Allen came out of college as a raw but gifted prospect that needed a lot of coaching to reach his potential. He would have fit best as an heir-apparent to an established quarterback which would give him time to learn the pro game.
The quarterback-needy Bills selected Allen in the first round in 2018 and had him compete for the starting gig. They had no true contingency plan in case Allen was not ready for the big dance.
Buffalo Bills Mishandling Josh Allen
Pitting Him Against Weak Competition
The Bills dealt three-year starter Tyrod Taylor to the Cleveland Browns in the off-season. Taylor was not an effective signal-caller in Buffalo but could have been a mentor to Allen in 2018. There were also veteran passers available on the cheap, such as journeyman gunslinger Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has done well in spot duty for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The front office instead chose to sign the Cincinnati Bengals former backup, A.J. McCarron. McCarron was already unproven with three career starts and had a dismal preseason before being shuttled off to the Oakland Raiders.
Allen and second-year man Nathan Peterman remained as the two quarterbacks on the roster. It took three quarters of regular season action before the Bills were forced to realize that starting Peterman was a mistake. Peterman ended his Bills career with three touchdowns and 12 interceptions in only eight games before being cut in November.
Allen was never given a legitimate challenger for the starting job and definitely had no mentor or concrete offensive system to grow in.
Allen Under Fire
The Wyoming product has slow eyes and has a hard time deciphering pro-level defenses. Yet he’s rarely thrown receivers open, made the correct read, and his mechanics fail under pressure. He has a tendency to hold onto the football too long on dropbacks and makes his average offensive line look much worse. Pro Football Focus rates Allen as average with a 55.4 passing score, good for 30th in the NFL.
Too often has he looked like a deer-in-headlights and has been overwhelmed by defenses.
Allen’s on-field success has come from running the football. His ability is similar to that of Blake Bortles of the Jacksonville Jaguars. His large frame and 4.7 speed propelled him to 48 rushes for 248 yards and four touchdowns in seven games.
Success After Rest
Perhaps the biggest example of Buffalo’s blunder is the fact that Allen played decent football against the Jaguars in week 12. The rookie wasn’t incredibly efficient but made plays when needed, including a 75-yard touchdown pass to receiver Robert Foster. He finished the day completing eight of 19 passes for 160 yards and the touchdown. Allen also notched 99 rushing yards on 13 carries, scoring on a 14-yard scamper.
One may ask, isn’t this a good thing? Yes and no. Allen didn’t tear up the Jaguars, but this was his first time looking fairly competent as a pro passer. In his previous five starts, he averaged 151.6 passing yards per game, failing to hit 100 twice. After regression and poor play continued, the Bills added veteran Derek Anderson to help the rookie develop. Anderson ended up playing immediately after Allen injured his elbow in a week six loss to the Houston Texans. Allen missed a total of four games, where he could sit and learn in that time frame. The fact that Allen had his best professional game against a talented defense after sitting means he should be holding a clipboard and watching a veteran in his first year.
The final stretch
It looks as though that short break worked well for Allen. That being said, it seems like Allen’s development would have been much smoother if the Bills had a plan at quarterback.
Sometimes throwing a young quarterback into the fire works immediately, as it has for fellow rookie Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns. However, the most effective way of developing a young passer is to have them sit and wait for a year. Quarterback is the most difficult position to play on the gridiron and the jump is steep from college to the NFL. The Kansas City Chiefs played it perfectly with Patrick Mahomes by having him hold a clipboard behind starter Alex Smith, before trading Smith last off-season. Mahomes is a transcendent talent so it may be unfair and unrealistic to compare him to Allen. Still, a similar approach should have been taken for one of the rawest passers to come out of college in recent years.
Allen will get a chance to show what he has in this final stretch of games. He appears to have picked up on the speed of the game in his absence. Yet one has to wonder if trial by fire hurt his development, as he’s had far from a successful season. The same can be argued for Josh Rosen of the Arizona Cardinals, a more pro-ready prospect who has looked timid behind the worst offensive line in football.
Jobs are on the line in regards to Allen’s growth. It is imperative that he learns quickly, especially in today’s game. Starting him immediately with little weapons and an aging LeSean McCoy was a poor choice. The Bills cannot afford to make any more.