Bills Unexpectedly Bench Tyrod Taylor. Here's How It Could Affect Ravens
The Buffalo Bills made the surprising announcement yesterday that they're benching starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor.
Why does that matter in Baltimore? First, the move has massive playoff implications that will affect the Ravens. Second, Taylor was the Ravens' 2011 sixth-round draft pick who was beloved by fans, some of which are now wondering if he could return.
The timing of the move is unexpected because the Bills are in the thick of the playoff race with a 5-4 record that's currently good enough for the final AFC wild-card spot. The Ravens are just one game out, and are looking to supplant Buffalo for that sixth playoff seed.
Bills Head Coach Sean McDermott called the move "a calculated risk."
"Some people might see it more as panicking," wrote L.A. Times' Chuck Schilken. "The Bills [playoff seeding is] a position much better than anyone probably expected going into the season."
The Bills have dropped their last two games, and in last week's blowout 47-10 loss to the New Orleans Saints, Taylor was benched in favor of rookie fifth-round pick Nathan Peterman in the fourth quarter. McDermott initially said after the game that Taylor would remain the starter, but has since had a change of heart.
ESPN's Mike Rodak believes the Bills made the right decision, but made it at the wrong time.
He says Buffalo has learned over the course of three years and 38 starts that Taylor is not their franchise quarterback. Taylor is an "average" quarterback who misses too many throws from the pocket, but occasionally makes "dazzling" plays with his legs, says Rodak.
"McDermott's timing in the move … raises questions," Rodak wrote. "Taylor either should have been released in the offseason or been given the chance to see through what could be a potential run to the playoffs, and then benched if the Bills were eliminated. That would only have been fair to Taylor and the rest of the veterans in the locker room. If Taylor was not the solution, then why bring him back on a reduced contract this past March?"
Surviving just above .500 and hanging onto the final wild-card spot is not the goal for McDermott or the Bills.
"We're here for more than five wins," McDermott said. "That's why I'm here. That's why I was brought here. That's the vision. It's nothing more than that. It's about getting us to where we're trying to go to win a championship. Everyone wants to get to the playoffs, I understand that, and that's important. At the end of the day, it's about trying to become that football team that the fans of western New York, and the Buffalo Bills fans of the world, have dreamed of for years."
The Ravens already had their eye on the Bills as a fellow wild-card contender, but now they'll be watching even closer to see if Buffalo's "calculated risk" pays off. If the Peterman experiment doesn't immediately pay dividends, Baltimore stands to benefit in the playoff race, as long as the team takes care of its business.
For those in Baltimore who want to know how Taylor is taking the news personally, the Bills team website said he's taking the role of a "good soldier."
"Definitely disappointed," Taylor said. "Ultimately coach McDermott has a vision for this team and what he feels is best for the team, as well as the owners and GM. I have to move forward and continue to be the teammate and leader that I am from a different role. Vocally, I still have to go out there and lead the guys. I got voted captain for a reason. … I have to show that leadership. I think now guys are going to look at me even more to see how I respond in this situation."
Based on larger contractual bonuses the Bills will have to pay next year, ESPN's Adam Schefter says Taylor will likely be released after the season and become a free agent. As such, some Ravens fans are wondering if Taylor would return to his Baltimore roots.
Don't hold your breath.
Flacco will be entrenched as the starter in 2018, and after becoming a starter himself over the last three years, Taylor won't want to return to a backup role.
As such, more likely destinations include the Arizona Cardinals, Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets and Washington Redskins, says CBS Sports' Ryan Wilson.
Ravens as Healthy as They've Been All Year, But There's One Surprise on Injury Report
When I opened the Ravens injury report yesterday, it (mostly) looked as expected – wonderfully healthy.
Only cornerback Jimmy Smith didn't participate, which wasn't a surprise because he's routinely been given days off in practice to be cautious with his Achilles tendonitis. He hasn't missed a start all season.
