Buffalo named Nathan Peterman its QB1 Monday, and it's absolutely the right move for both the team and this year's seventh overall pick, Josh Allen, as the Bills prepare for their Week 1 opponent, the Baltimore Ravens.
"Nate Peterman is still a young player, but I've been impressed with his mental toughness and command of the offense," head coach Sean McDermott said, per the Bills' official Twitter. "He's earned the right as our starting QB."
This short-term decision should help maximize the organization's long-term viability.
The Bills spent the entire offseason searching for a franchise quarterback only to stick with a signal-caller already on the roster. The reason is simple: Allen isn't ready, and Peterman is a better NFL quarterback right now. Allen's control of the offense, overall accuracy and ability to handle pressure have yet to reach professional standards.
The move is somewhat surprising, though, since McDermott decided to start the rookie during the third preseason contest—which is usually an indicator of a coach's intentions.
Instead, the consistency and professionalism Peterman displayed throughout training camp and the preseason gave him significant headway above the team's available options, including AJ McCarron, whom the front office dealt to the Oakland Raiders for a 2019 fifth-round pick on Sept. 1, according to ESPN.com's Mike Rodak.
McDermott told reporters last month what he saw in the second-year pro:
"When you look across all the games, including practice, he has shown that consistency, which is good to see. A young player just in the start of his second season who has shown some poise and some understanding of how the NFL works in terms of defensive schemes. So I’ve watched him grow and develop, which is good to see. Still more work to do, but I think he has been consistent, which is important at the quarterback position."
Peterman led the league with an 80.5 completion percentage and tied for the lead at 10.5 yards per attempt among quarterbacks who threw 10 or more preseason passes.
Efficiency is an underrated aspect of quarterback play, and the coach's praise for Peterman is also a slight toward Allen, even if unintentional.
The two are polar opposites. Peterman relies on timing, anticipation and precision while operating within the offensive's structure, despite obvious physical limitations. Allen falls back on his otherworldly natural gifts to makes plays. As a result, one is ready to shoulder the responsibility of an NFL offense while the other remains a developmental prospect who needs as much time as possible to study and work on his craft.
Make no mistake: Allen is the franchise's future. He'll eventually become the starter. Patience is needed, though. Accuracy, or lack thereof, remains at the forefront of Allen's concerns.
"I think [Peterman has] been accurate," McDermott said, per Chris Brown of the Bills official site. "We noticed that in college as well, but he gives the guys a chance to run after the catch, which is important."
|Buffalo Bills' preseason quarterback play (2018)|
The same can't be said of the first-round pick, who completed only 56.2 percent of his passes at Wyoming before the Bills made a draft-day power play to acquire his services. Excuses pervaded the predraft process about a poor supporting cast and a pro-style offense that didn't include easy throws.
Facts are facts, and Allen never showed any consistent accuracy. So, it should come as no surprise that he's still struggling in that area. He completed 54.5 percent of his preseason passes.
Overall completion percentage isn't even the best indicator of a quarterback's true accuracy. Ball placement is, and Allen admitted he hasn't performed well there either.
"I didn't do a good enough job getting the ball out on time and getting it to my playmakers," the rookie said after starting Buffalo's third preseason contest against the Cincinnati Bengals, per Rodak. "Holding onto the ball is not going to be too great, most of the time."
Draft evaluators often undervalue processing speed. A quarterback can have the strongest throwing arm in the world, and it won't matter if he's continually late working through his progression. An understanding of pre- and postsnap reads often determines whether a play is successful. Coaching staffs can hide deficiencies in these areas with simple half-field or single reads. Eventually, defenses adjust and expose the weakness.
Being mentally prepared for actual NFL speed and building an understanding of where the ball needs to go on a snap-by-snap basis separates good quarterbacks from those who never fulfill their potential.
Allen's admitted to NFL.com's Kevin Patra that he's struggling with the speed of the NFL game, which could be damning in the long run.
"Getting out there with the first team, obviously it's moving really fast," he said. "To see that speed, it was eye-opening. [Cincinnati has] a really good defense. They came out and they brought it. But at the same time, we had plays in place that could've worked if I got the ball out in time. It just didn't happen enough tonight.
"Sometimes when the play clock got a little low and I couldn't really dissect what they were doing and understanding what they were doing, it's tough on a quarterback."
His head is still swimming. Allen won't benefit from game reps at this juncture, since his understanding of the position falls behind the curve, and the Bills face a brutal stretch to open the regular season.
The Ravens, Los Angeles Chargers and Minnesota Vikings are Buffalo's first three opponents. Each of those squads features a ferocious defense with elite pass-rushers. Allen's shortcomings will only be exacerbated playing behind a shaky offensive front, while Peterman is more likely to be composed, even with Terrell Suggs, Everson Griffen and Joey Bosa breathing down his neck.
The longer Buffalo can wait before Allen is forced onto the field the better. Peterman gives the team a chance to win now, while the rookie will be provided more time to learn and adjust.
"Josh Allen is on schedule," McDermott said, per the team's official site. "I've been pleased with his development, and I know he'll be ready if his number is called."
Don't get too far ahead of yourself, Coach. It's not in Allen's best interest to rush the plan.
Brent Sobleski covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @brentsobleski.