Buffalo Bills Make Right Decision to Start Nathan Peterman in Week One
Allow me to make a prediction: The Buffalo Bills will get smoked in the season opener Sunday against the Ravens, and fans will be screaming from the rooftops about the decision to begin the season with Nathan Peterman as the No. 1 quarterback.
Just know that once the variables were added up, it was one of the easier calls Bills coach Sean McDermott will make all year. Easy decisions are usually the right ones even when the result – such as the score in Sunday’s game at M&T Bank Stadium – suggests otherwise.
Peterman was the wise choice for numerous reasons, starting with the fact that he outplayed Josh Allen and since-traded AJ McCarron by an reasonable measure during training camp. He made better decisions, was more accurate and was the most consistent among the three - by a mile. That, alone, should be enough.
McDermott says it all the time, almost as much as he spews out the word “process”: Teams earn the right to win. Players earn the right to get on the field. If the head coach wants players embracing his mantra, he better damned well back up his words.
And that’s what he did.
The Bills are an NFL team, not a training ground for a highly touted prospect. Winning should always be the primary goal. Buffalo has almost no chance of winning the Super Bowl, and McDermott knows as much, but they should be doing everything in their power to win until it's obvious that they're not winning enough.
Peterman gives them the best chance to win now, in part because Allen is nowhere near ready now. It’s not a crime for a rookie quarterback to need more time. He’s making a massive leap from the Mountain West Conference. Baltimore was sixth last season in yards allowed and second in takeaways.
We’re not talking about Boise State.
Allen possesses all the physical tools to become a successful NFL quarterback. It’s undeniable. He’s a bigger guy with a bigger arm and – the Bills think, they hope – far greater upside than Peterman. Ideally, he would have played better than Peterman and proved he was ready to take over an NFL offense.
But that wasn’t the case. The decision to start Peterman doesn’t mean the Bills believe more in him than they do Allen. It simply means they believe Peterman is more equipped to lead the offense now, this week against the Ravens. It coincides with any rationale opinion.
In the preseason, Peterman completed 80.5 percent of his passes for 432 yards, three touchdowns and an interception that wasn’t his fault. Allen completed 54.5 percent of his passes for two touchdowns and no picks. Allen’s completion percentage, supposedly a problem coming out of college, was about the same in three exhibition games for the Bills as it was in two-plus seasons at Wyoming.
Peterman averaged more than twice the yards per attempt (10.5) than Allen (4.8) under similar conditions. Peterman had two advantages: He played big-time college football at Tennessee and Pitt, and he had a full season to adjust to the NFL.
Of course, Bills fans are clamoring for the rookie because he’s all shiny and new and full of potential. You’ll hear people say Buffalo should start Allen right away because it will accelerate his development and bring him that much closer to becoming a full-time starter.
The idea that Allen should play because he was selected seventh overall, and other teams play rookie quarterbacks right away, is nonsense. You’re either ready to play with the big boys or you’re not. Peterman's readiness exceeds that of Allen at this stage -- and it should.
Buffalo’s offensive line was godawful in the preseason, but the decision wasn't based on keeping one player healthy over another. McDermott isn’t trying to expose Peterman to injury any more than he’s trying to shield Allen.
Peterman has a better chance of staying upright for the same reasons that make him a better quarterback going into Week One: He’s better than Allen when it comes to reading defenses, making quick and smart decisions and delivering the ball to his receivers in a timely manner.
Even Allen acknowledged that he held the ball for too long in his first – and only – game against a first-team defense. He was sacked five times and had his head slammed to the turf against Cincinnati. He struggled because the O-line was trampled, yes, but also because he spent too much time looking for open receivers.
The Bills are looking to slow the game down in Allen’s head before throwing him on the field and hoping for the best. The last thing they should do is send him out there before he’s ready. It would speed up the game. All quarterbacks make poor decisions under duress, but it's especially true for ill-prepared rookies.
Anyway, when did improving in practice, watching games from the sidelines and learning from others become a bad idea? What happened to winning a spot in the lineup and earning respect from teammates who want to know their team is giving them the best chance to win?
The Bills play five of their first seven games on the road, which makes for terrible conditions for any quarterback. So before you start complaining about the Bills playing Peterman, understand that the alternative, Allen, likely would be worse. It’s why he didn’t start in the first place.
Peterman just might win.