The league is geared towards the passing game. Teams are always looking for a “franchise” guy. Do you need one to win? Do the Bills have one?
Let me start off by saying that I would consider myself as an “old school” football guy. I love running the ball and playing defense, so needless to say I like the philosophies of the coaches and regime in place. There are a lot of journalists, coaches and fans who believe in the “new school” philosophy. They will convince you that in order to win you have to have that premier passing quarterback. I am not going to totally discount that, because there is some truth to that. You need a capable passing QB in this league, but premier? I don’t subscribe to that thinking. “New school” fans believe that running the ball as the primary weapon is out-dated. It is true that in todays NFL you have to be able to pass, the game is absolutely geared towards that and scoring. That keeps the casual fans coming back and ratings up. But I personally enjoy a smash mouth, defense and low scoring affair, I know I am in the minority. So then I ask, if this is a passing league why do the Bills want to be a run heavy offense? Is Tyrod a guy that can succeed in the league as a passer? Given the schemes in place, do the Bills need a “franchise” guy to win? It seems like opinions on those topics change as each game passes, so where do the Bills stand long term?
When we began the 2015 season, the Bills’ identity was a run first approach. The Bills didn’t have a quarterback that had shown the capacity to carry the team by passing. General Manager Doug Whaley was even quoted saying the Bills were in “quarterback purgatory”. So running the ball, shortening the game and controlling the clock was a smart approach. That was the approach that Doug Whaley learned in Pittsburgh, and they executed it with Big Ben during his development. The approach meshed well with Rex Ryan and Greg Roman’s philosophy also. The defense was expected to carry this team, which we all know after the first month was not going to happen. That is the other part of the run first formula, you have to have a good defense. But we weren’t this year, so should we have opened up the offense? Should the Bills have given Taylor more opportunities to pass? Is Greg Roman really holding us back as a play-caller? I don’t believe so, you want to minimize mistakes and by doing that you minimize the opportunities to make those mistakes. So, you run the ball A LOT and play defense.
A lot of people believe that the smash mouth philosophy is dead. Many believe that it is an archaic approach to the game, I am not one of those believers. Here is why… Lets look at the top 10 and bottom 10 rushing teams this year. It is overly simplified, I know, but my opinion is that being a run first team leads to success (wins).
When you look at this graph it is blatantly obvious that the teams that run the ball the most have the edge in winning percentage. Buffalo is one of those teams that heavily leans on the run. But this formula is nothing new right? Not at all, but how many “franchise” Quarterbacks do you see on the top ten rushing teams in the league? I see two, Carson Palmer and Cam Newton. I see one debatable QB in Russell Wilson. Now look at the win percentage of the bottom 10 teams, how many franchise guys do you see? I see two bonafide “franchise” guys in Brady and Flacco, one wait and see guy in Derek Carr who in my opinion will be a “franchise” guy, but the rest meh.
Although the league is geared towards passing and everyone wants to find their “franchise” guy I think that it has been proven that you don’t need that caliber of a player. The Buffalo media continues to say keep drafting QBs until you find a “franchise” guy or sign free agents until you hit. That is one school of thought and it is neither right or wrong. But you still would have to probably develop him right? Even “franchise” guys like Luck still need to be developed right? Your typical “franchise” guys aren’t usually available in free agency that often. Now if Brees becomes available, absolutely sign him and continue to develop Tyrod. But I think finding the “franchise” guy is a little overblown. You don’t need that guy to win or to get into the playoffs. Winning consistently and making the playoffs should be the first set of goals for this Bills franchise. I say that because we need to temper our expectations a bit. This year will be the 16th year that we haven’t made the playoffs, so in my opinion that is first long term goal. The Super Bowl is a whole different story, getting there doesn’t just happen over night. It is usually a progression towards it. So for the sake of argument, what do we need to do in order to make the playoffs? You do need a capable passer, no doubt about that. You need a guy that convert and extend drives with his arm. Is Tyrod Taylor a franchise guy? I think it is too early to say that, and I know there will be varying opinions. But is Tyrod good enough to get the Bills into the big tourney? Absolutely! Why do I believe that? Greg Roman’s scheme and just look at the teams who are considered pass first teams and the results.
This year the top passing teams have a combined record of 68-82 with a winning percentage of 45%. How many “franchise” guys are in that top 10 passing category? Personally, I would say 6; Rivers, Brees, Flacco, Brady, Eli Manning and Luck (who has been injured). A couple debatable QBs like Matt Ryan and Stafford, but I will leave them on the outside. The teams in the bottom 10 in passing attempts are 82-68 with a winning percentage of 55%. Of those teams how many “franchise” guys do you see? I see one, Cam Newton and two debatable in Russell Wilson and Andy Dalton (I don’t think he is a franchise guy) and a few guys too young to know yet in Winston, and Bridgewater. So do you really need a “franchise” guy to win, to get into the playoffs? I don’t believe so.
So I’ll ask again is Taylor a “franchise” guy? Do the Bills given the schemes in place need a “franchise” guy to win? I don’t believe so, they need a guy that can pass and convert when needed. They are a run heavy team that calls upon a passer to extend drives and score when given the opportunities. Key word opportunities, Taylor has missed his fair share of reads and throws that could have changed drives/games. Taylor does need to improve as a passer, but that is part of the development process. For example look at the depth of his throws and where he needs to improve.
Courtesy of Pro Football Focus
You can see in the chart that Taylor needs to improve in medium distance throws. Areas that when as an offense, you are backed up because of penalties or because the defense has forced you into medium down and distances.
But overall, he is right where he needs to be in his development. Let’s look at similar stature guys who have had success in the league, and how their stats measure up to Taylor’s.
I know the game has changed a lot over the years but attempts are what I want to look at. When teams passed heavily with a similar stature QB like Taylor they were less likely to make the playoffs. Again, I know there is more to the game than just these stats and I know that Taylor doesn’t really resemble or have the same traits as some of these Super Bowl winning QBs. But the question is, is he good enough to win? Yes! Four out of six (Taylor not included) of those Quarterback’s teams were in the top 12 in rushing attempts. Of the four, Romo’s Cowboys were ranked 12th in rushing attempts but the other three teams were in the top ten. Two were ranked #1, So Tyrod Taylor is right where he needs to be in the development process, and in a good system too. He is on a team that runs the ball well and minimizes the opportunities for mistakes. He is a perfect match for Greg Roman and Rex Ryan and with time he may blossom into a “franchise” guy but only time will tell.
With one game left in the 2015 season, the Bills currently are at 7-8 with a chance to finish at .500 this coming weekend. How do I feel about the future of this team? I feel just fine. We have an offensive coordinator and head coach that want to run the ball to win. A recipe that more times than not lead to wins and into the playoffs. Now, it didn’t this year because of the defense, no doubt about that. But they have a general manager that shares the same beliefs on offense and has an eye for defensive talent. Can Rex Ryan get the defense on track in order to get Tyrod Taylor and this franchise winning consistently? All of the talk about whether or not Tyrod is a “franchise” guy means nothing in my eyes. Can we win with him as a starter? I believe so, most of the parts are there. He will develop enough to win. The scheme, weapons, scouting department and the ownership are there. The recipe was there offensively, but the defense was not up to the task, this year.