Sully: How Long is Leash for Bills' Allen next season?

Losman, Manuel got yanked four games into second season

Column as I see ‘em, Week 8:

The Bills are 2-6 and going nowhere at the midpoint of the NFL season. Josh Allen is still sidelined with an injured right elbow. General manager Brandon Beane, interviewed on WKBW-TV before Monday night’s game, wouldn’t rule out Allen missing the rest of the season.

So it’s natural to look ahead, to the next draft and beyond. As always, the biggest question of all is how they’ll handle the quarterback position. One can assume that Allen will be the starter in his second season. The bigger issue is how much pressure will be on him to justify the job.

I realize Allen is the presumed franchise quarterback, the future. But in the third year of the Sean McDermott-Beane era, there will be increased pressure to win. That has to be balanced against Allen’s development, but how delicate will the balance be, and how patient will they be if Allen is slow to evolve as a pocket passer and the team is struggling to win?

McDermott is developing a defense that shows signs of being elite. The defense will come come back relatively intact, with most of the older guys under contract and rising young guys like Tre’Davious White, Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds one year older and wiser.

The Bills have wasted some fine defensive efforts this season, with Monday’s loss the latest and most ghastly example. The players have been diplomatic, refusing to point a finger at the offense. But history tells us there can be short-term resistance to a raw young quarterback when a team believes it’s ready to make a playoff run with a strong defense.

In 2005, J.P. Losman was struggling in his second season and first as the starter. They pulled him for Kelly Holcomb after four games. In 2014, EJ Manuel was in his second season as the franchise guy. Doug Marrone pulled him for Kyle Orton after four weeks, saying he owed it to his team to play the quarterback who gave him the best chance to win.

This scenario could easily play out again next fall if Allen isn’t ready to lead a rising team. Management believes in him, but they could argue that he’s essentially still a rookie after missing time this season and needs more time to mature behind a veteran starter.

That’s why one of the major issues in the offseason will be backup quarterback. After botching it so badly this season, Beane and McDermott will have to find a proven veteran to back up Allen and help the Bills capitalize on a top defense if the kid isn’t up to it in his second season.

I’m getting ahead of myself, I know. There’s half a season left to play. But it’s always good to think ahead. Here’s an idea: How about bringing Ryan Fitzpatrick back next season? He’s better than he’s ever been, and he’s on a one-year deal with the Bucs. You can win with him and he’s an intelligent team player who could be an ideal mentor for Allen.

Just something to think about in what looks like a lost season.

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Drew Brees completed 18 of 23 passes for 120 yards in the Saints’ 30-20 win at Minnesota on Sunday. It was the first time Brees threw for under 200 yards since Oct. 15 of last season and only the second time in five years. The last time he passed for under 100 yards was in the season finale of 2006, when New Orleans had wrapped up a bye and he played just briefly.

Brees threw his first interception of the season against the Vikings. It came on his 232nd pass attempt of the season. A year ago, he threw eight interceptions, his fewest since joining the Saints in the ’06 season. He has completed an amazing 77.4 percent of his passes this season for 1,990 yards with 14 touchdowns and the one pick.

At age 39, Brees seems to be getting better, much like that guy with the Patriots. Tom Brady was 39 years, 6 months old when he won the Super Bowl two seasons ago. Peyton Manning is still the oldest quarterback to win the Bowl. He was two months shy of his 40th when the Broncos won it after the 2015 season.

Brees would be break that mark if the got to the Super Bowl and won it this year. He’ll be 40 in January. Of course, Brady could also set the mark if he gets back and wins it at 41. Here’s a great idea: How about a Saints-Pats title game, where one of them has to win?

In the meantime, the Saints host the unbeaten Rams next week at 4:25 p.m. on FOX. They’re currently ranked 2-3 in the league in scoring at 33 points a game. Should be appointment TV, more entertaining than, say, the typical Bills game.

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Larry Fitzgerald had his first 100-yard receiving day of the season in the Cardinals’ 18-15 win over the Niners. Fitzgerald had a TD catch and a 2-point reception in the fourth quarter of Arizona’s comeback victory.

Fitzgerald, the NFL’s active leader in receptions with 1,268 (and third all-time behind Jerry Rice and Tony Gonzalez) had another first: He spiked the football after grabbing the 2-point conversion from rookie Josh Rosen with 34 seconds left in the game.

It was the first spike of his career, at any level. Fitzgerald, the son of a sports writer, always believed you should be modest after scoring and act as if you’ve done it before. But he admitted after the game that he was upset because his son, Devin, had opted for the Arizona State Fair rather than watch his dad’s team try to win its second game of the year.

"I was a little frustrated and had a heavy heart today," Fitzgerald said. "My feelings were a little hurt, so I was carrying that around all day. So, when I got in there, I kind of let it out. To all the kids that are watching, I'm sorry. I set a bad example today.”

Don’t feel bad, Lar’. You’ve scored 112 touchdowns in the NFL. You can celebrate a 2-point conversion. It’s the guys who celebrate every first down and routine tackle that ought to apologize.

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Is He Owned? This week’s featured fantasy find is Jets rookie tight end Chris Herndon. A fourth-round pick out of Miami, Herndon has caught a TD pass from fellow rookie Sam Darnold in three straight games.

Herndon is the first Jets rookie tight end to score in three straight games. Two weeks ago, he had four catches on seven targets. Last Sunday, Darnold targeted him only twice.

Tight end production can be hard to find in fantasy. I’ve been chasing the position around all year. Herndon is available in all three of my leagues.

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Stats Incredible: Fitzpatrick averaged 291 yards a game passing for the Bills against the Patriots in seven starts. All other Buffalo quarterbacks have averaged 175 yards a game against New England during the Brady era … Rams punter Johnny Hekker pulled off another successful fake punt for a 12-yard completion. Hekker is now 10-for-17 in his career on such plays for 149 yards, with one TD and no interceptions. He has a career passer rating of 107.2. I know what you’re thinking, Bills fans … Washington hasn’t scored a touchdown in the third quarter all season. They’ve scored three field goals. The Bills haven’t allowed a third-quarter TD since the opener … Andrew Luck has 18 TD passes in his last five games, at least three in each. Patrick Mahomes has 17 in his last five … The bottom four quarterbacks in the league in completion percentage: Baker Mayfield (58.3), Josh Rosen (55.6), Sam Darnold (55.2), Josh Allen (54.0). It’s hard for rookies …

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