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Is Our Culture Changing?

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As we discussed yesterday, the Bills decided to sit a QB who, despite a couple of rough games, had done fairly well given a striking lack of talent to work with. (Mina Kimes’s excellent profile of Taylor is more relevant than ever.) The reviews from people who observed how stupid this was ex ante are in! Barnwell:

No hindsight is required to tell you that Bills coach Sean McDermott made an incoherently shortsighted decision to bench his starting quarterback after an ugly 56-yard performance against the Saints in Week 10. The arguments for benching Taylor were flimsy and predicated upon false pretenses. McDermott reportedly conducted a “long study of their offense” to find that they had too many three-and-outs, which had more to do with leaving Taylor with the league’s third-most yards to go for third downs as it did with his conversion rate, which was ninth in the NFL at the time of his benching. Taylor also supposedly missed open receivers in the flow of the offense, which is true of every quarterback in the league and would be reflected in his impressive statistics if it were truly a hindrance. (And these were the best of what were admittedly some truly bad arguments.)

The underlying issue is that the Bills brought in a new coaching staff and decided that it was more important to mold Taylor to new offensive coordinator Rick Dennison’s scheme than it was to mold their offense around Taylor’s skills, which seems bizarre given that Dennison is likely making less than $2 million and Taylor is taking home $14.5 million this season.

It also was weird to see the Bills make a change at quarterback despite the fact that they were still in the thick of a playoff race at 5-4. While it’s their prerogative to move on from the 28-year-old Taylor if they believe he doesn’t represent their quarterback of the future, Buffalo still had around a 25 percent chance of making the playoffs in a wide-open AFC before the move after Week 10.

Even weirder, they were benching Taylor to evaluate a rookie fifth-round pick in Nathan Peterman. The track record for late-round picks as rookies is remarkably brutal; since 1990, fifth-rounders like Peterman had combined to complete just 50.6 percent of their passes as rookies, averaging 5.5 yards per attempt while tossing up more interceptions (36) than touchdowns (28). Peterman had thrown for 79 yards and a touchdown while down by multiple scores against the Saints in Week 10, but there was virtually no data suggesting he would be a superior option to Taylor, even if he did promise to get the ball out quicker and make more aggressive decisions with the football.

You saw what happened. Peterman went 6-of-14 for 66 yards with five interceptions in his first career start. He generated minus-6.96 fantasy points on Sunday, which would be the worst single-game fantasy football performance since Joe Namath in 1976. After insisting that they wanted to evaluate their quarterback of the future for the remainder of the season, Peterman was benched at halftime for Taylor, who looked competent in what amounted to a half of garbage time.

Tanier:

The Bills have a porous offensive line and a pastry-thin receiving corps. One of the only things that kept their offense viable in the first half of the season was Taylor’s ability to avoid pass pressure and make plays on the run. Unfortunately, a coaching staff that was itching to make a quarterback change since the day it took over chose to see only Taylor’s flaws, so it tossed an unready fifth-round pick with C+ NFL attributes on the field to face one of the NFL’s best pass rushes.

Sean McDermott now has a potentially ugly quarterback controversy on his hands, one which will probably end when Taylor reclaims the starting job without comment like an ultra-professional. But the damage to McDermott’s credibility and team morale will be difficult to quantify. McDermott wanted to change the team culture after the circus atmosphere of the Rex Ryan era. But Ryan’s teams never quit as badly as McDermott’s Bills have quit at the ends of two straight games.

What’s fascinating to me about this already legendary debacle is that it encapsulates almost every error bad organizations routinely make, all of which we’ve discussed before: blaming disappointing performance on your best players, getting rid of option A without carefully considering what option B is, putting players in situations they have no chance of succeeding in, judging players based on superficial stereotypes rather than performance, trying to to wedge the players into a system rather than designing the system around the players, playing (in Tanier’s phrase) your guys rather than the best guys. (I know the Bills operate by looking at what Belichick does and doing the opposite, but this is ridiculous.) And the result is that McDermott has ruined the team’s relationship with a skilled QB it’s never surrounded with any talent, destroyed Peterman as a prospect, and immolated his credibility. Well, when he gets fired there is likely to be an opening in Trump’s cabinet.

In other similar news:

  • Brett Hundley threw 36 passes for 6.6 Y/A, 3 picks, no TDs, and 6 sacks. I remember many Packer fans sliding into my @ to assert that Hundley was obviously a better QB than Colin Kaepernick because after all it is unpossible that Mike McCarthy could be wrong like it was two weeks ago. Anyway, as a fan of another NFC team I agree with these Packer fans that Green Bay should keep McCarthy in perpetuity.
  • Former Peyton Manning restroom attendant Adam Gase has a head coaching job largely because of his alleged ability to get strong performances out of Jay Cutler (although in his year with Gase as his coach Jay Cutler had a completely typical Jay Cutler year.) Cutler clearly doesn’t want to play anymore, as he indicated by retiring, but Gase keeps playing him, yesterday getting rewarded with 3 interceptions in 12 attempts before getting hurt. He KNOWS HOW TO WIN THE CLOSE ONES until he doesn’t, though.
  • John Elway is truly a Trump supporter in full. As we discussed yesterday, the Broncos have been to professional football what Coors Light is to beer in large measure because Elway made the disastrous decisions to 1)replace one of the best defensive coaches in NFL history with someone with no track record of success as a defensive coach and 2)start the year with zero QBs with any business being NFL starters on his roster. He’s also had several bad drafts. This has, very predictably, been a disaster. Elway’s response? Calling his players “soft” and firing the offensive coordinator.   “Brock Osweiler is terrible because of Mike McCoy’s playcalling” is about as plausible as “upper-class tax cuts will pay for themselves.”  Accountability is for other people.
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