The Buffalo Bills’ fortunes turned thanks to the play of their franchise quarterback
The Buffalo Bills won 13 games in the pandemic-altered 2020 NFL season. While general manager Brandon Beane has built a fantastic roster with plenty of depth throughout, the team’s fortunes really turned thanks to the growth of the man drafted to be the franchise quarterback.
The Bills haven’t had a bona fide “franchise” player at the game’s most important position since the 1996 season. That’s the year that Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly ended his illustrious career. Since then, Bills fans have watched a seemingly endless line of players try to be “the next Jim Kelly,” from Rob Johnson to Drew Bledsoe to J.P. Losman to Trent Edwards to Ryan Fitzpatrick to EJ Manuel to Tyrod Taylor, among others, the Bills have had their share of quarterbacks over the last two decades, none of whom panned out the way the team intended.
That is, until now. Typically, we save the best for last with our “90 players in 90 days” series, but this year, I’m shaking it up a little. We’re starting with the man whose performance brought the Bills from a nice story in 2019 to a championship contender in 2020, the man whose talent and confidence seems to grow with each passing moment, and ultimately, the man who can finally put an end to those questions about when the Bills will find their next franchise quarterback.
To begin our annual look at the entire Bills’ roster, we start with the man whose right arm holds in it all the Super Bowl hopes and dreams of Bills fans everywhere.
Name: Josh Allen
Height/Weight: 6’5” 237 lbs.
Age: 24 (25 on 5/21/2021)
Experience/Draft: 4; selected in the first round (No. 7 overall) of the 2018 NFL Draft by Buffalo
Acquired: First-round draft choice
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Fourth year of five-year rookie contract ($6,910,057 cap hit; $6,740,057 dead cap if cut).
2020 Recap: If Allen grew between the 2018 and 2019 seasons, he made the leap from a good player to an elite one between 2019 and 2020. Allen looked like an MVP candidate right from the start, as he completed 71% of his passes for 1,326 yards, 12 touchdowns, and one interception in the month of September. Allen had never thrown for 300 yards in a game coming into the season; he did it eight times in 2020, including the first three games of the season. The man rewrote all of Buffalo’s passing records in what was a ridiculous season, as Allen threw for 4,544 yards and 37 touchdowns while completing 69% of his passes on the year. All of those were franchise records. Allen added 421 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns, as well as a twelve-yard receiving touchdown. He threw ten interceptions and fumbled nine times, so he still has some room to grow—and that’s the scary part. As great as Allen was in 2020, I don’t think that was his peak. The young man is still growing and still improving every day. Allen finished second to Aaron Rodgers in MVP voting, and he won AFC Offensive Player of the Week six times.
Positional outlook: Allen is the unquestioned leader of the team, and he sits atop a depth chart that looks just a bit different this year. Gone is Matt Barkley, as the Bills opted to sign Mitchell Trubisky to back up Allen this year. Jake Fromm and Davis Webb are the team’s other quarterbacks.
2021 Offseason: Allen made some comments regarding individual choice and COVID-19 vaccinations that gained some attention, but he hasn’t found himself in any trouble. He should be just fine and ready to roll come the start of training camp.
2021 Season outlook: If Allen plays at the same level he did last season, the Bills should find themselves at least around the same finish they had last year. If he can cut down on the turnovers, he very well may be able to accomplish two feats that Kelly never could—he might win the league MVP, and he also might bring the Lombardi Trophy to One Bills Drive. Allen arrived as a franchise quarterback in 2020. Now he has to do what franchise quarterbacks do, which is elevate the team beyond their greatest competition to come out on top of the league.