The Buffalo Bills selected Josh Allen to be their franchise quarterback for years to come. However, playing him immediately will scuttle that dream.
Patience is a virtue, in life and in sports. The Buffalo Bills must rove virtuous this season.
Back in April, general manager Brandon Beane altered the franchise’s course when he selected Josh Allen with the seventh-overall selection. Allen, 22, comes to Buffalo by way of the University of Wyoming, where he tantalized scouts with a mixture of great size (6-foot-5, 237 pounds) and immense arm strength.
The positives, however, are juxtaposed against evident flaws which are headlined by accuracy issues. During his time at Wyoming, Allen completed 56.2 percent of his throws. The problem is a significant one, considering most quarterbacks don’t improve that statistic from college to the pros, but actually regress.
In a column I wrote in March, I detailed why Allen faces a long road toward NFL stardom.
From 2000-’14, 40 signal-callers were snatched up with a first-round draft choice. Of that group, 12 had completion rates of 59.9 percent or lower in college.
Only Carson Palmer, Jay Cutler, Matt Ryan and Matthew Stafford ascended above the 60 percent mark for their career in the NFL.
Of that quartet, Ryan and Cutler were the only two below 60 percent in their final college season. However, both were above the 59 percent threshold, while Allen fails to approach even that.
With that daunting reality as a backdrop, the Bills have to do everything imaginable to make Allen a success. Putting him in the starting lineup this year would be the exact opposite direction.
Buffalo is set up for a rebuilding year after trading away Tyrod Taylor, buttressed with the subtractions of Eric Wood, Cordy Glenn, Richie Incognito and others. The Bills’ offense is LeSean McCoy and little else, with the hope that Kelvin Benjamin can find his rookie form.
Head coach Sean McDermott would be wise to insert AJ McCarron into the fray and let him take the lumps so Allen can avoid them while learning in the film room. If Buffalo wants to avoid the same situation it went through with J.P. Losman and EJ Manuel, Allen will ride pine for a full season. If McCarron gets hurt, bring in Nathan Peterman. If both of them go down, call up Jay Cutler.
Buffalo has no reason to put Allen in harm’s way. The fanbase is passionate and dedicated, leaving no doubt that tickets will be sold and beer consumed. The Bills are not expected to challenge for a playoff spot, and after finally reaching the postseason following a 17-year drought, the pressure and anguish is somewhat lessened.
Everyone understands that Allen is the future. He just shouldn’t be the present.
Top 10 quarterbacks who missed the Hall of Fame
1. Ken Anderson, Cincinnati Bengals
2. Phil Simms, New York Giants
3. Boomer Esiason, Cincinnati Bengals
4. Drew Bledsoe, New England Patriots
5. Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia Eagles
6. Earl Morrall, Baltimore Colts/Miami Dolphins
7. Archie Manning, New Orleans Saints
8. Mark Brunell, Jacksonville Jaguars
9. John Hadl, San Diego Chargers
10. Jim Hart, St. Louis Cardinals
“He should be here, and he’s not.”
– Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll on Earl Thomas’ holdout from camp
Carroll is right, but that doesn’t change the fact that Thomas wants out of Seattle. Considering the direction of the franchise, it’s hard to understand why the Seahawks are being difficult about this.
After losing a bevy of talent this offseason, general manager John Schneider understands his team is transitioning to being centered around Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner, and not the Legion of Boom. Thomas is the last remaining member, and with only this year left on his deal, the time is now to trade the future Hall of Famer.
It stands to reason there would be a litany of suitors for the 30-year-old including the Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders, two teams Thomas reportedly wants to play for. For Schneider, it’s best to move Thomas and move on, with a few nice draft picks in hand.
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The Pittsburgh Steelers have had three head coaches since 1969. The Cleveland Browns have had five head coaches this decade, and between 2014-17, the San Francisco 49ers had four head coaches in four seasons.
Pittsburgh … model of consistency.
Info learned this week
1. Mack, Raiders at serious impasse as camp opens
As the Raiders begin their assault on the 2018 season, they do so without their best player on the field. Khalil Mack, the 2016 Defensive Player of the Year, is holding out as he enters the final year of his rookie deal, looking for a long-term extension. However, general manager Reggie McKenzie hasn’t been willing to negotiate much with Mack’s camp, leaving the door open for this situation to turn ugly.
While reports that head coach Jon Gruden and Mack not having spoken are being disputed by Gruden himself, he does state that communication has been quiet since his hiring. This is both potentially detrimental and certainly odd, considering Mack is clearly the Raiders most talented pupil.
Should Oakland refuse to lock him up this summer, Mack will likely return and play out the 2018 season before being tagged next winter. At that point, the clock starts once again on a long-term pact or a potential holdout.
