Alex Brasky | @BataviasBest
Tuesday, July 17, 2018 | BataviasBest.org
One is a first round pick, one is a fifth round pick.
One started in community college, one was sought after by numerous top-20 FBS programs.
One is from small-town Firebaugh, California, one is from big-city Mobile, Alabama.
Similarities are certainly hard to come by when comparing the Buffalo Bills two new men under center, but the organization is hoping, in this case, that the opposites between Josh Allen and AJ McCarron attract the level of success which has been missing in Buffalo since the late-90’s.
After all, the Bills ended the drought this past season, and in order to keep the faith of the fanbase they must take a step forward in 2018-2019. Stumbling into the postseason is not good enough this year, and getting past that level will start with choosing which of the aforementioned gunslingers will be Buffalo’s signal caller.
Throughout his college career, AJ McCarron was unceremoniously termed a ‘game manager’, and was viewed as an average quarterback who didn’t possess the skills needed to unleash the offense he played in at Alabama.
Despite winning multiple National Championships while under center for the Tide, McCarron was never given his due and wound up as a fifth round draft pick by the Bengals in 2014. Of the four seasons he spent in Cincy, McCarron played in more than three games in a season just once – in 2015 when he spent time under center during 7 games, amassing 854 passing yards, while completing 66% of his passes, and six touchdowns.
The four years he spent backing up Andy Dalton in Cincinnati weren’t filled with lollipops and rainbows, and even had a bit of controversy sprinkled in, which led to McCarron filing a grievance against the Bengals during the 2017 season. It wasn’t until the QB won the grievance that he was allowed unrestricted free agency – which permitted him to join the Bills during this past offseason with a strong chance of becoming the team’s starter heading into training camp.
However, the easy path to the starting job was disrupted shortly after McCarron came to Buffalo, as the team decided to make Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen the #7 pick in the NFL Draft – creating a major obstacle in between the former Alabama standout and the Bills QB1 slot.
Whereas McCarron is known as the proverbial ‘game manager’, Allen is widely regarded as the opposite.
Equipped with big hands, a strong arm, and a high ceiling, the now 6’5″, 230 pounder has come a long way from the 6’2″, 190 lbs player who was overlooked by top-college programs coming out of high school – and is now considered one of the elite young talents at the quarterback position.
Allen’s journey toward becoming one of the top-prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft didn’t begin at a high-profile university, but rather at Reedley Community College during the 2014-2015 season, where he threw for 2,055 yards and 26 touchdowns in ten games. Despite completing just 49% of his passes at RCC, his performance was enough to warrant looks from a few Division I programs, including Wyoming which is where he would end up from 2015-2018.
He would redshirt during his first year with the Cowboys, but Allen was given the reigns as the team’s starter during the 2016-2017 season and broke out with 3,203 yards passing and 28 touchdowns, while completing 56% of his passes in 14 games. The secret was now out, as he had officially declared himself a top-tier NFL prospect.
Allen’s collegiate pursuits were not finished, however, and he backed up his successful sophomore season with another strong go of it as a junior this past year, completing 56% of his passes once again while amassing 1,812 yards and 16 touchdowns in only 11 games.
After the 2017-2018 college season Allen made the announcement that he had decided to forgo his senior season at Wyoming, and it was time for him to take his talents to the professional level. Months later, with the seventh pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Bills selected him as their ‘quarterback of the future’ – providing the team with a fresh quarterback controversy, between the newly-minted rookie and the newly-signed veteran McCarron.
Now, I’ve said before that I would like to see Allen sit, watch, and learn from an experienced veteran before he is thrown into the fire and given the starting role in the Bills offense. I believe he could learn a lot from a guy like McCarron, especially when it comes to developing poise and learning to make the easy play at the NFL level.
After all, on the upside the career of a quality professional quarterback can span anywhere from 10-20 years, so what are one, two, maybe three years of molding before Buffalo set theirs free?
On the other hand, this kind of all rests on Allen and whether or not he is able to take the bull by the horns and win the starting job in his rookie year. If he proves in camp and the preseason that he is capable, then hands might be forced. Rookie quarterbacks have succeeded in the past, and it wouldn’t be the first time a top-tier prospect came on before his ‘scheduled time’.
In the end, I hope the Bills just let this one play out. Clearly the best option at the present time would be McCarron due to his experience and the fact that he has appeared able at the NFL level, but a lot can change in just a couple of months, and this team should not rule out Allen for the starting job.
With the quarterback position in flux the way that it is there’s plenty of room for this team to fail this season.
Whether or not the Bills succeed this season will rely heavily on whether or not they make the right decision between Allen and McCarron. History says they won’t.
What will the future say?