How Rare is Buffalo Bills' Decision to Start Nathan Peterman? First in 47 Years

Top 10 rookie hasn't deferred to a QB with two starts in 47 years

Deadspin was having some fun at the expense of the Bills and Nathan Peterman this week. The site ridiculed a 37-second Peterman highlight clip that Bills PR put together to accompany Sean McDermotts decision to start the second-year pro in the regular-season opener on Sunday in Baltimore.

Fans might see it as mean-spirited. But theres certainly justification to take shots at the Bills for the decision. Deadspin likes to point out the rare and outrageous. The fact is, starting Peterman over rookie Josh Allen in this spot is a fairly unprecedented move.

Rookie quarterbacks who represent the future of a franchise simply dont defer to marginal players at the start of their careers. Sure, players picked near the top of drafts often wait to get on the field. The Bears started veteran Mike Glennon a year ago, while Mitch Trubisky, the second overall pick of the 2017 draft, waited four weeks to take the starting over a foundering Glennon.

But a guy with two games of NFL starting experience under his belt? The last time a quarterback with that little experience started the opener over a rookie who had been drafted in the top 10 was in 1971. Thats right, one year after the NFL-AFL merger. The Oilers drafted Dan Pastorini third overall that year and Lynn Dickey at 59th overall. Dickey started the opener. Both became successful starters in the league.

Thats it since the merger. To be fair, numbers can be manipulated to tell a story. The Texans drafted Deshaun Watson 12th overall in 2017. Bill OBrien gave the starting job to Tom Savage, who had two career starts at that point. Savage played one dreadful half in the opener and gave way to Watson, who set rookie passing records before getting hurt before midseason. OBrien got crushed for the decision to start Savage out of camp, and for good reason.

This doesnt mean Allen should be the starter, or that Peterman will have a nightmare performance similar to last years starting debut at the Chargers. But history shows that NFL teams arent inclined to hold back a franchise quarterback in favor of a guy with virtually no track record in the league regardless of how good he might have looked in the preseason.

Evidently, OBrien didnt think Watson was ready, either. They were questions about Watsons decision-making and ability to read defenses. Sometimes, you never know until a rookie quarterback gets a chance in real competition. McDermott really likes Peterman, and he wants to show the world, and the Deadspin crowd, that he was right about Peterman all along.

Maybe Peterman will justify the move. But Allen will be the man soon enough. Of the last 27 quarterbacks who were first-round draft picks, 20 started more than half their teams games as a rookie. That doesnt include Watson, who got hurt. At some point, Petermans shortcomings will necessitate the move to Allen. For McDermotts sake, hed better last longer than Tom Savage.

Comments (5)
No. 1-5
JerrySullivan
JerrySullivan

Editor

I should correct the stat. The Eagles started Doug Pederson over Donovan McNabb in the 1999 opener. Pederson had 21 games in five years in the NFL, but no starts before that game.

Peace Frog
Peace Frog

I don't believe the Oilers or the Texans had their respective rookie QBs playing behind as dismal an O-line as ours.

Sargent
Sargent

Lots of Interesting and good data points. But McDermott trying to show the world he was right about peterman? Doesnt feel like he is that kind of guy. Do you think its at all possible the entire organization feels peterman gives them a better chance to win this week? Seems logical to me and probably everyone else. I guess you feel the need to take a shot at McDermott to generate controversy. Silly.

Kruzer
Kruzer

Great to have you guys back. Enjoy reading your articles

Vincenzo P
Vincenzo P

No mention of the Bill's last 1st round QB selection?



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