There isn’t much that happens in the NFL these days that’s genuinely surprising.
But when Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott announced on Wednesday morning he was benching quarterback Tyrod Taylor, it was definitely a surprise.
The Bills were 5-4 under Taylor, and were in position to make the playoffs for the first time since 1999 (they currently own the second AFC wild-card spot). Taylor isn’t injured, had 10 touchdowns against just three interceptions, was playing without the player he likely expected to be his No. 1 receiver (Sammy Watkins, traded to the Rams on Aug. 11), and wasn’t getting much protection from his offensive line (he was sacked 28 times in nine games, on pace for an absurd 50 for the season).
Oh, and while Taylor definitely didn’t have his best game on Sunday against New Orleans, it was the Buffalo defense that gave up nearly 300 yards rushing and six rushing touchdowns against the Saints in the home loss, and after that game and the day after, it was McDermott who told reporters that Taylor was the team’s starter.
But a couple of days later, McDermott decided to change course, surprising even Taylor and naming rookie Nate Peterman as starter. Peterman finished the game against New Orleans, going 7-for-10 with a touchdown against the Saints’ second-string defense.
Who is Nate Peterman, you ask? We’ve compiled a little info:
Peterman was the fifth quarterback taken in this year’s draft, the 171st player selected (fifth round) overall, out of Pittsburgh;
He began his career at Tennessee, where he played in nine games over two seasons. Peterman got his first start and only with the Volunteers as a redshirt sophomore – he tore ligaments in his right (throwing) hand during the game;
Peterman left Tennessee after new head coach Butch Jones hand-picked recruit Josh Dobbs to be the team’s next quarterback. He chose Pitt because the Panthers’ offensive coordinator, Jim Chaney, had been his coordinator with the Volunteers;
He unseated the Panthers’ quarterback, Chad Voytik, after three games, and went on to play 26 games over two years. He was 378-for-619 (61.1 percent) for 5,142 yards, 47 touchdowns and 17 interceptions in that time, and Pitt went 8-5 each year Peterman was with the team;
The snaps against New Orleans were the first for Peterman in the regular season. In the preseason, he completed fewer than half of his passes (43-of-79) with a touchdown and three fumbles;
The 6-foot-2 Jacksonville, Fla. native left Tennessee with a degree in communications that he’d earned in three years and enrolled in the MBA program at Pittsburgh. He met his wife, Morgan, at Tennessee, and they’ve been married since May 2016.
It remains to be seen whether McDermott’s “calculated risk,” as he called it, to move to Peterman will work out. It’s a big gamble for a team in playoff position, and if it’s a bust, it will follow him for the rest of his time in Buffalo.