Sean McDermott makes bold move starting Nathan Peterman

Photo of Sean McDermott from


Awhile back I babbled we should expect the unexpected from Sean McDermott…  that he is a different kind of coach who will do whatever he thinks is necessary to win regardless of public opinion. He certainly proved those words to be true on Wednesday after making a bold move in benching Tyrod Taylor for Nathan Peterman this week when the Bills face Anthony Lynn and the Chargers in Los Angeles on Sunday.

There was commentary on social media afterward questioning if it was a smart move or hubris on McDermott’s part to make the drastic switch with the team at 5-4 and trying to gain their first playoff berth in 17 years. Anyone who thinks hubris was involved in making the decision to bench Taylor doesn’t get what Sean McDermott is all about.

Choosing to switch quarterbacks in the middle of the season on a team with a winning record is a relatively uncommon occurrence in the NFL. Replacing an uninjured veteran quarterback with a rookie takes even more guts to pull off.

That’s courage, not hubris.

There were a few subtle signs the switch might be coming after McDermott made a point to tell reporters on Monday that he understood why fans were concerned about Taylor’s struggles. In the past, whenever the subject of Peterman starting came up, McDermott always followed whatever he said with a strong statement supporting Taylor. Not this time. Just moved on to another topic.

If you watch the interview when McDermott announced the change, it’s clear this the switch was not made out of desperation. It also appears the decision to do so weighed heavily on McDermott. He knows this essentially makes it clear that Taylor is not the future at the quarterback position in Buffalo.

It’s easy to see McDermott cares a great deal about his players. He obviously struggled with the decision to bench Taylor, who’s displayed nothing but pure class in handling getting benched for a second time in his career with the Bills. Taylor agreed to take less money to stay in Buffalo, so it had to be difficult to basically give him a vote of no confidence at this point in the season.

Obviously the Pegulas are “all-in” on McDermott and Beane, giving them free reign to fearlessly gut the roster. Raise your hand if you thought six months ago this Bills team would jettison Sammy Watkins, Ronald Darby, Marcell Dareus, bench Tyrod Taylor for a rookie and still be in contention for the playoffs? Pretty sure no one could honestly claim they saw this coming.

Photo of QB Nathan Peterman from

My very early read on Nathan Peterman suggests this move may have been made in part because of his unusual intangibles as a rookie. Obviously Peterman’s skill set is a better fit for the version of the west coast offense used by Rick Dennison.

What’s not so obvious is what is “under the hood” with Peterman. Though there’s only a very limited sample size of his NFL work to substantiate this, when Peterman enters a game it’s like watching a car with a sputtering carburetor suddenly shift into a smooth ride.

He will be sorely tested, no doubt. However, Mr. Peterman presents a different sort of persona than most rookie quarterbacks. There’s no way to teach anticipation or vision and he has both in spades.

The brain is a strange organ. Some people have incredible acumen at sizing up a situation in just a nanosecond and taking appropriate action. Others “freeze frame” and are unable to move quickly into action. How we process data differs as well.

The popular terms “left-brained” and “right brained” come from research that shows how information is processed differently in the brains of individuals. These are very difficult variables to accurately measure, but unique patterns do exist in determining how a person processes information.

I suspect someday NFL teams will extend their use of virtual reality to examine these differences in quarterback prospects in the future, but as of now it’s very hard to determine which quarterback’s mental skill set is best suited for success in the NFL.

Photo of QB Nathan Peterman from and the Associated Press.

Obviously McDermott saw something in Nathan Peterman’s demeanor that led him to believe he has the ability to see the entire field, process it quickly and get the ball to its target in rapid fashion. Let’s remember Peterman was a McDermott pick because Brandon Beane had not been hired yet. It’s also pretty clear the quarterback choice was McDermott’s, not Whaley’s… who was on his way out the door the following week after the draft.

Whatever generated the decision to change starting quarterbacks, it’s clear McDermott and Beane don’t give a fig what the national or local media thinks about the move. It’s bold. It’s brash. And it just might work.