Frankly, the Raiders need to reach out and get the proverbial ball rolling. They can’t afford to be without Mack for any period of time, and there’s certainly no reason to ruffle feathers.
2. Titans, Falcons lock up their left tackles
Marcus Mariota and Matt Ryan should be sleeping better these days. The Tennessee Titans and Atlanta Falcons each locked up their franchise left tackles on Friday morning, with Taylor Lewan and Jake Matthews coming to terms with their respective clubs.
Lewan signed the richest deal in NFL history for a left tackle, inking a five-year, $80 million pact with a whopping $50 million guaranteed. Matthews checked in right behind his 2014 draft mate with five years and $75 million.
For all teams and players involved, these were the right moves. For Lewan and Matthews, they’ve set themselves up for life while getting certainty on their futures, while the Titans and Falcons are now locked in at one of the league’s premium positions.
3. Bucs won’t commit to Winston regaining starting gig
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers might be in for a long, miserable campaign. In the offseason, quarterback Jameis Winston was suspended three games for allegedly groping an Uber driver back in 2016. On Thursday, head coach Dirk Koetter, who is on the hottest of hot seats, wouldn’t declare Winston the starter when he returns.
With the New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers looming as the first three opponents before a Week 4 tilt with the Chicago Bears at Solider Field, things could get ugly regardless of who starts in Chicago. Additionally, Tampa Bay has a Week 5 bye, giving management the perfect out to fire Koetter if the record is 1-3 or 0-4.
This time last year, Tampa Bay was on Hard Knocks and was the darling pick of many to make a run in the NFC. Now, it appears the Buccaneers are riding on a track to oblivion, with no leadership in sight to stop the trip.
4. Texans waiting on signing Clowney
The Houston Texans and Jadeveon Clowney are entering into the last year of the former No. 1 overall pick’s contract, and no extension is forthcoming. Apparently, the Texans are content to play out the deal through the upcoming season, waiting to see if Clowney can both be productive and healthy.
Clowney, 25, has only played 47 games in his four-year career while amassing 20 sacks. It’s decent production, but he’s yet to have a double-digit sack total despite playing with a hoard of Pro Bowl running mates in his front seven. Frankly, if Clowney wasn’t such a high-profile name, nobody would be clamoring to extend him considering his aforementioned production.
Ultimately, it’s the right move for Houston, which has a projected $60 million in cap space for 2019. General manager Brian Gaine is willing to wait and if necessary, use the franchise tag. If things go south, Clowney can be allowed to walk with J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus still roaming off the edge.
5. Breeland still making his choice
Bashaud Breeland is one of the rare impact free agents still on the market as the calendar heads toward August. The 26-year-old corner played his first four seasons with the Washington Redskins and had a deal back in March with the Carolina Panthers paying him $24 million over three seasons, only to fail the physical due to a laceration on his foot.
Now, Breeland is on a whirlwind tour that saw stops with the Oakland Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs, Indianapolis Colts, Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens and New York Jets. With all his visits complete, expect Breeland to sign with the week, giving one of the aforementioned teams a terrific option for their secondary.
Looking at the film, Breeland doesn’t have elite speed but can play in press-man coverage. He’s strong at the line of scrimmage and has good technique, helping to make up for his deficiencies. He’s not a No. 1 corner on a good team, but he’s a high-end No. 2.
In 1967, realignment hit the NFL prior to the 1967 season, putting the Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings in the Central Division (later renamed the NFC Central). The group became known as the Black and Blue Division for it’s hard hitting and fierce battles, although Detroit and Chicago were mostly just blue in the early goings.
Incredibly, the Lions didn’t win a division title until 1983, while the Bears waited until the following year to claim a title. Both teams were beat to the penthouse by the Buccaneers, who joined the division 1977 after being an expansion team the year prior.
While the reputation has faded over the years, the now-NFC North holds a rightful place in NFL lore.
It’s time for the Los Angeles Rams to pay Aaron Donald. The Rams shelled out a combined $137 million in contract extensions to Todd Gurley and Brandin Cooks, the latter of whom hasn’t played a down for the franchise. If you think that sits well with Donald, a 27-year-old superstar who has thrice been a First-Team All-Pro, I have a bridge to sell you.
Donald is going to be the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history for two reasons: the cap continues to rise, and he’s the best player in the game on that side of the field. The longer general manager Les Snead wait to pay Donald, the more it’s going to cost.
Los Angeles has built a terrific roster, but Donald remains its best player. He’s the dominant force in the middle, and unlike Aqib Talib and Ndamukong Suh, he’s not an aging, hired gun. Donald is the type of player that coaches and executives dream about. Making him wait while inferior players are being paid a fortune — yes, Gurley is inferior to Donald in both import and talent — is bad business.
Donald should hold out until he gets every cent he wants. The Rams would be wise to make that a short wait.