Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor had a stunning season in 2015, throwing for 20 touchdowns and only six interceptions on the way to a Pro Bowl nod. Taylor went from sixth-round pick in 2011 and former backup in Baltimore to being named Breakout Player of the Year by Pro Football Focus and Most Surprising Player from Sports Illustrated.
As he prepares for his second season in Buffalo, Taylor is working out in Miami with trainer Pete Bommarito. Taylor is planning how he will improve next season in an attempt to solidify the job for the Bills, who have had eight different starting quarterbacks over the past six seasons.
Bleacher Report: Can you talk about the difference in your mindset now as opposed to a year ago when you were fighting for a starting job?
Tyrod Taylor: As far as work ethic, there’s no difference. As far as mindset, yet. Last year at this time, I was preparing for free agency and really didn’t know what exactly was going to happen. I talked with my agent about all the different options. I talked with my parents and I prayed about it a lot, hoping that the right opportunity would come up.
This year, it’s a very different feeling. You know what you have to work on to improve. After you get that first actual experience of starting for a year, you find the things you have to get better on and you really focus on that. You have to realize what kind of leadership role you have now.
B/R: Talk about that leadership component a little more. You weren’t necessarily expected to be in this role.
TT: After being a starter for a year, you’re the one who people are looking to. I’m going into Year 2 of being a starter and Year 6 of being in the league. People are looking at me, trying to figure out how to handle a situation.
For me, getting everybody—the wide receivers, the tight ends, the running backs—together this offseason is something important. We’re working on everybody’s schedules, trying to figure out the best time to meet. A couple of guys have gone back to school to work on their degrees and a lot of guys have to get in shape and train, so they’re on different schedules, but we’ll get together for a couple of weeks before we get back to the team for the offseason.
B/R: Are you talking about something like what Russell Wilson did with his receivers last offseason?
TT: As far as specifics, we’re working on that still. We’re going to do what we do. Russell went to Hawaii with his guys. We’re not going to be as extreme.
B/R: Coach Rex Ryan seems to have a way of getting people to buy into what he’s selling. How important was that to your success a year ago?
TT: I can’t speak for other coaches and what they do. But Rex does a great job of relating to everybody in the locker room. He allows people to be themselves. Now, he has things that he wants to get done, but he’s going to let you do it your way and be yourself. Just be yourself and come to work. Players like that and they can relate to it.
Rex does a good job of passing on his message. He shoots you straightforward; he’s not going to sugarcoat the message, whether it’s in front of the whole team or whether it’s one-on-one. Me being the starting quarterback, we always talk.
B/R: Was there a moment this season when everything seemed to click between you?
TT: I can’t pinpoint one moment, but again, we talk throughout the season. As a quarterback, you talk to the head coach. This season, I think we were feeling each other out and figuring out how each of us is supposed to talk to each other. We’re trying to find ways to push the message over to the rest of the team. As players, we know the locker room and how guys are thinking. He wants to know the best way to approach things to get the message across to the whole group.
B/R: You made the Pro Bowl in your first year as a starter. That has to be gratifying.
TT: I’m definitely thankful for that. I got my parents out there for the first time on a real vacation. It would have been better if we won, but it was an honor to have that happen after my first year as a starter. But the goal is to get to the Super Bowl, so I’m fine with not going to the Pro Bowl again.
B/R: You said that was the first time your parents took a real vacation. What do you mean?
TT: They had been out of state a lot with me for Little League, basketball trips and football trips, but they never really had a vacation of their own. They just never had time.
B/R: What do your folks do?
TT: My mom is a supervisor of a shipyard, and my dad is working for the real estate company we just opened.
BR: What did he do when you were growing up?
TT: He had a couple of jobs. He drove a truck.
B/R: So your parents are hardworking people. That must have made it even better for you to give them that vacation.
TT: Definitely. Like I said, just to get them to Hawaii and see the smile on their faces. My mom, especially. She was sitting there and said she wants to do this every year. I said, "Mom, the goal is the Super Bowl."
B/R: Do you have any brothers or sisters?
TT: No, I’m an only child. I was 10 pounds, six ounces. I don’t blame my mom. I can’t blame her, at all.
B/R: I noticed that while you’re definitely able to run well, you didn’t necessarily run a lot last season. You were pretty judicious about it. Is that something you think about as you’re playing?
TT: It is. The guys who have the ability to run get labeled pretty quickly. They get termed run-first guys, and defenses figure that out pretty quick. You limit yourself, and I’ve never wanted to fall into that. Even back in college, we had a couple of designed runs and then I would try to make things happen if the play broke down. But I didn’t want to be a run-first guy.
