The Best Laid Plans? QB options for 2017 and Beyond


The great debate in Buffalo for the early portion of 2017 is over whether the Bills should keep Tyrod Taylor. Currently, his option sets the deadline at the first few days of the league year. The beauty of this debate is that its solution depends on your goals. What are your goals for the Buffalo Bills? Is it to end the drought, that wretched evil hanging over all of our heads for 17 years? Is it to focus on the next 2 years and going as far as you can now? Or do you want to build for the future and win the Super Bowl years from now, while potentially risking short term success?


If not Tyrod, then who?


That is the debate all Bills fans are currently having. But no matter what your goal is, this decision will have an impact across all timeframes. If you make a short term move, then it will still have a long term effect, and vice versa. To make the most educated decision, we need to combine all of the potential impacts of a QB move. How will each move impact the short term, the next few years, and the long term?


So, what I will do is break this decision down into categories for simple ease and evaluate their overall impact: Tony Romo, Tyrod Taylor, trade for a QB, 2017 rookie QBs, 2018 rookie QBs, and free agents. I do not include Cardale Jones as a legitimate option in this group, as project QBs like him have such a high probability of not working out. His most likely outcome is starting for 2017 in order to be a part of the 2018 rookie QB discussion.


Quickly, let’s define who is in each group:


Trade for a QB: This group will be defined as Kirk Cousins and Jimmy Garoppolo. They are the two QBs most likely to be traded. Tony Romo will not be included, as he is a unique situation.


2017 Rookie QBs: We will focus on the top 4: Deshone Kizer of Notre Dame, Patrick Mahomes of Texas Tech, Deshaun Watson of Clemson, and Mitch Trubisky of UNC for this, as they would require a sizable investment.


2018 Rookie QBs: Pretty projected, no question, but we will discuss the potential for the QBs currently considered to be at the top of that draft: Josh Rosen of UCLA, Jake Browning of Wyoming, Sam Darnold of USC, and Lamar Jackson of Louisville.


Free Agents: Jay Cutler, Colin Kaepernick, Nick Foles, Mike Glennon, etc. The QBs that are openly available to be signed this March.


We will rank each of these options for the Buffalo Bills based on their chances of success for 2017, 2017-2019, and the long term (4 years plus). These scores will be combined to come up with a best overall move for the Buffalo Bills to make regarding their QB in 2017 and its impact in both the short term and long term. Analysis of the categories and rankings will follow the chart. The chart will be sorted as follows: a rank of 1 is the highest possible rank, while a rank of 6 is the lowest.


2017 Success 2017-2019 Long Term Best Overall (AVG)
Tony Romo 1 1 4 2.0
2017 Rookies 4 2 2 2.67
2018 Rookies 6 3 1 3.33
Tyrod Taylor 2 4 5 3.67
Free Agents 5 5 3 4.33
Trade for QB 3 6 6 5.33



Now again, goals are very important here. Defining what your goal is factors into how you make your decisions. If you are strictly focusing on short term thinking, pay attention to the first two columns of the chart. If you want a long term decision, the 3rd column is where you should focus. The best overall move, combining all potential impacts at all levels, is what I believe all fans should focus on.


Tony Romo: Romo is being reported as saying he would like to play 2-3 more seasons. That fits our 2017-2019 timeline perfectly. He is simply the best choice out of any QB available currently. If healthy (yes, it is a big question), he is the only QB available that is a true Super Bowl caliber QB, by far. The health is a concern, but he currently is considered healthy, and he looked like vintage Romo in his very brief action this season. If the Bills get that for 2-3 seasons, then they have legit Super Bowl aspirations. Also, for the long term, he actually has an okay impact. Here’s why: When you lose him, it will be to retirement. Thus, you immediately go to the bottom and position yourself to find a good replacement. That is important in this discussion, as being stuck in the middle is the WORST THING FOR YOUR FRANCHISE (more on that in a bit), as Bills fans know well. Romo prevents that. Now, this is an unlikely option. It is one you should strive for, but one that is probably not going to come to Buffalo.


2017 Rookies: This is the most realistic and appealing option for the overall choice. While the 2017 NFL Draft QB class is not considered “strong,” it is better than people seem to give it credit for. I personally believe 2 QBs will come out of this class and be very good: Deshone Kizer and Patrick Mahomes. Deshaun Watson I believe will end up being on Tyrod Taylor’s level of play. Regardless of whether you agree with those statements, the idea that none are certain is appealing to a team that currently has a cap with its QB. If you invest in one of these players, then they may struggle early on, but they also have the chance to be much better than what you currently have. There is not a true ceiling with these players, as they each have a chance to be truly great. That’s their appeal. Because of their lower stock around the league, you may have options with your 10th pick, as well. This may work to your advantage in selecting the QB you prefer. On top of that, by selecting them, you have them under your control cheaply for 5 seasons (through 2021). This is a huge advantage, and you will potentially get similar or better production from these players without the large cost. If you are trying to max out your winning in 2017, this is probably not the option for you. However, this seems to be the best path to take for the Bills moving forward.


