What was Sean McDermott thinking?
That is the question being asked around the NFL after McDermott made a decision that has no obvious explanation.
The Buffalo Bills rookie coach benched Tyrod Taylor for rookie Nathan Peterman with the Bills still very much alive in the wild card race at 5-4 despite two losses in a row.
It’s not like Peterman was being touted as the quarterback of the future. He was a fifth-round choice, although Jon Gruden said he was the most ready to step in and start of any of the rookie quarterbacks.
Any team thinking of hiring Gruden might keep that comment in mind. Both Gruden and McDermott were wrong. Dead wrong.
Peterman threw five picks before McDermott mercifully pulled him at halftime and put Taylor in.
In a memorable quote, McDermott said he doesn’t regret the decision. He regrets the result. Huh? That doesn’t make much sense.
The Chargers went on to win by a 54-24 margin boost their record to 4-6, and some Chargers felt that McDermott was disrespecting them by starting Peterman against them.
It was hard to find anybody praising the decision. Rex Ryan, the coach he replaced, called it ridiculous. Outspoken Richard Sherman of the Seahawks had the day off because the Seahawks are playing Monday night, went on Twitter to knock it.
That doesn’t mean Taylor is the answer, either. I think he is probably a backup.
But to yank him for a rookie who wasn’t ready reeks of desperation. Maybe the head coaching job is too big for McDermott.
Granted, similar moves have been made in the past. In 2004, Giants coach Tom Coughlin pulled Kurt Warner for Eli Manning at 5-4 after two consecutive losses. It was second-guessed at the time, but they drafted Manning to be their quarterback of the future. Manning lost his first six starts but went on to win two Super Bowls.
In 2000, coach Brian Billick of the Baltimore Ravens pulled Tony Banks for veteran Trent Dilfer with the team at 5-3 and in the midst of a string of going five games without scoring a touchdown. Dilfer lost his first start but the Ravens didn’t lose again and won the Super Bowl. Dilfer was dumped after the season for Elvis Grbac and didn’t repeat.
The Ravens won with a great defense, which the Bills don’t have. They have now given up 135 points in the last three games. Their decision to trade defensive tackle Marcell Dareus to the Jaguars hasn’t exactly worked out, although Dareus has had some off-the-field issues. He has made the Jaguars’ run defense better.
McDermott announced Wednesday that he is going back to Taylor against Kansas City, which is trying to rebound from four losses in the last five games, although he can’t fix their broken defense. But McDermott said Sunday he had to look at the film and on Monday said he was still evaluating the quarterbacks.
What is there to evaluate?
Maybe the Bills have to evaluate whether they hired the right coach. And they have to find a new quarterback next year before Taylor will obviously be moving on and Peterman doesn’t seem the answer.
It remains to be seen whether McDermott, who spent the last six years as Carolina’s defensive career, will be a successful head coach after making such a bad blunder.