No, Tyrod Taylor Shouldn't Start for the Buffalo Bills

It's the season of coach-speak, and the latest bluster has turned to Buffalo quarterback Tyrod Taylor.

Take a big, deep breath, okay? Just –- no, hear me out –- just take a big, deep breath and it’ll help you relax. Alright? Have you calmed down now? I was really worried about you for a while there; it sounded like you were starting to have some weird fever dreams, Rex. I could’ve sworn you were serious about Tyrod Taylor as some sort of potential NFL starting quarterback.

Oh. You were. Try to stay calm then.

News broke early this week that head coach Rex Ryan of the Buffalo Bills had mentioned that he tried to trade for Taylor –- a career backup with the Ravens -- when he was the head coach of the New York Jets. General manager Doug Whaley confirmed that the Bills are, for whatever reason, entertaining the idea of Tyrod Taylor as their starting quarterback, saying, “The way they’re structuring practices everyone is getting a run with the ones. So it’s a fair shake. In this system, we’re trying to figure out who is going to be the number one.”

It is, of course, the season of coach-speak, but this is just ludicrous. In no rational world will Tyrod Taylor win the Bills’ starting job, and I’ll show you why.

Letting Go

First and foremost, Taylor has absolutely nothing to stand on in terms of pedigree, contract, or production in the NFL thus far. The Baltimore Ravens selected him out of Virginia Tech in the sixth round of the 2011 NFL Draft (at 180th overall), and immediately became the backup to the Joe Flacco.

Taylor was a highly athletic prospect –- as most Virginia Tech quarterbacks are –- as he ranks in the 94th percentile or higher among quarterback Combine performances in the 40-yard dash, vertical jump, broad jump, and 20-yard short shuttle. He also set school records in career rushing yardage and rushing touchdowns, further displaying his athletic wheels and multi-faceted ability. He was also, however, a highly inaccurate and skittish passer -– as most Virginia Tech quarterbacks are –- as he failed to reach a 60% completion rate even once in his four-year college career with the Hokies. His career completion rate was a paltry 57.2% in the not-so-daunting ACC.

This poor skillset, albeit with upside, was what dropped his draft stock into the sixth round of the draft. As we know from the research that we here at numberFire have done regarding quarterback development based on draft placement, a sixth-round quarterback will only even have a 60% chance of attaining one replacement-level season career in their time in the league. Any quarterbacks with true talent are snapped up far before that point; the rest are developmental at best, and nothing more.

The Three-Fold Path

So, Taylor is athletic. The Ravens were the only team that believed in him as a quarterback prospect. How has that worked out for other Hokies Logan Thomas, Sean Glennon, or Marcus Vick?

But maybe Tyrod Taylor has been different. Maybe he’s worth it. What has his NFL production been thus far?

We can break down Taylor –- and compare him to his Buffalo competition –- through the magic of the numberFire signature metric, Net Expected Points (NEP). NEP helps us take the numbers we get from the box score and assign them contextual value so they relate even closer to the game on the field. By adding down-and-distance value, we can see just how much each play and each player influence the outcome of the game. For more info on NEP, check out our glossary.

The table below shows the Passing and Rushing NEP that Taylor has produced in his four years in the league, compared to the careers of his Bills’ teammates Matt Cassel and EJ Manuel. Has Taylor been worthwhile as a player, and does he actually stand a chance against the competition?

PlayerPass NEPPer Drop BackRush NEPPer Rush
Matt Cassel27.730.0152.270.23
EJ Manuel-47.89-0.1011.010.20
Tyrod Taylor-21.53-3.067.320.46

How do I say this gently? Taylor has sucked, like, real bad. It’s not just the sum of his Passing NEP that’s been bad, he has been exceptionally atrocious on a per drop back basis by Passing NEP as well. Cassel’s 0.01 per drop back Passing NEP isn’t exceptional at all, and Manuel’s -0.10 isn’t good at all, so when I look at Taylor’s -3.06 I kind of want to curl up into a ball and cry.

Where Taylor does excel is in the rushing game, his athleticism again pumping his value up at all. His 0.46 Rushing NEP per play is head-and-shoulders above the others under center for the Bills. The only leg up he has on them, the rushing ability is what some are saying could make the difference in whether he survives in offensive coordinator Greg Roman’s scheme. Roman –- formerly the coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers and Colin Kaepernick -– may prefer a mobile passer, and this is Taylor’s only excellent trait.

The True Nature of Reality

Taylor has displayed no value in the NFL, from the moment he was selected in the NFL Draft to the few slices of playing time he’s been given behind Flacco. In all honesty, I’m not sure why Bills’ beat writers and fans are clamoring for a player like him to be named the starter, but claim the similarly-mobile, but starkly-better passer in EJ Manuel a bust. The only reason Taylor isn’t a bust is that he hasn’t failed when given a chance...because he hasn’t been given a chance (because he’s not good).

The Bills have said they believe in him, too, and people are clamoring about how his three-year, $7 million contract means that he is a favorite to play a ton. In truth, his deal is just $3.35 million for three years, with $3.65 million in incentives over those three years. Of that original $3.35 million, only $1.2 million is guaranteed. And for those of you who love odd contract quirks, get this: if Taylor plays over 50% of the snaps in 2015 or 2016, the contract actually voids. I don’t know about you, but if I had a lot of faith in a player, I wouldn’t find ways to write void clauses into his contract.

We like big, potentially sweeping news like this when an unknown face becomes a potential highlight player for fantasy drafts, when a newbie shakes up the established order. This is just offseason bluster and chatter, though, and should be treated as such. Sorry: Tyrod’s just not a starter.

Just please don’t hit me, Rex.