2018 Rookies: This is a very risky option, no doubt. It comes in at 3rd on the list of options overall, as the potential reward may outweigh the risk. The 2018 class is shaping up to be an excellent one, as there are multiple players billed to be at the top and be excellent. Darnold, Rosen, Browning, and Jackson, in that order, currently intrigue me the most. This truly is a “long term” thinking type of option. In order to get this to work, you would need to get to the top of the draft. This requires having a terrible 2017 season. Sacrificing 2017 to get to 2018 is not something everyone will sign on for. However, the upside is enormous. If you succeed in getting to the top of the draft and selecting one of these potential stars, then you set yourself up to be a true contender for a decade. Add in that by doing this you are most likely starting Cardale Jones in 2017, it may take a bit of risk away. He himself is a high upside prospect. He will either be awful, securing that top selection, or potentially great, solving this problem. Either way, it is no longer pretending to be in the league with a “run game and defense” mentality that all of the numbers consistently refute as the wrong way to build a team. You would be building the right way, statistically speaking. It is definitely a risk. Take a look at this Sports Illustrated mock draft prior to this season.


It’s not even a guarantee these QBs’ play will be worthy of that type of effort. Four QBs projected in round 1, one of which is not in this draft and another that will not go in round 1 for certain. It is amazing how things change, so the risk is high here. If you want to shoot for the Super Bowl long term, this might be where you start.


Tyrod Taylor: The Buffalo Bills’ current starting QB, Taylor is the low risk, medium reward option for the team. He is an above average starting QB, and he will get you for certain to at least 7 wins. Short term within 1-3 years, he could keep this team at pretty good and entertaining impatient Bills fans who have suffered for a long time. However, he has a concrete, lock-it-in ceiling: 10-11 wins and an absolute maximum of a divisional playoff round exit is the best you will do with Tyrod at the helm. To top it off, the cost is immediate. With the previous two options of the draft, you get a QB under your control for 5 seasons at a low cost. With Taylor, immediately the cost is 16 million dollars on the cap for the remainder of his time here. Is his mild reward worth that? I say unequivocally, NO. The goal should be focused on the Super Bowl, not solely being relevant. This option is the equivalent of “playing not to lose.” Hey, at least he won’t lose you games. That is a poor attitude. Play to win, and win big. You cannot win big if you do not try. This is not trying. This is getting you stuck in the middle of the league, statistically a terrible place to try to find a Qb.


By signing up for Tyrod Taylor you are signing up for mediocrity, a guy who beat teams that had a combined 23-51-2 record in 2016 (excluding Jacoby Brissett’s NE). That is not good enough. If you want to stay relevant in the short term, and maybe sneak into the playoffs for short stint, you choose the Tyrod option. If you want to win big, and not sign up to become Washington, Kansas City, or Cincinnati, then this is your worst nightmare.


Free Agents and Trade for QB: These last two will be short and sweet, as neither is a good option. The reason ‘free agents’ gets the nod over ‘trade for a QB’ is due to the long term potential success of a free agent option. This is not because the free agent will be good, but because he will most likely be bad, and may net you that top selection and a choice to take a true franchise guy that trading for a QB won’t. Simply, Jimmy Garoppolo and Kirk Cousins are not good. Not only will their cost, both contract and draft pick wise, be extremely high, but also they just are not good QBs. Cousins has been buoyed by excellent talent around him, making his reputation inflated relative to his actual play. Garoppolo, in his one and a half games, demonstrated the same thing as Cousins. When there is a perfect circumstance, he can make plays. So can 25 other QBs in the league. Trading is the least desirable option available, and by a lot. If it came down to trading or re-signing Tyrod, I am taking Tyrod Taylor every single time, despite his negative long term impact.


While some think more long term in this discussion, and others short term, the goal should be to combine these effects into one overall measure of chance of success. This will balance both goals and give you the best chance at turning the Buffalo Bills franchise into a winner over the next decade. Signing up for a Tyrod option may make you happy with a 9-7 season and a wild card elimination in the short term, but it damages you long term. If this is what you want, then great for you. But you are not winning the Super Bowl with Tyrod Taylor or that formula. If you want to win the Super Bowl and make the Buffalo Bills a legitimately great franchise again, then you’d better get Romo (not likely), or set yourself up to draft a QB high.