media, particularly Twitter, when it comes to the subject of whether Josh Allen will succeed as an NFL quarterback.
Every play in practice, every utterance made by Allen seems to be either excessively praised or criticized by fans. It’s standard fare to hotly debate the potential of any rookie quarterback, especially this year’s draft class. However, this particular quarterback saw extreme polarity of opinion throughout the pre-draft process.
What is it about Josh Allen that causes Bills fans to go into a spasm defending their point of view about him on social media?
Being nearly a 30-year resident of Wyoming and native Western New Yorker puts me in a unique position to debate the fate of this young man as a quarterback for the Buffalo Bills. Naturally, I followed his college career with great interest, but I was far from convinced the Bills would even draft him. Given a draft class loaded with quarterback talent, it was too hard to predict the probability the Bills would select Allen, or even if he would be available to them.
What was clear before the draft were the significant number of Bills fans on social media who decided they wanted no part of the Bills drafting Josh Allen. It got so crazy even former WGR-550 producer Ryan Gates promised (and followed through) to quit his job if the Bills drafted Allen. Wow.
The polarity of opinion about Allen’s potential by national scouts and media throughout the pre-draft process fueled a significant level of hostility on social media. The negativity about Allen was magnified by his “lower class” status as a quarterback from the University of Wyoming, not exactly known as a great producer of NFL talent.
Fittingly, social media is a ripe environment for gas-lighting the ‘piling-on’ effect. The hate-fest was on. The reaction when the Bills drafted Allen was swift and merciless. It also didn’t help to have last minute revelations of past insensitive tweets rear their ugly head the day before the draft.
Having a sizable portion of Bills fans spilling their hostility all over social media about Allen before the draft created a conundrum when their worst fear was realized. Their beloved team just drafted the one quarterback they loved to hate for any number of reasons. Their credibility on social media was now going to be tested in a way they may not have anticipated.
What if Josh Allen turns out to be a good or even great NFL quarterback?
Will fans who trashed him mercilessly recant their positions if Allen turns out to be the franchise quarterback the Bills have been searching for since Jim Kelly retired? I’m fairly certain if he turns out to be a bust I’ll hear the “I told you so” choir all the way to Wyoming.
I believe the biggest reason fans are overreacting to every piece of minutia reported about Allen has to do with the level of emotional investment people made in formulating an opinion about him before the draft. Those who did not want the Bills to draft him will cling to any shred of evidence of his impending failure. Instead of taking a measured wait-and-see approach, there’s a pressing need to get the answer to the question about Josh Allen’s potential solved RIGHT NOW.
There’s little doubt social media contributes to this need for instant gratification. The problem is you can’t rush the process and only time will tell which side of the equation will be right about Allen.
I believe Joe Buscaglia and Matthew Fairburn were wise with their recommendation for Bills fans to take a deep breath and enjoy watching how Allen progresses with his development. I get it though –patience isn’t easy (and rightfully so) for our fan base.
The good news is the answer will eventually reveal itself one way or another soon enough. When it does, you can be sure the “I told you so” crowd will be out in full force no matter what side of the Allen ‘fence’ you are on.
Editor’s babble: Those who follow my Twitter feed know I’ve walked a fine line since the beginning of this ‘Allen debate’. I’m encouraged by what I’ve seen so far from Allen and am looking forward to watching him next week at training camp. You can find me on Twitter @RobynMundyWYO.