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What They're Saying

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What They're Saying | NFL analysts assess the Bills' future in 2022 & beyond

Josh Allen (17) Gabriel Davis (13) Stefon Diggs (14) Buffalo Bills vs New York Jets at Highmark Stadium, January 9, 2022. Photo by Ben Green
Josh Allen (17) Gabriel Davis (13) Stefon Diggs (14) Buffalo Bills vs New York Jets at Highmark Stadium, January 9, 2022. Photo by Ben Green

High praise for Sean McDermott

"Sean McDermott is an outstanding coach," Hall of Fame pass rusher Bruce Smith said. "What he was able to accomplish this year, having to overcome the numerous injuries that this team had to endure, along with COVID. And the different positions that some guys had on the team revolving around COVID, and the vaccine. To be in this position, my hat goes off to the job that he did this particular year."

Advice he shared with the team this past Training Camp

"We talk about this window of opportunity. That was one of the speeches that I gave the team this past training camp. There's a window of opportunity for every team. And sometimes you don't have control over that window. But what you can't control, is right here and right now. And we have a nucleus, led by Sean McDermott and this rising superstar in Josh Allen, to make sure we capitalize on this window of opportunity. Because you never know what's going to happen two, three, four years from now.

"Players are going to leave; players are going to get hurt. Coaches are going to leave and go somewhere else, and you have to start over with a new system. So, we have to make the best of what we have right now and continue to build upon it. … We just lost one of our executives to the New York Giants, He's now their general manager. So, these are things that we have to make adjustments to. But while we have the nucleus of this team together right now, we got to seize the opportunity and take advantage of every moment we have and make it count because tomorrow or next year is not promised."

Bills and Chiefs showed that with QBs, "good enough" is no longer good enough

The performances of Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen could certainly change the way teams view the quarterback position. What those two accomplished in this game felt like a step in the evolution of the position—or, at the very least, an evolution in what we expect out of the league's truly elite quarterbacks.

I mean, where do we start with these two? How about the numbers? Allen threw for 329 yards and four touchdowns on 37 attempts while tacking on another 68 yards as a runner. Mahomes racked up 378 passing yards with three touchdowns on 44 attempts, and his seven rushes added another 69 yards and a score. There wasn't much separating the two performances.

As gaudy as the numbers are, the highlights are even more stunning. These two players pushed the limits of what a quarterback is supposed to be able to do—and each did it in his own way.

… With Mahomes and Allen meeting in the playoffs two years in a row—and with both establishing themselves as perennial MVP candidates—this budding quarterback rivalry is already drawing comparisons to the Peyton Manning–Tom Brady saga, which dominated the NFL for the better part of two decades. But none of the 17 matchups we got from those two legendary passers looked anything like this. This was something different.

There's still a place in the NFL for that traditional archetype that Manning and Brady fall into—Joe Burrow is probably the last great hope for that style of passer. But the standard for what an elite talent at the position looks like has been upgraded by all of these physically gifted passers who have entered the league and defied our notions of what quarterbacks are supposed to be able to do.

The Bills' unsung hero from 2021 season

Gabriel Davis - WR · Year 2

I'll make an important note here: I chose Davis before he exploded for four touchdowns in the Divisional Round. Davis' record-setting performance in that game wasn't shocking to anyone who's consistently watched these Bills. The second-year wideout posted nearly identical stats in 2020 and 2021 on a stacked receiving corps that also included Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley, among others. There's an easy explanation for his production: Davis might be the perfect complement to big-armed quarterback Josh Allen. Including the playoffs, Davis caught 10 touchdown passes of 10-plus air yards this season, finishing second only to Cincinnati's big-play star Ja'Marr Chase. Buffalo's weaponry comprises of much more than just Diggs, and folks are going to get used to hearing Davis' name.

Joe Burrow, Josh Allen or Justin Herbert? Which rising young QB would NFL coaches and execs take now?

Which one of these three rising quarterbacks would you take if allowed to choose just one? I posed that question to two NFL offensive coaches, a former general manager, one long-time evaluator, one younger evaluator, former NFL executive of the year Randy Mueller and The Athletic NFL Draft analyst Dane Brugler. The seven voters ranked the quarterbacks 1-2-3.

2. Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills

Average vote: 1.9

Mueller, Brugler and the younger evaluator all had Allen atop their ballots.

"I think he's John Elway," Mueller said. "He does not have the body of work Elway has, but the skill set is so similar that it's crazy."

