Back in June, LeSean McCoy acknowledged that he never was overly fond of rookies. The veteran running back sounded like many coaches over the years who viewed first-year players as unpolished, inconsistent and unprepared when they arrived in the NFL.
Most rookies needed more time and experience to learn the finer points of pro sports before they could be trusted. Coaches took time developing players and making sure they were ready before putting them on the field, especially at quarterback, sparing themselves “rookie mistakes.”
But there are exceptions to every rule.
What do you know? McCoy made one this week in the case of Josh Allen vs. Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday. The veteran running back did the right thing: He offered support for the seventh pick overall going into his first NFL start after replacing Nathan Peterman.
“He’s a rookie, so he’ll have his lumps, his bruises,” McCoy told reporters earlier this week. “It’s learning. Every team, every game, every stadium, it’s a new experience for him. That’s what comes with the job. As far as a talent level, jumping from a college offense and learning that, coming to the NFL with the All Stars, the players, this is the elite level.
“I see his talent, he’s smart, his arm strength. He’s put together. If I had to draft a quarterback, I would draft a kid like him. He’s mobile, he’s tall, he’s strong, he’s not afraid, he’s smart and he has a big arm. When I said those things about rookies, I’m not big on rookies, but guys like him and Tre (Tre’Davious White), they’re special, they’re different.”
Long gone are the days in which coaches would spend a few years grooming quarterbacks and making sure they were ready before throwing them on the field. The game has changed over the years along with the attitude toward young players.
The NFL is a big business. People no longer are willing to wait for returns on their investments, particularly owners who became rich in the first place by making wise business decisions. Patience and development? Both are lost arts that faded into history like rotary phones.
This is 2018. Win now or get lost.
Plus, quarterbacks are prepared to play in the NFL sooner now than they were years ago. They learn how to read defenses at earlier ages with so many camps and clinics and instructors out there. But you never really know whether someone is ready until they provide evidence.
In Allen’s case, the Bills didn’t have much choice. Peterman had such a poor outing in the blowout loss to the Ravens last week that he left Sean McDermott with no option. Peterman was 5 of 18 for 24 yards with two interceptions before he was pulled in the third quarter.
McDermott, who had shown a desire to slowly bring along Allen, handed over the No. 1 job before the opener ended. The master plan was chucked out the window about three hours before the Bills boarded the team bus carrying a 47-3 loss.
So here we go, with McDermott pressed into playing an inexperienced kid with the idea that he gives them a better chance to win than the slightly more experienced starter he had in Week One. Allen didn’t earn the job. Peterman surrendered it.
“I thought his command of the offense was there,” McDermott said of Allen. “There were some things that he did well in getting us in and out of the huddle, which are things you don’t take for granted when a young player is out there. After the snap, (he) executed fairly well at times and then there’s other times where we need to execute better.”
If McDermott is showering his quarterback with praise for properly managing the huddle, the Bills could be in worse shape than anyone imagined. Then again, what could the head coach say that would inject confidence and optimism going into Sunday’s home opener?
Allen possesses qualities that shouldn’t be ignored, however. For starters, he’s 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds. He has a rocket launcher for an arm. He can sense pressure and escape from trouble. All will come in handy. Just remember that the same things were said about EJ Manuel before he became a first-round flop.
The Bills will need to live with his mistakes, rookie mistakes, the unnecessary sacks and interceptions and boneheaded decisions with the hope that he will get better and someday turn into a franchise quarterback. Doubts about his ability going into the draft will remain until proven otherwise.
It’s not as if Allen picked apart the Ravens’ defense after checking into the game in the third quarter. Baltimore had already backed off its defense after building a 40-point lead with Peterman in the game. In optimal conditions, Allen completed 6 of 15 passes for 74 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions. His passer rating of 56.0 was – wait, let me double-check the math – 56 points higher than Peterman’s rating.
OK, so his debut wasn’t a complete disaster.
If Peterman had shown the least bit of competence, Allen would be returning to the bench for Sunday’s game against the Chargers. Now, he’ll be developing on the fly with the idea he can quickly prove that he deserves to be a starting quarterback.
“Those reps are invaluable, I think, especially for a young quarterback,” Allen said. “Any repetition, any chance I get to go out there and play football, it’s something I enjoy doing, something I love doing, and something I will always cherish and love doing. To go out there and actually play in meaningful snaps, it’s going to be fun.”
The Bills had numerous problems that contributed to Peterman’s demise, none bigger than Peterman himself. Jim Kelly in his prime would have been smothered against Baltimore. If the Bills don’t have a clear-cut starter, they might as well play Allen.
But they had best give the kid some help. The offensive line was terrible against the Ravens. Peterman had little time in the pocket, and McCoy had little room to run. The wide receivers did little to help the cause and were quickly neutralized.
Toss the defense into the equation, and you get minus-44, or the Bills’ point differential in the worst Week One loss in franchise history. The quarterback – fill in the blank (here) – isn’t going to make an impact on Buffalo’s won-loss record until other deficiencies are addressed.
Remember, there will only be one rookie playing offense Sunday, one more than they had in the first half against the Chargers. And they still were littered with rookie mistakes.
“We didn’t help him out,” McCoy said. “We gave up some pressures, we had penalties, second and longs, third and longs. We didn’t make plays for him. [We had some] drops, I had a drop, there were a lot of drops. Collectively, we didn’t play well together.”