Everyone else practiced fully, except one unexpected and key starter. Left tackle Ronnie Stanley was "surprisingly" listed with a concussion. There was no mention of the shoulder injury he'd been dealing with prior to the bye.
"[C]onsidering that the team is coming off a bye week — [the concussion] might have occurred during practice," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Edward Lee.
Or not. It also could've occurred during the Ravens' last game too.
"[I]t's unknown if he suffered a concussion in the Week 9 loss at Tennessee or whether it possibly occurred during Wednesday's padded practice," wrote WNST's Luke Jones. "For what it's worth, Stanley was not on the field for the Ravens' final offensive play against the Titans two weeks ago."
Either way, the fact that Stanley was limited in practice indicates he's advanced to at least the third or fourth step of the NFL's five-step concussion protocol.
By comparison, when quarterback Joe Flacco was coming off his concussion, he was listed all week as a full participant on the injury report, and played in Tennessee.
Wide receiver Mike Wallace was a limited participant all week leading up to the Miami Dolphins game, and didn't play, but he later revealed he was cleared and chose not to suit up at the urging of his family. Receiver Breshad Perriman was also a limited participant that week until he fully practiced Friday, and he played against Miami.
That said, you can't necessarily draw any conclusions from other players' experiences. Concussions are unique to each player and they all respond differently.
Must-Watch: This NFL Films Best Mic'ings Video Is Amazing
Do yourself a favor, and click play on this 50th anniversary NFL Films video of some of the best Ravens' mic'ing clips from over the years. You won't stop smiling.
And while I'm giving shout-outs to mic'ings that are worth your time, check out this "best of" video created by our Ravens Productions team from the first half of the season.
Warning: if you don't like to laugh or feel any sort of optimism about the Ravens, then this video isn't for you. It certainly makes one feel like Baltimore has the weapons and ability to go on a run.
Why Didn't Ravens Try to Claim TE Martellus Bennett?
If the Ravens wanted to, they could've claimed recently released Green Bay Packers tight end Martellus Bennett before the New England Patriots did. The Ravens are higher on the waiver wire because of the two teams' records.
With Baltimore dealing with injury issues at tight end – Benjamin Watson, Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle have all been on the injury report recently – and Bennett's low cost, fans asked The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec why the Ravens didn't try to claim him.
"According to Bennett, who spoke to reporters after the Patriots' victory over the Broncos on Sunday, a game in which the tight end had three catches for 38 yards, he instructed his agent to tell teams not to claim him because he was planning on getting shoulder surgery and retiring," wrote Zrebiec.
"The Patriots, who benefited from Bennett's play in their Super Bowl-winning season last year, claimed him anyway and now he's another target for Tom Brady. Apparently, Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Brady did a nice sell job to get Bennett to eschew shoulder surgery for the stretch run."
Zrebiec offered more than a dozen other thoughts in his latest notes and opinions column, and here are a few:
- "Good to see defensive tackle Tim Jernigan get rewarded with a nice contract extension by the Eagles. The Ravens were never going to pay him that money, but it's still fair to question whether they wouldn't have been better off just letting him play out his rookie deal and losing him this offseason with a potential 2019 compensatory pick as the return. The Ravens got improved draft positioning in the third round for Jernigan and they used it to select defensive end Chris Wormley, who has made little impact to this point."
- "Eagles executives Joe Douglas and Andy Weidl, who were formerly in the Ravens' scouting department, have gotten some credit for Philadelphia's rapid rise in the NFC. The Ravens still have some good scouts, but their loss of so many quality evaluators is still the most underrated cause of the organization's downturn. Good scouting is the backbone of successful organizations, and the Ravens have lost a lot of quality evaluators in recent years to promotions elsewhere."
- "Linebackers coach Don Martindale is a pretty straightforward and no-nonsense coach, so his predicting last week that rookie linebacker Tyus Bowser will be a star is quite a statement."