Josh Allen A-Okay in Buffalo, Bills Wisely Ignored Self-Proclaimed Experts
Josh Allen was an outlier.
The Buffalo Bills first-round draft choice last summer, the former Wyoming quarterback was the outlier. There was nothing prototypical about him. He may have been the seventh choice overall, but the critics had him No. 1 on the list for the next first-round flop.
Just like he did when he came out of high school, and not only would Fresno State not even welcome him as a walk-on, and Wyoming was the only school that even returned his email after Allen spent a year at a junior college, Allen proved the doubters wrong.
As the Bills cleaned out their lockers in the aftermath of a 6-10 season, there was excitement about what lies ahead for the team. The focal point is Allen, who did struggle in his initial starts, but came back after a five-week recovery from an elbow injury, and put his stamp on the season, leading the Bills to five wins in his 11 starts.
As Casey Stengel said when the expansion Mets selected catcher Hobie Landrith with the first pick of the NL expansion draft prior to the 1962 season, “You gotta have a catcher or you’re gonna have a lot of passed balls.”
Well, you gotta have a quarterback or you’re gonna have a lot of bad snaps.
“It’s always tough going into the offseason,” said veteran safety Jordan Poyer, “But with an established guy at quarterback with Josh, just giving so much energy to this city, to this organization, everything that’s done.”
The Bills are the Wyoming of the NFL. Buffalo’s the ultimate blue-collar city, tabbed by the elitist snobs as, “The Mistake on the Lake.”
The fan base is old-school tough, the least bit concerned about a challenging winter weather, much like Cowboys fans. It’s a fan base always looking for that reason to get excited. And much like Allen brought a sense of pride and accomplishment to Cowboy fans, he has created that feeling of good things to come to Buffalo.
“I think everybody in this building, I even talked to the ladies upstairs in the cafeteria, everybody’s excited for what’s to come,” said safety Micah Hyde. “What we went through on offense this year, it’s only going to make our team a lot better, with the quarterback situation going on. Late in the season, they found their identity. They’ve got some pieces they can worked around.
“I’m excited for them. It’s going to suck going against Josh in training camp next year. He’s going to be a totally different player. He’s going to be better than what he was finishing the season. From year one to year two, I’m excited to see what he’s able to do.”
It was an interesting season for Allen. He was panned big time by the national media and the NFL “experts.” The Bills wanted to bring him along slowly, but he was taking the snaps as the starter by the second game of the regular season.
The transformation of Allen is as obvious as the fact that in six games, five starts, before his injury he completed 75 of 139 passes for 932 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 155 yards and three touchdowns. After spending five weeks recovering from the elbow injury – four games and an off week – he returned to start the final six games, in which he passed for 1,142 yards and eight touchdowns, rushing for 476 yards and five touchdowns.
He finished as the only quarterback to lead the Bills in rushing yardage (631), equaling the franchise record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback (eight) set by Frank Ryan in 1963, and the second-best rushing touchdown total in the NFL during the Super Bowl era.
“I wish we would still be playing right now,” Allen said. “I feel like we just started to find our groove as an offense, and that’s where the excitement for the next several months comes from. I’m super excited. I’m eager to get back. It’s been one day, and it’s been too long.”
A critical part in Allen’s development was the in-season moves made by the Bills to bring in veteran quarterbacks who understood their role was to develop Allen. First came the signing of 35-year-old Derek Anderson, who has 14 years NFL experience, and then, after Anderson and Allen were both injured, Matt Bradley, 28, was signed for his sixth NFL season.
How did they fit with Allen? Well, both already are re-signed for next year. Allen welcomed the return of both.
“Consistency is the key, especially in this league,” said Allen. “Being able to have the same terminology, the same playbook, the same guys around you, that increased trust, it increases the knowledge you have within the system, allow you to go out there and not think about it too much, just play the game.”
Now comes the off-season, a time for Allen to work on getting even better for his return in 2019.
And the Bills execs are excited about what that will bring.
“I know who he is, and he is not complacent,” said Buffalo general manager Brandon Beane. “The guy is competitive. He wants to get better. He wants to be the best at his craft. He’s got a really good play for the offseason, to come back bigger, strong, faster and even mentally stronger.”
Allen knows there is work to be done.
“It wasn’t great,” he said of his rookie season. “It wasn’t terrible, but I did enjoy it and I love the game of football.”
And the Bills, from the front office to the locker room, and fans of the Bills love the future they envision thanks to the arrival of Josh Allen.