Sully: Starting Anybody But Nathan Peterman Was Bills' Only Sensible Decision


Bills head coach Sean McDermott made the right move, the only sensible move, when he announced on Wednesday that he was turning to veteran Derek Anderson as his starting quarterback for Sunday’s game at the Colts in Indianapolis.

It would not have been entirely shocking if McDermott had gone with Nathan Peterman. McDermott has an obvious, some might say obsessive, affinity for Peterman. Starting against a Colts team that has allowed 30 points a game, he might have played a complete game for the first time, done well, and justified his coach’s faith in him.

Anderson has been with the team for only eight days. He’s not in top shape and hasn’t had a lot of time to familiarize himself with the playbook. In ideal circumstances, he would sit another week and let Peterman get the call at Indy with Josh Allen sidelined by a sprained elbow.

But McDermott really had no choice. His Peterman experiment has blown up his face three times. There were reports that he risked losing the locker room if he went back to him again as the starter after Peterman’s pick six cost the Bills a game in Houston.

I don’t doubt the reports about a possible insurrection in the locker room. The Buffalo defense has been as good as any in the NFL the last four weeks. They’d be 3-3 today and one game out of first in the division with any kind of competent quarterback play. The defensive players have been good soldiers, hewing to the company line and refusing to criticize the offense publicly. But they had to be seething after that loss to the Texans.

They ought to be resentful toward management for failing to put an adequate offense on the field this season, one that could complement a rising D and make the Bills a legitimate, if outside, playoff contender. But the Peterman issue takes it to an altogether different level. Starting him again would have been an affront to the entire team.

Peterman has played seven NFL games, counting the end of last year’s playoff loss in Jacksonville. He has started three. He had attempted 82 passes with 10 interceptions. That’s an interception percentage of 12.2 percent.

Drew Brees could throw interceptions on his next 1,000 passes and his career interception rate would still be only 11.4 percent, less than Peterman’s. They’re having these discussions nationally. Once again, the Bills are a laughingstock.

So McDermott knew he had to go with Anderson. It’s not as if Anderson is some savior. He was on vacation when the Bills signed him. It sounds as if he was happy in retirement at 35 after spending seven years in Carolina as Cam Newton’s backup.

Anderson started four games in seven years. If five of those seasons, he didn’t throw more than eight passes all year. He has a career completion percentage of 54.1, the second-lowest of any quarterback who appeared in an NFL game after 2000. Rick Mirer, who was done in 2003, is last during that period at 53.3.

McDermott was asked if he was worried about losing his locker room, and he didn’t exactly deny it.

"I certainly trust and have a heck of a lot of respect for our locker room," McDermott said Wednesday. "So with that, I'm always going to do what I feel is right for the football team."

So it appears Anderson will be the guy, for better or worse, until Allen returns from his elbow injury. Allen got a second opinion from noted orthopedic surgeon James Andrews. McDermott said there’s no plan for surgery.

“The diagnosis was the same as the first opinion," McDermott said. “Everybody is on the same page with what it is and how we need to move forward. We'll be cautious and calculated with that."

McDermott said his trainers are fine with Anderson's physical condition after he spent the entire offseason out of football. We’ll find out. Anderson could be at more risk of injury than a quarterback who had worked out all offseason and been part of an NFL team during training camp and the first six weeks of the regular season.

This underscores the folly of the Bills trading AJ McCarron, who was expected to be the veteran part of the QB triad, before the start of the regular season. The Bills dragged their feet on finding a veteran replacement, even after Peterman had another disastrous outing in the opener and McDermott had to make Allen the starter earlier than planned.

McDermott continues to say he does “what’s best” for the football team. You wouldn’t know it by the cavalier attitude he and general manager Brandon Beane took with the backup quarterback position. How was that the best thing for the football team, men?