The Intangibles: Mental Edge Goes To Tyrod Taylor In Bills QB Battle

Several Bills fans recently asked me to post some ‘wyobabble’ comparing and contrasting EJ Manuel and Tyrod Taylor’s personality and “fit” to win the starting QB job for the Buffalo Bills. Who has the mental edge in this battle going into the blue/white scrimmage?

(AP Photo/Bill Wippert)
(AP Photo/Bill Wippert)

First of all, I’m purposely leaving Matt Cassel out of most of this discussion because he is a veteran that may risk getting cut from the team if EJ Manuel develops into a more reliable quarterback. I view Cassel as the “known entity”, arguably an insurance plan in case Manuel doesn’t function effectively enough in the preseason to warrant keeping him around.

(Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

That stated, after viewing recent videos and press conferences with the media, it appears that Tyrod Taylor currently has a slight edge in the QB battle going into the blue/white scrimmage on Saturday evening. The ‘spin’ suggests that Tyrod Taylor is performing more consistently on the field than the other two candidates for the position.

Here is what Matthew Fairburn wrote about regarding Tyrod Taylor yesterday (Friday, August 7th) regarding his progress in training camp:

I’ll leave the quibbling about analytics and how the numbers support (or not) the effectiveness of each candidate for the starting quarterback position. My focus is on the personality makeup of each, and identifying which QB has the best mental aptitude for playing in what has been reported as a very complex offensive scheme created by Greg Roman.

This past week EJ Manuel confirmed that he has difficulty with the same traits I’ve written about him, especially with regard to the mental blocks that he is trying to overcome. Listen to what he said, especially around the 7:15 mark of the interview. Have a listen:

Then in June, I started my evaluation process with the following post:

That one turned out to be dead on (if I may ‘say’ so) in many ways, not only for the manner in which EJ describes himself as a “perfectionist” and a “people pleaser”, but because that post segued right into this one… trying to figure out what makes Tyrod Taylor tick.

Tyrod Taylor and EJ Manuel could not be more different in several aspects of personality and mental make up. Though I’ve not had the opportunity to personally interview either (and you caln imagine the ‘wyobabble’ if I did), there are several striking differences regarding how they project and present themselves to the rest of the world that reveal a great deal about their personalities. That’s just the obvious stuff.

There are also other pieces of evidence to consider when trying to evaluate their suitability as a starter in the NFL as well. It was reported a few months ago by SB Nation that Tyrod Taylor turned down an offer from the Broncos that paid more than the Bills were offering him during free agency.

It’s understandable Taylor would turn down that offer. After sitting on the bench behind one of the NFL’s most durable QBs for four years, as long as Peyton Manning was upright, Tyrod’s chance of starting for the Broncos was no better than his first four years with the Ravens.

But that factoid isn’t what caught my attention when the information about the Broncos offer was mentioned in the media. My first thought was about what that offer implied. Tyrod Taylor must have been highly valued for some reason by Peyton Manning, as well as John Elway representing the Broncos organization.

After watching him over the years, we all know that Peyton Manning is a tad bit obsessive-compulsive about his job. I’m also pretty sure Manning and Elway both know more about what personality traits are necessary for success in the NFL than most of us as fans do.

They know the “IT” factor, because both Manning and Elway have been swimming in “IT” all their lives. So if these two QBs, arguably both within top ten of all time, see enough potential in Tyrod Taylor to attempt to attempt to sign him, that is more than enough to raise my eyebrows.

No one, not even with Gary Kubiak’s extensive experience with Tyrod Taylor could convince Peyton Manning he was suitable unless Peyton gave his seal of approval. That’s just how ‘big bro’ Manning rolls.

Taylor is a tough person to read if one only has his interactions with the media to rely upon. From what I can tell in the media, he appears to be what is referred to as internally oriented.

That means he processes his view of the world through his own internal thoughts. This would be as opposed to a more externally oriented person like EJ Manuel, who appears to process information by picking up cues from his environment (other people, circumstances).

Why does the orientation in how your mind processes data matter? Simply put, one of the most valued traits in an elite quarterback is the ability to develop amnesia when bad things happen on the field. Jim Kelly was really good at that skill. He could throw an interception and follow it up with a 40 yard TD pass without blinking.

