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How Josh Allen reached the pinnacle of NFL quarterbacking in 2021


There's no debating that Josh Allen was playing as close to perfect football as an NFL quarterback can at the end of the Bills 2021 playoff run. Yes, the way Buffalo lost still stings for many Bills fans and players alike. But the level of play we witnessed from the team's franchise quarterback was utterly spectacular.

Through the first two weeks of the postseason, Allen had a league-leading completion rate of 77.4 percent. He was tops in the league in passer rating (149), number one in touchdown percentage (14.5%), first in touchdown passes (9) and had no interceptions.

"Several steps in his growth this year," said head coach Sean McDermott. "There were I'm sure some questions remaining for people, and I think that he's answered all of those questions. You're always looking as an organization to find a quarterback that you can say, 'Hey, we've got him. He can do it.' And he can take your team to the highest level. Without a shadow of a doubt, Josh Allen has answered all those questions."

"He had a heck of a year," said Bills GM Brandon Beane. "He deserved to be in the top caliber of quarterbacks in the league. I'm proud of him. I'm excited that he's our guy. You look around the league, and this is the most important position in all of sports. We can smile today that we have Josh Allen."

But why was Allen able to raise his game to a level that is so rare only he and Patrick Mahomes might be able to reach it?

Allen's offseason quarterback trainer, Jordan Palmer from the QB Summit, in an appearance on 'One Bills Live' this past week, reiterated what he said about Allen's abilities from a couple of years ago.

"He's the most physically gifted athlete to ever play the position," said Palmer. "That statement is probably looking a lot more accurate right now when we see him run the way that he does. He's not breaking big runs because everyone fell and he's fast. He's creating these runs. He's cutting back, he's setting up blocks, he's a runner, and then we see the throws that he makes. We've never seen an athlete like this at his position. People want to say Cam Newton. No. Cam Newton never at any point threw it and had this type of control on the ball. Newton was not as good a runner in my opinion and was never as fast as Josh is right now. So, I really do think that he's the best athlete that's ever played the position."

The physical talents of Allen have been undeniably elite since he entered the league in 2018. But the biggest stride Buffalo's quarterback made in his game this season was the control of his emotional state during games. Even earlier this past season Allen would put pressure on himself to make a play if his team was down on the scoreboard, or if the offense didn't get off to a good start. That would sometimes lead to a negative play on his part or even worse a turnover. Toward the end of the season Allen capably harnessed his emotions to remain an even-keeled assassin in the passing game.

"The biggest issue that we've seen up until last year, was controlling emotions and getting too fired up wanting it too bad," Palmer said of Allen. "Fighting to create a play that's maybe not there to be made right now. Whether it's the Houston playoff game, taking sacks trying to make a play last year we saw that creep up early on his career when he would roll right. He would throw some incredible passes. He would throw some interceptions. He would take a bunch of unnecessary hits. What we've seen is the evolution of him and how well he controls his emotions in the game.

"That last game versus Kansas City is the example. Never at any point did his face change. Never at any point did he freak out. He was just in complete control of his emotions, which allowed him to be in control of his decision making. I think he played eight quarters of perfect football (in the playoffs) and that allowed him to control the ball and just be deadly accurate. So that's the linchpin for him."

But why did it suddenly surface in the playoffs? Why did that emotional control manifest itself in the most important games of the season?

Palmer believed it came down to two things. Trust and experience.

"You've got to get reps at that," said Palmer of playoff pressure. "I can't simulate an experience that makes him ultra-competitive and makes him feel like he's going to die or he's going to win this. I just can't create that environment. You only get those reps on game day, and you only get those reps in important games. I just think that really played out here towards the end of the season for two reasons. One, because he's been cognizant of it. He's been thinking about it.

"The second part of it is trusting other people around you to make plays. And whether that's having Isaiah McKenzie step up in Week 16 at New England or Devin Singletary stepping forward or the defense getting some takeaways. So, I think it's a combination of his development and evolution and continuing to trust the guys around him. That's a good team. They don't need the quarterback to make every play."

So where does Allen's game possibly go from here? He reached an elite level this season. As Allen sees it the effort to improve moves to the refinement stage for his personal game.

"Just finding ways to get better each and every offseason," Allen said. "Working with Jordan out there in California and just trying to home in on all my mechanics and do everything I can to be the best quarterback and teammate I can be for this team."

Palmer will review a bunch of tape from this season with Allen and they'll identify some element or nuance of his passing mechanics that may have surfaced as a problem from time to time and diagnose the issue. Then they'll work to correct the issue through repetition with a new muscle memory plan.

Last year they fixed a hitch in his delivery when he was climbing the pocket that compromised the consistency of his throws on in breaking routes. This offseason it'll likely be some other small detail of his game.

So, what should be the expectation for Allen's game in 2022?

"Here's the thing, I don't think he's ever entered into a season in complete control of the ball and complete control of his decision making and more importantly, in complete control of his emotions," said Palmer. "So now, no matter how big the moment is, with those reps and that experience I think we'll see him in the Super Bowl next year."

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