Tyrod Taylor never really had a chance.
Over his first three seasons as an NFL starter, he threw 47 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions. His average quarterback rating of 93.5—about six points lower than Russell Wilson’s career QBR—earned him a Pro Bowl nod in 2015. His “weapons” consisted of an oft-injured Sammy Watkins, a pre-retirement Percy Harvin, Robert Woods and tight end Charles Clay. Clay was one of Taylor’s only consistent deep threat, but was injured for part of this season.
The Bills benched him on Wednesday for rookie fifth-round pick Nathan Peterman. The decision came less than a week after Buffalo dropped its second straight—a 47–10 loss to the New Orleans Saints in which Buffalo’s defense surrendered 298 rushing yards and kept the Saints on the field for a staggering 41 minutes and 23 seconds.
Taylor, Pro Football Focus’ ninth rated quarterback (ahead of Matthew Stafford, Dak Prescott, Derek Carr and Ben Roethlisberger this season) and ESPN’s 19th-best by Total Quarterback Rating (ahead of Jay Cutler, Joe Flacco, Philip Rivers and Josh McCown), currently has a career-high 64.2 completion percentage and is on pace for roughly the same 20-touchdown, six-interception season he had in 2015.
The good news for the 28-year-old Taylor is that he will almost certainly enter into a ho-hum veteran quarterback market in free agency this offseason. There’s a good chance he’s starting for another team (potentially in his own division) at this time next year. The bad news is that Wednesday crystallized a notion that had to be in the back of his mind for at least a year now: This was bound to fail from the beginning. Being handed the keys to a Rex Ryan philosophized offense has been the definition of quarterback hell. There were coordinator changes, an organizational tug of war intent on promoting E.J. Manuel and a middling defense at best over the first two seasons, which negated the strength of a run-first system.
The Bills, currently the sixth seed in the AFC playoff race, are starting a rookie quarterback for the first time against quite possibly the best tandem of rush defensive ends in football this year. Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram have 18 combined sacks over nine games.
“When you transition quarterbacks, I don't know if there's ever a right time,” Bills head coach Sean McDermott told reporters Wednesday, via ESPN.com. “You know me well enough now to know that I make very few decisions from a knee-jerk standpoint. This was methodical. I took my time on this and I make every decision in the best interest of the football team, bar none.”
For his part, Taylor said he was shocked but will continue to be a leader and support the team.
Taylor was never going to work in Buffalo, but not for lack of effort on his part. The satisfaction will have to come in succeeding elsewhere, in an offense that rewards his measured mobility and decision-making. Until then, all eyes will be on the Bills and this puzzling—but ultimately predictable—gamble with a playoff spot on the line.