There’s always an excuse for Josh Allen.
To be fair, there’s always an excuse for Josh Rosen and, for most of the season, Sam Darnold, too.
That’s what happens with a top ten drafted QB who doesn’t win right away. With so much on the line and so much invested in the pick, no one wants to put blame on the quarterback. Not the coaches. Not the front office. Not the fans.
Instead, the passing game fix is less injuries (Rosen) or a new head coach (Darnold).
For Allen, the refrain has been better players around him. If only he had better linemen and better receivers, then Allen would be fine. He’d be a star.
Sunday was no different.
Allen completed less than 50 percent of his passes. He threw two interceptions and had only 129 yards passing before it was garbage time at 24-6.
Enter the litany of excuses.
Isaiah McKenzie dropped a gimme first down. Robert Foster lost a pretty well thrown deep ball in the sun. Foster, later, got fingers on a 4th down throw that could have been a TD. Jason Croom fumbled inside the five yard line. Logan Thomas had a tough catch go through his hands at the goal line.
If you want, feel free to find the video and go full Zapruder how much of each play was Allen’s fault and how much was on the receiver. Other than the McKenzie play in the first quarter, every one is debatable.
Better yet, let’s take Jimmy Stewart like trip into football fantasyland. Let’s make Allen the star of “It’s a Wonderful Offense.”
Instead of never being born, Clarence the angel takes away all of Allen’s drops and all the passes he threw away to avoid a sack. They’re all getting changed to completions.
According to Pro Football Focus, Allen had 16 drops, 19 throwaways and one pass batted down before the Patriots game. We’ll add the four plays listed above as drops plus two throwaways (one to avoid a safety, one later in the second half).
That’s 42 total completions added to Allen’s season long line. Instead of being 152 for 294, Allen gets to be 194 for 294. His completion percentage rises from 51.7% to 66%.
Sounds pretty good, right? That’s completing two out of every three passes. Ring the bell, a quarterback just got his wings.
Before week 16, a 66% completion percentage ranks… 16th.
That means in the magical land where Allen has the best group of receivers and offensive line in NFL history, he’s a league average passer.
Brian Daboll said last week the Bills aren’t worried about Allen’s completion percentage and it’s not a full representation of a quarterback’s accuracy or ability. He’s right, of course.
Daboll’s measure of a quarterback is “leading this team down to score points and taking care of the football”. Sounds reasonable.
In Allen’s nine games started and finished, the Bills have 150 points. That’s an average of 16.7 a game. That would rank 29th.
The last five starts, where Allen has played significantly better, have totaled 90 points. That’s 18.5 a game and still ranks 29th.
Even though it feels like Allen has done a good job of taking care of the ball, his 11 interceptions in 294 attempts gives him the 5th worst interception rate in the NFL. He’s also lost two fumbles.
Thats not to say Allen is going to be a bust. Not even close. He’s crushed his clearly far too low expectations so far. He’s shown an ability to learn and improve quickly. It’s easy to see the growth continuing next year.
There’s also no doubt the Bills need more at receiver and tight end and offensive line. Improving those groups to replacement level would be a large leap. Both Allen and the offense would get significantly better.
However, even the best receivers still drop passes. Even the best offensive line gives up pressure that forces throwaways. The best quarterbacks throw so many perfectly located balls, it makes up for the mistakes. Allen isn’t there yet.
He still needs to get better himself. A lot better. Allen and Sean McDermott have said as much over and over all season. It’s not just lip service. It shows up on film every week.
Next year, the Bills will have better pieces on offense, assuming Brandon Beane is good at that part of his job. That should mean more completions, more points and more wins.
And less excuses.