Sully: Did Buffalo Bills Blow it on Patrick Mahomes?
Column as I see ‘em, Week 2:
Joe Montana? No. Tom Brady? No. Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Joe Namath, Jim Kelly, Norm Van Brocklin? Negative.
None of those famous quarterbacks accomplished what the Chiefs’ QB Patrick Mahomes did on Sunday against the Steelers: Throw 10 touchdown passes in the first two games of a season.
Mahomes lit up Pittsburgh for six TD throws in a 42-37 win at Heinz Field. In the opener, he threw for four TDs in a 38-28 win at the Chargers. Mahomes has 582 yards passing in two games, averaging 10.58 yards an attempt, and has zero interceptions.
Last season, the Texans’ Deshaun Watson set a rookie record with 19 TD passes in his first seven games before getting hurt.
What do those two young QBs have in common? The Bills passed on both in the 2017 draft, when Sean McDermott was a new and highly empowered head coach and decided to trade the 10th pick to the Chiefs to move back and accumulate more draft capital.
The Chiefs took Mahomes with the 10th pick and sat him behind Alex Smith for a year. Houston took Watson with the 12th pick. The Bills used the 27th pick to take cornerback Tre’Davious White, who had a fine rookie year. Brandon Beane took over as GM and moved up to draft Josh Allen seventh in the ’18 draft.
There’s no telling how it will all work out. But McDermott’s decision to bypass a QB in his first draft — making a predictable call to take a player on his own side of the ball — will follow him around for years. Only time will tell if the Bills blundered by not grabbing their franchise QB a year earlier, rather than maneuver to take their guy in the quarterback-rich 2018 selection meeting.
Allen looked good in his starting debut at New Era on Sunday. He has all the physical tools to succeed. But he will always be compared with the QBs who went in the 2017-18 drafts. Maybe it’s not fair, but it’s an inevitable reality of pro sports. Drafts will be compared and team executives will be judged accordingly, especially at the most important position in the sport.
It’s not just Mahomes and Watson. Allen will be judged against the guys who went in his draft: Baker Mayfield, who is bound to become the starter soon in Cleveland; Sam Darnold, who is off to a terrific start with the Jets; Josh Rosen, who could be starting before long for the Cardinals, who got shut out Sunday; Lamar Jackson, who is waiting behind Joe Flacco in Baltimore.
I wanted the Bills to take Watson in 2017. Like a lot of Buffalo fans and media, I favored Rosen (and Darnold) over Allen in last April’s draft. That doesn’t mean Allen can’t be the best of them all. But the Bills didn’t do him any favors by surrounding him with possibly the worst offensive roster in franchise history.
Two weeks into the season, it’s natural to wonder if the Bills blew it on Mahomes in that ’17 draft. Fans and media were quick to praise the trade with the Chiefs at the time. I pointed out that Andy Reid was the 12th-winningest coach in history and might deserve more benefit of the doubt than McDermott, who had yet to coach his first game.
Reid looks pretty smart right now.
A year ago at this time, I lamented the lack of scoring early in the NFL season, citing a profusion of mediocre quarterbacks, the lack of quality offensive linemen and defenses that seemed to be ahead of the offenses.
Two games into the new season, however, scoring is up eight points a game, a good sign for NFL types who know offense is good for ratings. The early play of Mahomes, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Blake Bortles and other QBs is one factor. But new rules that penalize players for leading with their helmets on tackles, further protecting the QBs, are also responsible for the rise in offense.
Defensive lineman Calais Campbell said as much to NBC’s Peter King after Sunday’s games: “Look at the rules,” Campbell said. “I know the NFL is trying to make the game safer, but the safer they make it, the easier they make it for the offense. Offense makes good TV. The quarterbacks are the rock.”
There was fanciful talk before the season about the Bills secondary perhaps being the best in the league. Let’s pump the brakes on that. Two weeks into the season, you could argue that they’re the worst in the NFL.
After two losses, the Bills are 31st in opposing passer rating (128.7) and 31st in completion percentage (75.4). Joe Flacco and Philip Rivers combined to go 48-for-61 passing for 492 yards, with six touchdowns, no interceptions and three sacks.
The Bills are tied for last with the Lions in points allowed with 78. Granted, the defensive backs aren’t getting much help from the pass rush, which is non-existent, and the linebacking corps, which has been weak in coverage and out position at times.
It won’t get any easier next Sunday at Minnesota. The Vikings’ Kirk Cousins has completed 65.5 percent for 669 yards, with six TDs and one interception. Cousins led the Vikes to 22 points for a 29-29 tie at Green Bay on Sunday. He hit Adam Thielen with a 22-yard TD with 31 seconds left and found Stefon Diggs for the two-point conversion to tie it.
Is He Owned? This week’s featured fantasy player is Green Bay wide receiver Geronimo Allison, who has 11 catches in two games for the Packers. Allison caught a TD pass from Aaron Rodgers to ignite an amazing comeback win over the Bears in the opener and has developed a nice chemistry with the superstar QB.
Allison was an undrafted rookie out of Illinois in 2016. He blocked a punt on Minnesota’s opening possession, which was recovered for a touchdown by defensive back Josh Jackson.
Allison is unowned in both my ESPN fantasy leagues. Jonah Javad, still a thorn in my side from Dallas, owns him in the media league.
Maybe I should have a feature apologizing for bad fantasy advice. I gave some dubious wisdom before Sunday’s game, and making matters worse, it involved my old buddy, Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Fitz threw for 417 yards and four TDs in Tampa Bay’s opening win. I went through the records and found that after Fitzpatrick’s previous 12 300-yard days in the NFL, his yardage had dropped by an average of 160 yards the next week. Avoid him, I said.
So Fitz threw for 402 yards and another four TDs in a 27-21 win over the Eagles. I’m told he has the most fantasy points after two weeks of any QB in the last 15 years. As Blutarsky said when he smashed the guy’s guitar in Animal House, “Sorry.”
Stats Incredible: The Chiefs win was their first in Pittsburgh since 1986 … The Bills’ 31-20 loss to San Diego was their worst home-opening defeat since a 24-6 loss to New Orleans in the first game of the Tom Donahue-Gregg Williams era … Mahomes is the first QB to throw six TDs against the Steelers since Jim Kelly did it in a 52-34 win in the second game of the 1991 season in Buffalo … Sammy Watkins had 100 yards on seven catches and a 31-yard run in the Chiefs’ win over the Steelers. The 131 scrimmage yards were the most for Watkins since he had 154 in the Bills’ 34-31 overtime loss to the Dolphins in Buffalo on Christmas Eve of 2016. That’s also the date of the Browns’ last regular-season win. They beat San Diego … Speaking of the Browns, their kicker, Zane Gonzalez, missed two extra points and two field goals in the last 23 minutes of a loss in New Orleans. I should say “former kicker.” Not surprisingly, Cleveland cut him Monday and signed Greg Joseph to do the kicking …