Now, in Buffalo, we have a couple of designed runs, and then it’s still about playing from the pocket. I didn’t run the ball a crazy amount of time because you can’t consistently win in this league that way. You have to play from the pocket. Again, defenses figure you out.
B/R: How do you maintain that discipline to not run all the time? Are you consciously looking out over the line before the play and saying, "OK, I’m going to have a chance on this play or I’m not"?
TT: You know about the play and how it’s probably going to break down after the snap, so you’re thinking about that. You can even look at Aaron Rodgers and how he plays the situation and when he chooses to run. It’s about having a feel for the game and knowing when is the right time to run and when it’s not.
If you have that balance, you become more dangerous as a player. It’s about going out and learning how to play the situations. You go through the reads and if the first and second aren’t there, you’re going to have to make something happen. You have to step up in the pocket and be ready because you don’t have all day. You can’t put that kind of stress on the offensive line. At the same time, you can’t rush through the reads. You have to let the play develop and play out, especially when you have a receiver like Sammy (Watkins). You know he’s going to win the majority of the battles on the route, so you need to give him time.
B/R: So you have a pretty good internal clock?
TT: For sure, I think I do. Have I mastered it? No. But I’m getting better at it now that I’m getting more chances to play. You focus on that and work on it.
B/R: Your stats from your first year starting (63.7 completion percentage, 3,035 yards, 20 touchdown passes, six interceptions, 99.4 passer rating, 568 yards rushing and four rushing touchdowns) are very similar to what Robert Griffin III’s stats were his rookie season (65.6 completion percentage, 3,200 yards, 20 touchdown passes, five interceptions; 102.4 rating, 815 yards rushing and seven rushing touchdowns). What’s to prevent you from ending up going down the same path?
TT: I know Robert is a good dude, but I don’t know much about his numbers. I try not to get into the comparison game. I just focus on what I can be better at. If I knew more about his season, maybe I could answer that, but I don’t.
B/R: In the second week of the season, you had three interceptions against New England. Over the rest of the season, you had a total of three. Is there something you learned in that game that proved useful the rest of the season?
TT: I definitely learned a lot in the New England game. The good thing is that we still had a chance to win it coming down to the end of the game. It came down to me throwing an interception in the two-minute drill, but we had a chance.
I think some of it was our approach. It was Week 2, and we were coming off a big win over Indianapolis in the opener, so I think we needed to be more focused on the situation. I know I have to be. I have to be smart with the football and take advantage of situations. I wasn’t as sharp with the football and I threw it in the wrong spots.
I took that game personally. If I didn’t throw those three interceptions, we would have had a chance to win that game. I studied that game with (offensive coordinator) Greg Roman and realized what they were trying to do to me. I realized what I did well and what I had to fix.
B/R: You’re obviously not the biggest quarterback at 6'1". Is avoiding the punishment that goes with running part of the thinking on your part?
TT: I would say that’s part of the focus. I’m about 210 pounds right now and I’d like to get to 212 or maybe 215 by the start of training camp. I finished the season at 208. I think the biggest thing is to have a strong core and more flexibility. The more flexible you are, the less likely you’re going to get caught in a difficult position on the field. When I run, I want to be smart, get out of bounds or avoid contact whenever I can. But really, the time when I missed two games this season, it was on a horse-collar tackle when I fell in an awkward way.
B/R: I assume you know Percy Harvin well from high school. Any sense of what he will do this offseason? I assume you’re trying to convince him to play again.
TT: I actually grew up playing high school sports against him. He was unbelievable in high school, and he still is. That’s the plan. Ultimately, it’s up to him and it’s about his health. I know he’s a competitive guy. If he can play, I think he will. But I know he doesn’t want to go out there if he’s not where he needs to be physically.
B/R: This time of the year, there’s obviously a lot of talk about the draft and whether the Bills will draft a quarterback or stick with you. Do you pay attention to that or to the coverage of the NFL Scouting Combine?
TT: I really haven’t watched any of that. For me, I definitely feel comfortable with where I’m at. After getting named as a starter before the Detroit (preseason) game, I didn’t let down or feel that I had arrived. We just got ready for that game and focused on getting ready for the season. I really tried to take it one game at a time and establish myself. This offseason, I’ve had a chance to go back and watch the film and realize what I have to work on. I’m excited for what’s going to happen. The season can’t come around fast enough.
Jason Cole covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.