Ready or not, it’s time to start Allen

September 11, 2018
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Watching Sam Darnold’s performance on Monday Night Football was probably emblazoned onto the minds of many Buffalo Bills fans. After starting the game as bad as you could possibly start a game – throwing a pick-six on your first NFL throw – Darnold settled in nicely while the rest of his team took the Lions to task en route to a 48-17 win. 

Here in Buffalo, Bills fans spent the majority of the offseason and lead up to training camp convincing themselves that Josh Allen needed time or that he just wasn’t ready. Allen had the ability and high ceiling, but raw skills that needed polishing before he was remotely prepared to become the team's starting quarterback of the future – keyword being future. 

The Bills did very little this offseason to surround Allen with the type of veteran quarterback(s) to support that plan. Not only did they fail to add a legitimate bridge quarterback in the offseason, but they traded away the one guy who you could have remotely considered a veteran in A.J. McCarron for a fifth-round pick. 

It was easy to trade McCarron, right? I mean he lost the preseason battle handily to Nathan Peterman – a “veteran” quarterback with two starts under his belt, neither of which he finished either due to injury or performance (don’t make me say it). 

In all reality, though, Peterman is essentially a rookie. No real experience to lean on except for the fact that he somehow managed to be in the mix to start during training camp following one of the most embarrassing starts in NFL history against the Los Angeles Chargers last season.

I think most people pegged McCarron as the bridge; someone who wouldn’t puke on himself (not literally) and serve as the bridge to Allen until he was ready to take over. But by allowing Peterman’s preseason performance to fool Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane into thinking this team didn’t need a veteran presence at the quarterback position, they eliminated any possibility for that to plan to work correctly. 

If only for the purpose of having a Josh McCown-like presence for Allen to lean on and, frankly, to allow Allen to dress in street clothes on the sideline with a clipboard, McCarron’s presence was vital to any scenario that would allow Allen to properly mature as a quarterback. 

Now, literally one game into what will undoubtedly be one of the longest seasons in recent memory, the team and fan base are at a crossroads – do we let the kid take his lumps and hope he comes out on the other side better for it? Does he have the toughness and mental makeup to become a franchise quarterback through early failures like John Elway and Peyton Manning?

I don’t have the answers to either of those questions and neither do McDermott or Beane. 

Allen flashed at times this training camp and preseason. He also showed signs of being in over his head, and the problem for me is he just doesn’t have the talent around him to carry him through some of his shortcomings. But ready or not, it’s time to see what the rookie has got. 

It’s not about winning or losing – if that were the case there would have been no question following Sunday’s loss about who should start this Sunday against the Chargers. The fact that there’s even a question makes me believe this organization has legitimate concerns about throwing their rookie quarterback to the wolves. 

I’m right there with them, but I also have reason to believe that he is ready. I mean, this kid doesn’t hear a word of your criticism. There’s no doubt he’s seen what’s been said about him by Football Outsiders, ESPN, NFL Network, Rotoworld, Jamal Adams, Jalen Ramsey, and even here from the local media. I couldn’t possibly name another prospect – quarterback or not – that’s gotten harsher criticism than Allen has. He’s 22-years-old; he’s seen everything said about him and some. 

He hasn’t blinked. More pundits have guaranteed his failures than given him a chance to even be a mediocre player in the NFL, but it hasn’t fazed him, and I respect the hell out of him for it. He’s shown more maturity in the last year than I can hope to see from 12-year veterans.

The question is, can he handle failure and grow from it? The only way you’ll find out is by sending him out to fail. The talent he’ll play with this year isn’t all that much better than the talent he floundered with at Wyoming. He’ll have the temptation to play hero ball, which got him the rap he has with the analytics community and his haters nationally. Can he resist it?

What I do know is the obvious energy he injects into this football team is undeniable. I firmly believe that the 52 other guys on this roster feel that Allen gives them the best opportunity to win and that can’t be measured with stats, analytics, or film. Whether or not he can use that and keep his team in games is something many of us are watching for. 

There just isn’t any way that Sean McDermott can look his team in the eyes and send Peterman back out on the field Sunday. Not if the message truly is winning. He can’t tell his football team that he’s putting them in the best position to win football games and trot out Peterman at home against the team that roasted him less than a calendar year ago. 

There will be ups and downs, prepare yourself for it. However, the only way I’ll accept the kind of performance we saw on Sunday against the Ravens again is if it’s a learning experience for your rookie quarterback.