The Buffalo Bills have been looking for a franchise quarterback since Jim Kelly retired after the 1996 season.
Thirteen passers have started five or more games for the Bills since Kelly retired — and none of them could fill Kelly’s shoes.
Now they have three candidates to become the 14th starter in that procession this year. Will one of them finally be The Answer?
It’s too early to tell, but the Bills’ nightmare scenario is that none of the three turns out to be the long-term answer, even though they made a big investment at the position in the offseason.
The 13th was Tyrod Taylor, who took them to the playoffs with a 9-7 mark last year, but sealed his fate with a poor performance in the postseason loss at Jacksonville and was traded to Cleveland, where he is now the starter.
They kept Nathan Peterman, who got a surprising start in San Diego last year as a rookie and lasted only a half because he threw five interceptions.
They then signed free agent AJ McCarron to a two-year deal that included a $4 million signing bonus.
McCarron spent his first four years in the NFL backing up Andy Dalton in Cincinnati. He was traded during the season last year to Cleveland, but the deal fell through when the Browns botched the paperwork.
Then the Bills gave up two second-rounders to move up five spots and drafted Josh Allen, who has a big arm but a boom-or-bust reputation because he is noted for being inaccurate at times.
Presumably, McCarron is destined to be the starter this year because he got the bonus. After all, Allen is a rookie and Peterman had that disaster in San Diego.
The Bills, though, are talking up Peterman, saying he bounced back from the horror show in San Diego.
“I think he’s a very confident young man and he’s resilient,” Bills coach Sean McDermott said last week, according to Buffalo-area reporters. “You saw a guy who went through (a lot), who got knocked down hard. Not all on him, either, but the greatest thing about what Nathan did was he never pointed a finger, and that says a lot, because it’s hard. He could have easily said, ‘Well, this guy, this happened.’ And his next opportunity was the snow game.”
With Taylor hurt, Peterman helped the Bills pull off a critical victory over the Indianapolis Colts in a blizzard.
Still, the bottom line is the Bills will go into the exhibition season with a second-year quarterback drafted a year ago in the fifth round, as well as a four-year backup and a rookie.
Can one of those three quarterbacks take the Bills back to the playoffs? I doubt it.
Still, it will be interesting to see how the scenario plays out.
The Bills need one of them to emerge and end their quarterback drought that has lasted over two decades since Kelly retired.