By now most everyone knows what’s on Josh Allen’s to-do list has he enters his second season as quarterback of the Bills.
- Consistent footwork
- Effectively assessing risk-reward
- Improving ball placement
- Mastery of the offensive scheme
And Allen has been diligently working on all of those this offseason.
But what about all of the other responsibilities that come with being the starting quarterback of an NFL club?
Things like building team camaraderie. Supporting teammates’ off-the-field causes. Engaging positively with the media and fans. And putting out a good vibe publicly as the face of the franchise.
Fortunately for Allen, building relationships as well as engaging and interacting with fans and media alike are not heavy lifts for Buffalo’s signal caller.
“I would say it comes easily,” Allen told Buffalobills.com. “Off the field I’m representing not just myself, I’m representing my family, my football family here with the Buffalo Bills, the entire organization and I’d like to be a good look for Buffalo. I’d like people to look at me and be like, ‘Okay we understand what kind of person he is and those are the type of players they want in that organization.’”
The coaching Allen has received from people like Sean McDermott, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and new quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey is readily understood. It’s directly tied to his on-field performance.
But the task and pressures associated with being the face of a franchise require a much different skill set.
A skill set that Allen appears to innately possess as part of his personality makeup.
When Buffalo was active early in the free agency period, Allen followed the news of the team’s acquisitions on Twitter and was in frequent contact with GM Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott.
It wasn’t to ask if any of the reported signings were official, but rather a request for the phone number of one of his newest teammates. Allen wanted to reach out to welcome the team’s most recent additions. Not only because he knew what it would mean to a player to get a phone call from his new team’s QB, but because he genuinely wanted to help guys like John Brown, Cole Beasley, Mitch Morse and others feel a part of the team as soon as possible.
Allen repeated that practice during draft weekend as new prospects were selected.
“It's been well documented how Josh (figuratively) put his arms around some of the players that we did sign through free agency, some of our draft picks,” said McDermott. “And I think that's a great quality to have in terms of the humility that Josh possesses in his DNA and the way he was raised, and so that's the first step with leadership a lot of times.”
But Allen often takes it a step further. When it came to Micah Hyde’s charity softball event this past spring in between OTAs and minicamp, Hyde asked his teammates to support him as he wanted to have the offense go against the defense in the game.
For Allen participating in the event was a no brainer. The quarterback doesn’t have a big ego, but he knows if he is participating in Hyde’s event that more fans would attend and donate to Hyde’s cause. But beyond being a crowd draw, Allen genuinely wants to support the causes his teammates represent.
“I wanted to be there,” he said. “I want to help my teammates in whatever way possible on and off the field. If they’ve got events that I can go to and attract crowds and money for their foundation and what they love to do, you bet your ass I’m going to be there.”
McDermott and GM Brandon Beane put tremendous value on the character of the players they draft. And it was a critical component for who they wanted at the quarterback position when they made Allen the seventh overall pick in the 2018 draft, the highest pick ever used by the Bills on a quarterback in the modern draft era.
But even Buffalo’s head coach seems pleasantly surprised with the accelerated way in which Allen has built relationships with just about every person in the building at One Bills Drive and every fan with whom he has had a direct interaction.
“We're talking about a young man who's one year out of college and is going to continue to experience life and grow and mature off the field,” said McDermott. “His leadership will continue to develop in the locker room for us. But Josh is a young man that is driven and very in tune and very self-aware with his overall development as a young man and as a football player and how important that is to our organization. I’ve seen that in the habits that he has undertaken since he left here in January and when we got him back and what he’s done since that time.”
“One of the major things I’ve seen in his growth as the quarterback and leader of this team is how he carries himself,” said Zay Jones. “He’s truly a franchise quarterback. When he speaks, we listen. He runs the huddle really well. He has a great eye and knack for the game. He handles a lot of the things on the field well, but off the field too. So definitely he’s done a great job of becoming that leader and really has in my opinion taken a good step.”
"One of the major things I’ve seen in his growth as the quarterback and leader of this team is how he carries himself. He’s truly a franchise quarterback. When he speaks, we listen." Wide receiver Zay Jones
Obviously, the steps he takes with his on-field performance this coming season will get far more attention and be far more important to team success than his off-the-field exploits. But Allen sees his team building off the field and his interactions with the fan base as equally important.
“On the field, it’s about making the right decisions, putting the ball where it needs to be on time and accurately, letting our guys catch the ball and make plays,” Allen said. “Off the field it’s developing those relationships with our guys. Making sure we are on the same page and we all have one mindset towards the same goal, and that’s to win football games.
“That's a good thing to have is a ‘just win’ method from your quarterback, but it goes back to his preparation habits,” said Daboll. “Even how he is around the building, with all facets of the building from the training staff, to the cafeteria workers to the people in the weight room to the equipment guys. It's not just the players. He's the face of a franchise, and there's a lot that goes with that, particularly when you're a young guy picked as high as he was. I think that his mindset, is to get better every day. Josh is a good leader. I think the guys respect both his work ethic and his ability and his command in the huddle. He's a good guy to work with. Happy we have him.”
And perhaps that’s what makes Allen so effective whether he’s in a helmet and pads or in street clothes. No matter the setting, who he is doesn’t change.
“I feel I’m the same person off the field as I am on the field,” said Allen. “I’m a competitive person. I love joking around and that doesn’t change on the field. There are certain times where we’re just hanging out and being guys and that’s super important for a quarterback. A lot of the time you hear when guys get big and famous and paid a lot of money they kind of change and they shut teammates out. That’s not the type of person I am or ever want to be.”
And that’s why teammates and fans have quickly come to appreciate Allen for who he is just as much as what he can be for the Bills franchise as its quarterback. None of Allen’s makeup as a person is forced or a put-on. It’s all genuine and that should serve the Bills well as an organization in their pursuit of excellence going forward.
“Anytime I step on the field or off the field I’m still the most competitive as anybody out there,” he said. “One thing I’m always going to have is a positive attitude and if you want to say I’m ‘happy go lucky,’ that’s okay with me. It’s just a positive outlook on life, a positive outlook on our season and I’m really looking forward to what we can do this year.”