For what it’s worth (probably not much), I have a feeling Nathan Peterman will be more than just fine, and Tyrod Taylor will go on to find his niche with a team willing to build the necessary pieces around him for him to be successful. There could be a happy ending for all of us. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Editor’s babble: After picking up my jaw off the floor, I submit this babble for your careful consideration. You can find me on Twitter @RobynMundyWYO. 

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.

20 Replies to “Sean McDermott makes bold move starting Nathan Peterman”

  1. Thanks for the new article Robyn!

    In the small sample size we’ve seen Peterman as the starter this year (preseason and two series last week), he’s looked good (9-11, 84 yards vs Detroit; 7-10, 79 yards, 1 TD vs NO). Now comes the question of how he does in an actual regular season game for a full 60 minutes. Will he do the things we’ve been wanting Tyrod to do, such as, throw to Benjamin when he’s one on one with a DB? Throw in tight areas instead of looking for a player that has no defenders on him? Be quicker with his decision making? This week and the rest of the season will be very interesting to watch. Will we be seeing the making of a possible franchise QB or just another backup QB trying to be a starter?

    I liked Tyrod, he worked hard, is not a problem child and is not a primadonna. I wanted to see him succeed, but it obvious what his limitations are and I feel he reached his ceiling. With the way the current Bills are built and operated under (offensive and defensive schemes), I don’t think the Bills would have made the playoffs. Taylor cannot effectively and consistently run Dennison’s offense, so it was time to make the change to someone [Peterman] who has the potential to run it. IMO, switching to Peterman now is a win-win situation for the Bills. The Bills have seven games to evaluate Peterman and see if he has what it takes to be a franchise QB. By having these seven games to audition, this will go a long way in helping McBeane know if they need to take a QB at the top of the draft (package together multiple picks to move up) or feel they potentially have their QB of the future.

  2. I just posted this on Anthony’s article but it fits…

    It bothers me that he made this into a race issue.. It is a move as much for the future as it is for the now…The Bills have seen enough of TT to know he is not a franchise QB.. They need to see what Peterman can do so they can prepare for the 2018 draft… They know the way to be a consistent SB contender is to have a Franchise QB…. They worked with Cam Newton so they know what it takes… It has nothing to do with TT being Black it is his play on the field, they have watched him for 3 seasons now and come to the conclusion he is not the QB of the now and of the future.

    • Hi Goose,

      Thanks for posting that here. I found Shaun King’s tweet about the decision to bench TT being racist completely outrageous. It seems to be a pattern lately with bloggers and writers putting out inflammatory rhetoric as click bait.

      Furthermore, the national sports media’s tendency to categorize Bills fans as being a bunch of drunk people setting themselves on fire when there are just as many fans in other stadiums doing equally STUPID things is just more click bait.

      And yesterday I took exception to an article on trying to claim similarities between Rex Ryan and Sean McDermott in terms of hubris. It made my head spin 360 degrees. They could not possibly be more different in terms of temperament.

      McDermott might be making a mistake by starting Peterman. He might flame out as a coach (though I highly doubt it). He may be a lot of things… but to actually write that he is coming from the same place as Rex in terms of hubris? That’s flat out ridiculous.

      I applaud skepticism and frequently defend Jerry Sullivan’s role challenging everything he can. Skeptics play an important role in society. But when skepticism turns into ridiculous accusations like Shaun King implied when he called the decision to bench Tyrod Taylor a racist decision, it goes beyond reasonable.

      Thanks so much for your contributions.


      • I didn’t see King’s blog, I saw another talking head (I didn’t get his name) saying the same things.. Basically because he was black he didn’t get enough time to excel… 3 years is enough to know he is what he is. This administration will do what it takes to get a franchise QB at least they will try their best…

        BTW–Shaun King lives in the area I live in Fla. and frequents the Bank of America my wife works at. He is a good guy but I don’t agree with the racial overtones.

  3. Peterman is going to need to understand his quick read options on every play with that San Diego pass rush, otherwise we will be seeing Tyrod before the end of the game again.

    Fortunately, it looks like his passing options will be pretty good with Zay probably coming back, the question is whether Clay will be available.

    Also, if they can be successful in the passing game, that will open up the running game for Shady, or we will find out how truly bad the Oline is.

