Confessions of a Josh Allen Skeptic

The Josh Allen Experience has been, well, an experience.

Everything surrounding his drafting and the start of his career has been rife with debate. It was pretty evident the Bills were going to move on from Tyrod Taylor after the 2017 season with a mind on drafting a quarterback of the future that spring. And right from the get-go, the process was a fight.

I was a Tyrod fan but I was on board with moving on from him. It seemed as if they had reached their limit with him under center with an effective but somewhat predictable offense. It felt like the Bills were closer to a Wing-T than the other teams around the league racking up passing yards. Of course, the underlying numbers indicated the offense under Taylor was better than you might’ve assumed, but it still felt like they were limited with him at quarterback. Even in breaking the drought, the toothless attack in Jacksonville served as the final straw for just about everyone who hadn’t already began to look forward.

Keep the white facemasks, please and thank you.

Knowing that it was likely the Bills would be drafting a quarterback in 2017, I had already begun to look ahead to some of the players they could be targeting. I was fully on board. Using a high draft pick to ideally get a quarterback capable of vaulting the offense into the 21st century was what I’d been waiting for. Thanks to his impressive sophomore year, Josh Allen was my personal favorite entering the 2017 season. But as his play wavered in his junior year, I soured on the thought of him. Especially as a high pick.

So, when it looked more and more obvious that Allen was going to be Buffalo’s pick, I got progressively more disappointed with the decision. Given all of the data available to us, it wasn’t unfair to question whether or not it was a good pick. Yet, very quickly it became a capital crime in the eyes of Bills Mafia to question the new quarterback. An odd wrinkle but not wholly unexpected. You want your guys to do well, right? You want your team to be the one making good decisions, not bad ones. I’m almost always on the side of at least giving the organization (Bills or Sabres) the benefit of the doubt with a hire or a signing or a draft pick. I’d much rather start on the positive side of things as opposed to the negative. But considering the way his play regressed in 2017, I wasn’t sold on the pick. Still, the preposterous amount of piling on for anyone who even dared to mention that maybe we shouldn’t put too much stock into wins over Gardner-Webb or Texas State made this an exhausting endeavor from day one.

I’m not sure if that makes me a critic of his. I certainly didn’t want him to fail, I wasn’t rooting against him. But I wanted to see some proof of concept before buying in.

The issue became that even the most lukewarm critique of Allen was met with mountains of angry tweets. It was exasperating and it only got worse as last season progressed. Even though the offense was pretty much the same as it was the year before – intermittent passing success and a reliance on the quarterback making plays with his legs. Sorry, not sorry, but was that not just what we all sat through and agreed it was time to move on from?

At the end of the day, I wanted to see if Allen was going to do it. If he could be the guy. His rookie year was alright, the track record of drafted quarterbacks with his resume does not inspire confidence and ultimately, I was uneasy on the whole affair. I wanted to give him a chance – not that what some random fan thinks really matters – to see if he could be the guy for them.

But this was supposed to be a positive post and I’m about 600 words into this thing and I’m still complaining. Bottom line, it all felt like a whole lot of one step forward, two steps back. Everytime another ho-hum, 50% completion game got added to the roll, I couldn’t help but wonder what the point of it all was. Each time some donkey tweeted how he really put a lot of good stuff on film during that New England game, just ignore the INTs, I wanted to pull my hair out. But he’s got me believing now.

It took a little while, but I’m buying stock.

I’m very eager to be called a fair-weather fan or whatever. It’s going to be great! But that’s fine, I had my doubts and I’m delighted that they’ve been proven wrong. Though I’m not going to be any less annoyed by some of the told you so’s that will come out of this. Just look at the replies on this tweet.

https://twitter.com/FO_ASchatz/status/1201555871072948224

The meat of this is that Allen’s improvement has been tremendous. That’s the sort of thing I’d want to see if I was someone who had been all in on Allen from his draft day. Instead there’s a whole lot of dunking going on in the replies, He definitely brought some of it on himself given his stance prior to the year, which feels like losing the thread to me.

What’s great about that Schatz tweet, in my opinion, is that it gives extra weight to what we’ve been watching the last few weeks. I think the last three weeks have been the three best games of his career. That includes his somewhat pedestrian 185 yard effort against Denver, but I’m not hung up on the idea that Allen needs to hit 300 years. Quite frankly I think that’s sort of a silly benchmark, but that’s another argument for another time.

The improvement that’s been reflected in Allen’s play as the season has progressed has felt palpable as we’ve watch is held up by the underlying metrics. That’s a good thing. A really good thing! By no means am I an analytics acolyte, especially for football, but I’m happy to give them credence. If it helps paint a better picture, bring it on.

Obviously the Dallas game was the coming out party. The throw out of the end zone to Cole Beasley is the type of play the Bills would’ve struggled to execute against air over the last 15-plus years. That was a bigtime throw and to see those types of plays become more commonplace has been one of the best parts of this season.

One of the big things I was waiting for as Buffalo’s record continued to tick upwards was for Allen to play a “full” game. A 60-minute effort, if you will. He certainly didn’t against the Jets, they shut it down against the Giants and that middle portion of the schedule was pretty average, generally speaking. All the while it seemed like such a chore for the offense to score more than 21 points, which is something you’d like an NFL offense to do with relative ease.

It took a little while, but a light went on at some point and he’s turned in his fair share of “complete” games. A few point points might be nice, but the last three weeks inparticular have been extremely enjoyable to watch and it’s because the quarterback is at the center of it all.

As much as I love watching a dominant defense, I can only watch so many of them before I want to see a little more. Well, Allen has been giving more these last few weeks and it’s totally changed my outlook on the remainder of the season. I’ve gone from expecting a playoff berth but really just thinking the game would be the Bills winning the honor of losing in the Wild Card round. Not I’m lamenting the fact that the Bills will probably be on the road as a 10- or possibly 11-win team in a game I’ll be expecting them to win. And that’s because of the quarterback.

Of course, the next four weeks will feature plenty of smarmy tweets about haters or whatever and that will blow. Credit to anyone who got in on the ground floor. You’re more positive than I am, that’s for sure. I’ve been poisoned by 20-plus years of below average quarterbacking and roster decisions. Sue me. But I’m buying in now. Let’s roll.

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