Booms and Busts: Learning from the Peterman disaster

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<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nfl/players/30284/" data-ylk="slk:Nathan Peterman">Nathan Peterman</a> wasn’t ready for prime time Sunday (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Nathan Peterman wasn’t ready for prime time Sunday (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

There’s bad, there’s comically bad, and then there’s Nathan Peterman bad. It’s difficult to put into proper context just how horrendous his first NFL start went.

It was cringe-worthy at times, like the Jon Favreau phone-call sequence in Swingers. It was almost funny at times, like Albert Brooks flop-sweating in Broadcast News. Footsteps Falco wasn’t this bad, was he?

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Why can’t Buffalo have nice things?

Let’s clean up the math of it all. Peterman threw five first-half interceptions at Los Angeles on Sunday, gifting the Chargers a 30-point halftime lead. Eventually the Bolts finished up a 54-24 victory that wasn’t at all competitive. The win was such a beatdown, the crowd actually started cheering for the home team. Peterman completed six passes to his men, five to the defense, and posted a crummy 17.9 rating. And if anything we’re going easy — the picks look even worse in the video.

Now here’s the hook of the column. I support the Bills trying Peterman at quarterback. It sure doesn’t look like the right move this moment, but theoretically it was a move that made some sense.

Buffalo, of course, hasn’t made the playoffs since 1999; its last playoff elimination was the Music City Miracle. The polarizing Tyrod Taylor has been the quarterback for three years now, compiling a 19-18 record. Although Taylor has been a handy scrambler and effective at avoiding picks, he hasn’t done much else of note. Most of his efficiency stats are below league average, and his QB rating — a quick and dirty way to judge a quarterback — has been an eyelash better than league average over the last two years.

The Bills opened the day as the No. 6 playoff seed in the AFC. If Buffalo were to sneak into the playoffs, somehow, no one would expect them to go deep. It’s a team that has one-and-done written all over it.

What should Buffalo’s goal be with the rest of the season? Try to sneak into the playoffs with Taylor, or try to develop a quarterback that you think might be better than Taylor in the long term?

I see both paths as reasonable. When you haven’t made the tournament in almost 20 years, even a cosmetic appearance would be a win for a long-struggling fanbase. And yet, there’s something to be said for avoiding the Purgatory Quarterback, the type of player who can make you a winning team at peak but never a serious championship contender.

Peterman is a punchline after his debut, but let’s not act like no one liked him as a prospect. Todd McShay and Jon Gruden were both complimentary of Peterman in the spring. I’ve seen Peterman compared to Kirk Cousins and Mark Sanchez — that’s one very good quarterback and at least a semi-competent one. Although every fifth-round quarterback is seen as a project and a long shot, it’s not like non-pedigree quarterbacks never hit.

When I make my fantasy decisions, I am focused on what I think will give me the best chance to reach my ultimate goals. I’m not worried about kissing the ring of a name player, nor am I worried about doing something that could look absurd in retrospect. The idea is not to play for Friendliest Loss — not to make your choices based on what you think will limit potential regret. Just pick whatever path you determine to be +EV at the time. Play to win; don’t play petrified to make a mistake.

Blaine Gabbert smashed his DFS value in Week 11. Keenan Allen had his first monster game of the year. Samaje Perine looked like an NFL-quality back for the first time in three months. They all had pro and con cases prior to kickoff. You can’t let fear of being wrong steer you away from what you think is right. Make the best decisions you can make at the time.

Look, I don’t know what the Bills see from Peterman every day. I don’t know if they view Taylor more critically than everyone else. One could argue that Taylor was scapegoated for the New Orleans loss, which was more about the Buffalo defense collapsing than anything else. Perhaps Peterman will never develop into a quality NFL starter.

But I salute the Bills for not being afraid to make this decision. And I want to be as fearless when I make my own fantasy decisions.

• Although Blaine Gabbert didn’t play well at the end of the loss at Houston, his start was a positive step — and at least a better performance than what we’d expect from Drew Stanton. Gabbert was a first-round pick in his class, dragged down by the Jacksonville stench at the time. Maybe he has a chance to be a serviceable option.

• The Browns immediately installed Corey Coleman as their No. 1 passing option, en route to a 6-80-0 day on 11 targets. That’s a pretty good haul when you consider DeShone Kizer at quarterback. Even if Josh Gordon gets back on the field at some point in December, Coleman should be playable as a lower WR2 or a high-end WR3.

• The Patriots have backed off Dion Lewis in the passing game this year, so it was encouraging to see him snag four passes for 28 yards and a score at Mexico. Although Lewis is averaging just 6.1 yards a catch this year, he has corralled all 14 of his targets. He’s also become the most bankable runner in the New England backfield, tossing double-digit carries in five straight games.

• The Broncos fired their offensive coordinator because it’s just about the only card an offense can play — past changing the quarterback, and Denver has already done that. Everything Brock Osweiler does is a beat slow, a little bit behind the proper tempo. It probably takes him 45 seconds to get in and out of his car. As soon as Paxton Lynch is healthy, Denver needs to find out what it has there.

• I’m not going to slam Mike McCarthy for endorsing Brett Hundley. Sometimes there are no right answers. Aaron Rodgers is first eligible to return in Week 15, but Green Bay’s standing in the playoff picture could determine how much the Packers expedite the return process. I certainly don’t consider it a sure thing Rodgers plays again in 2017.

• The Dallas fix is complicated, but Jason Garrett is clearly in over his head. I don’t think many people would dispute that. Alas, one of them is Jerry Jones. My long-term opinion on Dak Prescott hasn’t changed at all.

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