Though Jim Kelly and Tyrod Taylor have vastly different personality types, both are strongly internally-oriented as far as how they process information. Mr. Kelly is a gregarious extrovert, and though Tyrod appears much more introverted by nature, he too seems to process information through his own mind rather than through getting his cues from others.

The degree to which Manuel expresses this external orientation has created a significant obstacle for his development as a successful QB in the NFL. However, much less is known about how Tyrod’s mind works, because he hasn’t had his face in the media nearly as much as Manuel.

That might be about to change. Let’s face it, all things being equal, Tyrod was brought in by Rex Ryan, who has a vested interested in facilitating his success. Rex Ryan has no “skin in the game” as far as EJ Manuel’s fate.

Furthermore, when one examines the various styles of these QBs, Tyrod Taylor really fits the Roman/Kaepernick read-option prototype much better than Cassel or Manuel does (no disrespect to Matt Sims, but Rex has already stated that he’s not likely to win the starting job).

However, where Taylor really shines isn’t just with respect to his ‘mad’ physical skills. If you read about Taylor’s football career since high school, you can see that he had command of his team and truckloads of that special “IT” factor. “IT” became evident as he continued to do nothing but win at the QB position in college at Virginia Tech.

As a professional player, Tyrod also has one distinct advantage over EJ Manuel that also cannot be overlooked. Taylor had four years to learn the professional game on a team with stability at the QB position. Like Aaron Rodgers, Taylor has been afforded plenty of time for his apprenticeship.

Sadly, a confluence of circumstances played out for EJ Manuel that were anything but ideal for his development. Not only was there instability at the QB position, the coaching position was changed, along with ownership of the entire franchise.

Manuel still has plenty of time to establish a case for himself to remain on the roster, either as a starter or backup quarterback. However, his window of opportunity has narrowed considerably since last season.

Along with improved consistency and accuracy of his passes, EJ Manuel also has to shake the label as being tentative and indecisive. Those traits are confidence killers, and with all the talent at skill positions on offense now, it won’t take long before these players start griping if EJ struggles.

From my perspective, the deck is currently stacked in Tyrod Taylor’s favor from a mental standpoint. All he has to do is showcase an ability to understand the offense and let the skill players do their thing. This team does not need the quarterback to be a superstar, but they do need one that can inspire confidence and productivity.

With respect to the intangibles, I believe it’s advantage Tyrod Taylor at the moment.

About Robyn Mundy

Robyn Mundy is Editor-in-Chief of the BillsMafia blog at She's a retired oncology nurse & psychotherapist who loves to write about her life-long passion for the Buffalo Bills, and occasionally something of clinical or social relevance. Robyn lives with her husband Gary and their dogs in the foothills of the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming. Robyn is also a proud founding sponsor. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynMundyWYO.

4 Replies to “The Intangibles: Mental Edge Goes To Tyrod Taylor In Bills QB Battle”

  1. Great take on this battle! Your points are all very valid. It would be interesting to be able to see that scrimmage tonight with your thoughts in mind. Emotionally, my advantage will always go to EJ, as he’s a “day one” Bill. There is nothing more that I would like to see than EJ become our franchise QB, in spite of the entrance into the NFL that he has received. May the best man win the QB battle, and lead the Bills to their rightful place in the playoffs. Let’s Go Bills!!!!

    • Hi Linda,

      Thanks for your comments! I feel very much the same way about EJ Manuel. I hope he is able to pull it all together and become the QB we all want to see.


  2. Good piece but two issues. First of all, it is well known that Peyton Manning has never been friendly to his backups; if anything, he’d want a mediocrity behind him (see: Indy backups from 1999-2011). Second, it was the new coach in Denver, Gary Kubiak, who had been Taylor’s OC in Baltimore who wanted to bring him to Denver.

    • Hi “The King 1935”,

      Thanks for your comments. You’re right about Peyton. He has never been “friendly” to backup QBs, but that doesn’t mean he would allow a guy that wasn’t capable to be his back up. Bottom line, I think he still probably had quite a bit of input into who was selected.

      As I mentioned, I also doubt John Elway would have offered the guy a contract if he didn’t think he had potential to develop into a starting QB.

      As far as Kubiak, I mentioned him as well. It doesn’t really matter who’s idea it is was to offer Tyrod Taylor a contract with the Broncos. It’s not likely that Peyton Manning and/or John Elway were left out of the process regarding who was brought in as a backup QB.