The Buffalo Bills’ championship window feels like it’s closing for no other reason than Josh Allen’s regression. The team’s inexcusable loss to the Denver Broncos on Monday night would lead you to believe that Ken Dorsey was the hangnail that ailed Allen and not the QB’s knack for turnovers. That theory will now be tested as the Bills let go of their embattled offensive play caller, and promoted Joe Brady from his position as quarterbacks coach.
Buffalo’s issue could be coaching because former Allen mentor, Brian Daboll, is the head coach of the Giants and reigning coach of the year. While the Bills’ signal caller produced at a high level last year, and is currently tied for the league in touchdown passes, his two most successful years came under Daboll.
Interceptions and fumbles, particularly in the red zone, have hampered the Bills all year, so it makes sense to blame the script. Things get cramped inside the 20-yard line and it takes creativity, or physicality, to consistently come away with six. (Daboll has the former in spades.)
The issue is Buffalo has never been able to pair Allen with a solid rushing attack, or at least one that he doesn’t have to spearhead himself. If you subtract the QB’s 48 carries in 2023, the Bills would have the fourth-fewest rush attempts in the NFL. Take away his per-carry average, and . . . Buffalo’s team average actually doesn’t fall off the face of a cliff (4.6 to 4.4).
That’s precisely why Dorsey got the boot. The turnover problems are on Allen, but one way to mitigate them is by successfully running the ball. In 2023, there are 22 NFL teams less productive than the Bills’ skill players when they get a chance to carry the rock.
Brady, who was hired more or less as a hedge for this situation, rose to notoriety as the passing game coordinator for Joe Burrow during his Heisman-winning campaign at LSU. Since then, he was the offensive coordinator for Matt Rhule at Carolina, and seeing as Rhule is now at Nebraska, you can probably guess how that stint in Charlotte went.
Brady needs to either find a receiving tandem as good as Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase (not happening) or figure out a way to marry the pass with the run. This is going to sound hot take-y, which is why I’m burying it so far down, but the parallels between Allen and Cam Newton make you wonder what Allen will look like when he’s not as physically imposing.
If Allen eclipses 100 carries this season, it will be his fifth straight year doing so. During Newton’s fifth consecutive year with 100 carries or more, he won the MVP. The six seasons after that? Newton only broke the 100-carry mark three times and was a shell of himself before a lack of opportunities, and his own dismal play, forced an early retirement.
The difference is Allen is a more adept passer and doesn’t have to rack up rushing yards to be effective. (Cue all the people who watched Buffalo put it on Miami a few weeks ago with just four QB rushing attempts. I know, I’m just as confused as you.) Perhaps if the quarterback isn’t asked to do everything, he’ll stop trying to do everything.
There’s more than just a Super Bowl window on the line with the Bills’ next offensive approach. How the team operates going forward will dictate the longevity of its quarterback and ideally keep him around when the cycle renews itself in a couple of years.