For some NFL head coaches, their tenures are marked with the borderline insane insistence that they stick to the plan. Typically, the kind of person ego-driven enough to rise in the combative, political world of coaching are also the ones who don’t like to admit they’re wrong. Add this notion into the fiery mess that is NFL fandom, where we pounce on any sign of weakness, and it’s often times a recipe for disaster.
Bills head coach Sean McDermott said on Tuesday that he was “still evaluating” whether to start rookie QB Nathan Peterman—who chucked five interceptions before being benched against the Chargers on Sunday—or Pro Bowl QB Tyrod Taylor, which opened up the flood gates of criticism. He seemed like the same kind of stubborn man pinballing through a dark second half of the season just to show he won’t back down. We’ve seen this movie before, whether it was called We’re sticking with Gabbert! or You know, we saw some good things out of Sanchez!
Imagine the world where a coach would be forced into making quite possibly the worst tactical decision of the season.
Common sense prevailed, though, a little before 10 a.m. on the day before Thanksgiving. The Bills will stick with Taylor, as they always should have. McDermott told reporters that he just has to “do his job” in order to keep it. Vagueness aside, it should be considered a victory for Bills fans who still hope to keep their 23.7% chance of reaching the playoffs (according to Football Outsiders) alive.
The flip back to Taylor reminded me of something Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said on Monday night after attempting an egregious, no-win fake field goal at the end of the first half that ended up having major ramifications on the final score: “Good call, if we made it.”
It’s the forever trump card coaches have in their back pocket. What if it worked out? Would you still be questioning me then? They’re the ones at practice. They’re the ones in meetings. They’re the ones making millions of dollars analyzing their opponents. Their decisions are informed.
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But aside from a painfully stubborn sect of Buffalo’s fan base intent on chasing Taylor—the best quarterback the franchise has had since Drew Bledsoe—out of town, who didn’t wonder if it was a bad idea to give Peterman his first start on the road against the league’s most productive tandem of edge-crashing pass rushers?
I’ve always wondered what a little humility injected into a coach’s decision-making process would sound like—perhaps a mixture of Mike Leach and Jeff Foxworthy. It’s understandable that McDermott had to draw out the decision and praise Peterman in order to keep his confidence up in case the Bills need to pivot back to him at some point. But let’s recognize how we’ve all helped create a place where coaches can’t just say Woah, OK, my bad. Apparently, that’s not what tough, measured leaders do. This is the past, present and future of quarterback changes in the NFL. At least this time, the right guy gets to play on Sunday.