The Buffalo Bills decided to say goodbye to quarterbacks Tyrod Taylor and AJ McCarron. Instead, they chose to roll the dice with Nathan Peterman and rookie Josh Allen under center for the 2018 season, a dubious decision from the start. Taylor ended the 2017 season as the NFL’s 14th-best passer per ESPN’s Total Quarterback Rating last year, while Peterman, well, threw some balls in the air.
What’s remarkable now, after Peterman was benched in Week 1 on Sunday during a 47-3 loss at Baltimore, is just how truly terrible his statistics have been. What follows is a mind-boggling breakdown of poor passing. If you’re a Bills fan, you may want to get some antacids before reading.
Peterman’s first NFL appearance, in relief of Taylor against the New Orleans Saints last November, was promising: He completed 7 of 10 passes for 79 yards and a touchdown in limited action. Peterman got the start the next week against the Los Angles Chargers and threw five (!) interceptions in the first half, resulting in a 17.9 passer rating, before he was benched. That figure is less than half the rating he would have produced if he just threw every pass to the ground (39.6). If you’re only throwing incompletions, you’re hurting your team. If what you’re doing is even worse than that, you’re eviscerating it.
He ended his 2017 campaign, two starts in four games, by completing 49.0 percent of his passes for 252 yards, two touchdowns and five interceptions. His Total Quarterback Rating was good enough to win a mere 14 percent of games, roughly equivalent to a 2-14 season.
His first start of 2018 didn’t go much better. Before being benched, Peterman completed 5 of 18 passes for 24 yards and two interceptions — yielding a 0.0 passer rating — and was sacked three times. The outing was so bad that his passer rating actually increased from 1.7 to 4.9 after an incomplete pass.
“Obviously not a good showing. We’ve got to do a lot of things better, starting with me,” Peterman said. “A lot of plays I wish I could have back.”
He should probably want all of them back.
According to Pro Football Reference, in NFL history, only 17 other quarterbacks have thrown at least 15 passes for fewer than 30 yards in a game while earning a 0.0 passer rating. None had done it since Joey Harrington in 2006. Only 10 passers have thrown at least 60 passes with a career passer rating under 30.0, and none has suited up this century. Peterman’s 0.9 QBR for Sunday’s game tied for the 12th-worst since ESPN started tracking the data in 2006.
Not swayed by traditional statistics or advanced metrics? The game charters at Pro Football Focus ranked Peterman last among this week’s quarterbacks and listed him 62nd out of 77 passers last season. To make matters worse, Coach Sean McDermott appears to be enabling his quarterback’s poor performance.
“There were a lot of different people involved. There were times when I thought we could have been better upfront. There were times where we needed to catch the football. There were times where we hurt ourselves with penalties. So, it wasn’t just one guy. It was a full, total team effort there,” McDermott said.
Here’s the thing: Pro Football Focus graded the Bills’ offensive line well for its pass blocking Sunday (eighth overall), assigning blame to the line for just one sack — against right tackle Jordan Mills. Only one other lineman, center Ryan Groy, allowed the Bills’ passers to be hit. And the receivers caught seven of the eight passes that were on target, the lone drop by Kelvin Benjamin. Ten penalties for 100 yards didn’t help, but it was 40-0 when McDermott had finally had enough and sent in Allen to lead the offense.
Allen isn’t the solution to all of Buffalo’s woes, but he at least gives the Bills a fighting chance. The 22-year-old rookie completed 6 of 15 passes for 74 yards without a touchdown or interception but still managed a 39.4 QBR, good enough for a 6-10 record over a 16-game season. (Yes, it’s a very, very small sample … but Peterman has only provided a slightly larger one, and it is a very, very bad sample.) And at least Allen, the seventh pick in the 2018 draft, has room for improvement — unlike Peterman, who seems to have shown he isn’t cut out for the NFL.
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