  4. Calling the move to bench Tyrod racially motivated is idiotic and irresponsible. It’s stuff like that that leads to numbing people to legitimate injustices because they feel it’s the automatic move.

  5. greg,

    absolutely – taylor’s one dimensionality (roll out and improvise) has crippled the offense to the point that the run game has suffered as well because the defense can stuff the run and contain taylor’s “dimension” with the same formation.
    they needed this move.

  6. Well, to be fair, Rico Suave crippled the run game…not Tyrod. The run game was just fine with Tyrod the last two years…he was actually part of the reason it was top ranked two years in a row…but Rico Suave knows better! He and Wrecks should team up and make instructional videos on how to take a top rated units and turn them sub-mediocre. They might sell like hotcakes if people bought them for the purpose of what NOT to do.

  7. It’s interesting reading all the comments on several Bills sites and message boards. This seems like Flutie/Johnson Part 2.

  8. not even close to flutie / johnson. mr. wilson remains dead at this hour and had no part in the decision.

    joma it’s very difficult to run against an 8 man front. they knew if taylor was going to pass, it would go like this-
    1) wait too long to throw the ball, then check down to the runner in the backfield (defense has it covered).
    2) wait to long and then throw it out of bounds.
    3) wait too long and then throw over the middle well short of the first down.
    4) wait too long and then run with it (defense has it covered)

    If the play was a designed run, then they were already waiting for it. probably the only team in the league that the opposing defenses did not have to substitute a nickel package on third downs.

    • Lol, Anello, you’re absolutely right about that, Mr. Wilson didn’t influence the decision to bench Tyrod like he did Flutie. The decision needed to be made and I glad McDermott had the guts to do it.

  9. So what was the difference the last two years? They were 8 manning the box last year too and the Bills still ran well. Dennison is the difference.

    • or that teams are even bolder about not bothering with the pass. some teams did this last year some were too dumb or had poor defensive talent that they could not execute.

      get the passing game going and then the defense needs to make decisions about formations and coverage- then you can exploit them- including the run.

    • The difference is that the Bills had Watkins, Woods and Goodwin. Teams had to respect the deep ball. TT is not the type to be able to quick read the defense and get the ball out quickly to be able to beat a team loading the box…

      Peterman reads the field quickly and releases the ball to a spot while TT waits for the receiver to be open.

  10. The expectation is that we would be going to the playoffs with Tyrod Taylor. From my perspective, the defense and it’s massive takeaways gave us most of the 5 wins. Most of those takeaways ended in field goals, not touchdowns. So our new kicker has won us most of the games. All NFL teams know that if you make Tyrod have to be a QB you will beat him, doesn’t that say it right there?

    I see a better chance to win going forward with Petterman. With Tyrod standing back there for 7 seconds, would he scramble against the chargers? Yes, then we would be backed up 10 yards for holding because he held the ball for 7 seconds.

    I am all in on Petterman and glad we finally have people in charge that are willing to make the tough choices to get use out or thinking we are winners if we only lose 7 games a year. Win-Win. If he is good we move forward. If not we move forward next year. Brady and his one man-show team won’t live forever then we can watch Bellicheat try and win with another quarterback and below average defense.

  11. in fact i would say dennison did the bills a favor by forcing taylor’s hand. put a crutch under his weaknesses and the bills may back into the playoffs. then you are left with a one dimensional sub franchise QB that just got the team to the playoffs yet the ceiling is as low as a one and done team in a year of crappy competition and injuries. not a good place to be! time to move on!

    • hmm could it be- kelvin benjamin….
      not so sure about gruden’s positive comments- after all he was ga ga for ryan nassib too.

  12. “The difference is that the Bills had Watkins, Woods and Goodwin. Teams had to respect the deep ball. TT is not the type to be able to quick read the defense and get the ball out quickly to be able to beat a team loading the box…”

    Well, that again is Dennison’s doing…

    I’m not trying to defend Tyrod…I’m all for moving on from him. But the offense is terrible as a result of Rico designing an offense that doesn’t fit the players. Maybe Peterman will be able to run a decent WCO, but they had the best running game in the league with most of the same players and now they aren’t very good at all. What’s the difference? The system mostly…