Allen is ahead of Elway in at least one respect. He has 31 rushing touchdowns in 61 career games. Elway had 33 rushing touchdowns in 234 games.

"To be to be a top-tier guy in today's NFL, you need a superhero trait, and I think Josh Allen has a few of them with the way he can impact the game in so many different ways," Brugler said. "It doesn't come without concerns. He takes so many hits. He is more expensive than the other two guys. But if I'm just talking about the player and the guy that I feel most confident is going to lead my team to a chance at a Super Bowl championship, I'm going with Josh Allen."

One of the evaluators loved the way the Bills developed Allen: addressing his accuracy issues early while using his running ability as a complement rather than turning Allen into primarily a runner early in his career.

"They did not say, 'We have to be run-first to fix your arm second,' " this evaluator said. "They have done the reverse. They deconstructed his motion and improved that, so they can lean into the running when they have to, but he has done enough from a pocket standpoint that he can stand there."

Mueller said he thought accuracy concerns regarding Allen were always overblown.

"Without being anchored to this position, I've never been a believer that this guy had inaccuracy problems that couldn't be fixed," Mueller said. "I could explain those things when he came out, so I've always been a little bit aligned behind that theory of, he just needs training, comfort level, processing and learning, and he'll be fine." ...

Future is bright in NFL with talented young quarterbacks

"Our game, this National Football League is in great hands when you look at guys like Josh Allen, and you look at guys like Patrick Mahomes," Former NFL fullback and current NFL Network analyst Michael Robinson said. "Just the future of these NFL stars, I'm telling you, our game is in great hands.

"But one positive that I can take from this past weekend's game is the experience and the institutional knowledge that Josh Allen gained in that game, that Sean McDermott gained in that game. That all the core pieces of this franchise and this organization gained in that game is going to come back in later years and it's going to help this team win a championship."

The Bills are set up for success moving forward

"To me, a Lombardi's in the future, it is, Robinson added. "I talked about one of those guys that are walking this planet, Josh Allen is one of those five or six guys that can do it. I think that game last week just showed it. I mean, he again he put the team on his back and said, 'I got you.' And everybody had the I had their eyes like, 'yeah we believe you, Josh.' 

"So, for me, I have great confidence in this team moving forward. You have great leadership in place. I think Sean McDermott is an awesome leader. I think that he treats the media with respect, and at the end of the day, in turn, we tell a great story about Sean McDermott in the Buffalo Bills. So, I love from a leadership standpoint, what's going on."

NFL Divisional Round fact or fiction

Chiefs over Bills = Best. Game. Ever.

Let me sell why this is a fact. Even before the Divisional Round kicked off, I thought the winner of Bills-Chiefs would be the Super Bowl favorite. Then, on Saturday, both No. 1 seeds were eliminated, fully accentuating my initial instinct.

Entering the game, we knew it would feature two of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, as well as a pair of the league's finest head coaches. Top-notch coordinators on both sides? Check! Explosive playmakers in each huddle? Check! Spectacular setting in one of the sport's loudest stadiums? Check plus! We all knew this would be a heavyweight title bout. We didn't know it'd be an Ali-Frazier masterpiece.

Truthfully, this was a marvelous game through the first three-and-a-half quarters, with the budding AFC rivals going back and forth in a charged environment. But it was that closing stretch that took this game from marvelous to mind-blowing. Just look at the drive log of the final five possessions:

  • BILLS TD: 17 plays, 75 yards, 7:01
  • CHIEFS TD: 5 plays, 75 yards, 0:52
  • BILLS TD: 6 plays, 75 yards, 0:49
  • CHIEFS FG: 3 plays, 44 yards, 0:13
  • CHIEFS TD: 8 plays, 75 yards, 4:15

The teams combined to score 25 points in the final two minutes of regulation. It was the first playoff game in NFL history with three go-ahead touchdowns scored in the final two minutes of regulation. Just check out the quarterback numbers from the two-minute warning through overtime:

For the game, Allen and Mahomes combined to put up 844 total yards with eight touchdowns and zero giveaways. This was freakin' art. And I haven't even mentioned the fact that Bills WR Gabriel Davis set a postseason record with four touchdown receptions, that Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce piled up a combined 19 grabs for 246 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner.

I could go on forever, but I must stop -- just like the game eventually had to ...

Scroll to view the top fan photos from the 2021 Bills season.

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