Derek Anderson: Does it matter?

The Week 7 starter is the Bills' fourth different starting quarterback in eight games

Mike Schopp
October 18, 2018 - 10:54 am

Photo: Jeremy Brevard - USA TODAY Sports


The Buffalo Bills ran a three-way quarterback competition this summer that ended with everyone healthy -- and here we are at Week 7 with Derek Anderson, someone not a part of that competition, as starter.

Anderson will be the fourth different starting Bills quarterback in their last eight regular season games. And that's with only one change precipitated by injury -- this one.

Nathan Peterman was the Opening Day starter because he was the best-performing quarterback of the preseason and the Bills decided to let that construct choose their Week 1 starter for them. Once they set up the competition there was no way to choose anyone but Peterman. Peterman has started three regular-season games -- in two he was so unplayable that he could not survive the third quarter; in the other he was injured.

Anderson got a question on WGR last week about whether the Bills approached him in the spring. He struggled to answer it, at one point going with, "maybe". He also said: "It's complicated."

I don't know the back story. I do know that every day I check Twitter and since the 2018 season started there are numerous references to the Bills' handling of their quarterbacks. The nice ones describe it as a "work in progress". Most find it shoddy and confusing. Many are in disbelief.

I'd have to say "disbelief" describes me. I've been with you for almost 20 years and we've seen a lot. Many of their choices have failed, but most were understandable. I count E.J. Manuel as an example of that. They needed a quarterback and he was the one they thought the most of. They traded down in that first round to pick him. (The added pick was Kiko Alonso, who became LeSean McCoy.) Manuel didn't work out but I'll never blame them for doing that.

Peterman's presence on the Bills' roster defies explanation. He was not a significant prospect. He was not a high draft pick. He was historically inept in his first NFL start. He survived and earned this season's first start, and the Bills failed to earn a single first down in their season's first half. The Bills called on him after Josh Allen's injury and after a touchdown pass to give Buffalo the lead -- there, I mentioned it -- he threw a poster-worthy pick-six to cost the Bills the game.

Next up: Anderson. I think he'll supply a clear upgrade over the play the Bills have been getting from Allen and Peterman. If I'm wrong, well, who knows what comes next? The New England Patriots are here a week from Monday night.

If I'm right they can beat Indianapolis and maybe stay around the wild-card hunt into and through November. I predict that Anderson will stay in for as long as the Bills have any chance at a playoff spot, or at least any realistic one. Playing to win is what teams do and I see no evidence to suggest this team would divert from that.

The Bills have nine games left after this one with the Indianapolis Colts -- their six AFC East games and home games with the Chicago Bears, Jacksonville Jaguars and Detroit Lions. If Anderson is good, with that schedule you might see a season close to last year's play out. I think this is the best-case scenario.

Let me clarify that: best-case scenario for this season, not necessarily for the franchise. It perhaps goes without saying that Anderson is not a quarterback you'd want to be building around. Allen remains that for this franchise. The biggest question isn't whether they can beat the Colts and down the road stay in the hunt, it's what is Allen?. And no matter how Anderson does, you're not going to get any closer to answering that question until he goes back in.

He can watch tape and work on footwork right now -- that's good, I guess -- but he can't throw. He can't play. Maybe we'll get to a point where he can play and the Bills will decide whether he does play based on their record at that time. They should want to have evidence by the end of the season that he can do this. Perhaps they'll end up deciding to compete for this year instead.

This off-season is when they're supposed to be loading up on offensive talent. It would be nice for them to show prospective free agents that the quarterback they'll be protecting or taking passes from can play -- and can win.

Anderson gives the Bills a chance to salvage this season. But does it matter? I'm fine with it for now because what else can they do? But if they split their upcoming games and Anderson stays in over a healthy Allen, then it'll be right to describe the situation by using Anderson's phrase:

It's complicated.

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