In what can easily be described as the greatest ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ season in franchise history we return from the bye week with more questions than answers about this Buffalo Bills football team. How is it even possible a 3-7 team has the highest ranked defense in the NFL?
The simple answer is it can happen when the Bills offense is so incredibly inept they run the defense into the ground every week. This Bills’ offense is the textbook definition of bipolar… unable to score touchdowns for weeks on end, followed by dropping a forty-burger on the Jets at their house – with a quarterback who had been on the roster for less than two weeks.
The bye week was needed as much for fans as it was for weary players. The emotional roller coaster has been a wild ride to week 10 and it’s anybody’s guess what will happen when Josh Allen (likely) returns to grind out the last six games of a truly strange season.
What will we see from Josh Allen after hitting the pause button on his season for a few weeks? Forget about all the “blessing in disguise” platitudes put out to the media by Allen during his recovery from an elbow injury. He is likely rabid to get back on the field and resume creating his legacy in Buffalo.
So what exactly happens when a young player has the opportunity to sit back and learn for a few weeks in the middle of their rookie season as a franchise quarterback in the NFL?
It cannot be overstated how much greater a leap to the NFL it is for Allen than the rest of his rookie peers hailing from big-time college programs. The leap from playing at Laramie, Wyoming to the NFL is frankly unimaginable for most. Having lived in Wyoming for nearly three decades, I completely get why there is a cataclysmic culture shift for this young man in particular.
Josh Allen is also grew up in a rural setting, so going to Laramie was a natural fit for his lifestyle. He mentioned several times this season feeling blessed to be drafted by Buffalo, a city much more to his liking in terms of size. However, it’s still a leap to the NFL from a small-town college program that makes his mountain a lot harder to climb than Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold, Lamar Jackson, or Baker Mayfield at this point.
Once any season starts in the NFL, it rolls like a non-stop flight to your destination; playoffs or another lost year. Bills fans are rightfully sick of two lost decades and react like cats on a hot tin roof to any sign of failure on the part of our latest hope for redemption at quarterback since Jim Kelly retired.
Allen has a lot on his plate.
Hitting the pause button could prove to contribute more to Allen’s mental maturity at the position than the experience he would have gained if the injury hadn’t happened. Cognitive development benefits from periodic pauses because it allows time for the brain to properly process the mountain of new information one must absorb as a rookie quarterback in the NFL.
This mental maturity is exactly why Tom Brady can still play football at a very high level in the NFL. His accumulated wisdom is much greater than the physical decline in his performance at this juncture.
Imagine doing nothing but studying weeks for the most important exam of your life without a break and it’s the night before the exam. You’re flat out mentally exhausted and feel like you can’t look at one more iota of information and stressed to the max. That’s how I imagine every week is in the NFL trying to prepare for a game as a rookie quarterback.
Josh Allen is like a student in that situation who just found out the exam was postponed for four weeks. You metaphorically fall into a chair and let your brain rest. Rigorous mental work is every bit as exhausting and stressful as physical labor, arguably more so in some respects.
And here’s where things get ‘squishy’ again in terms of ‘intangibles’.
What value can be placed on giving a young quarterback a few weeks time during his rookie year to allow his brain to assimilate and synthesize wisdom from experience?
Stay tuned because we’re about to find out what a few weeks of mental rest can do for Josh Allen.
If Allen struggles on Sunday against the Jaguars, it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s not maturing. He will be rusty and need to time to get back into the flow of the game. However, don’t be surprised if we see a guy who’s beginning to read defenses better and seems more comfortable in the pocket.
Mental health days are for real.
Editor’s babble: Bye weeks are such a blessing. And right before Thanksgiving couldn’t be a better time. It’s anybody’s guess what will happen on Sunday against the Jaguars at New Era Field. But I’m glad to have had a week off to rest my own aging brain. You can find me on Twitter @RobynMundyWYO.