(Photo courtesy NewYorkUpstate.com)

The Bills’ once and future quarterbacks…

For some brief background, OSU’s Cardale Jones was drafted in the 4th round by the Buffalo Bills in the 2016 NFL Draft. He was picked as a “project”; there was no doubt about his arm strength and history, brief as it was, at winning big games in a major college environment. I’ve felt that Cardale had the tools to be a better NFL (pocket passer) QB than a college (read option) QB. So, to me, living on the eastern shores of Lake Erie, this draft pick made sense.

In an April 30, 201 article, ESPN’s Mike Rodak took a similar position:

This was hardly an unexpected pick for the Bills, who needed to add another quarterback before the upcoming season. With starter Tyrod Taylor entering the final season of his contract and an extension far from imminent, and the team unlikely to pick up EJ Manuel‘s fifth-year option for 2017, the Bills were widely expected to add a young prospect at the position. It’s hard to argue with Jones being the best quarterback on the board at No. 139 after Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott was selected by the Dallas Cowboys at No. 135. This is a smart pick for the Bills, who have had a strong draft to this point.

Apparently, the Bills “brain trust” has had a bit of a challenge choosing a QB to replace Jim Kelly. The on-field and off-field contributions of Jim Kelly will probably never be replicated, but the Bills continue to fall far short of what once was.

Jones becomes the fifth quarterback that the Bills have selected since Jim Kelly retired following the 1996 season, joining J.P. Losman (2004, first round), Trent Edwards (2007, third round), Levi Brown (2010, seventh round) and Manuel (2013, first round). None of those players have come anywhere close to becoming the Bills’ next franchise quarterback, and 16 years after their last playoff appearance, the Bills are still, in some ways, looking for a replacement for Kelly. The team is encouraged about Taylor’s progress but his contract situation leaves an element of uncertainty. Jones is a raw talent but his upside helps the Bills hedge their bets with Taylor. It was time for the Bills to draft another quarterback, and they did.

The Bills drafted Jones on the basis that; 1) starting QB Tyrod Taylor, in line to make some BIG money next season, may not actually be that good and 2) former starting QB EJ Manuel actually isn’t that good. The best case scenario for the Bills was that Taylor prove worthy, which buys time (1-2 years) for Cardale to get settled in the NFL environment and up to speed as a potential starting quarterback.

The ‘best case’ scenario has gone by the boards; Taylor has not panned out and the Bills staff has apparently been spending so much time trying to ‘develop’ their starting QB, the time that Cardale needs for tutelage was in short supply.

Per Vic Carucci of The Buffalo News last week:

Despite three-plus months of practice and meetings, Jones is every bit as raw as he was in training camp and the preseason. And he was exceptionally raw then. If you think what you’ve been watching for the last 12 games has been awful, things could, in fact, get worse with Jones behind center. Much worse.

Since the season began, the coaches have not been putting him through any sort of the clinical, fine-tuning work that he received through the offseason and the summer. Not that they did a ton of that, because their efforts were primarily devoted to preparing Taylor, who had the No. 1 job to himself after being a part of a three-way competition before the 2015 season.

Despite Tyrod’s ascendancy to the starting QB role, he has struggled this season; short version – sometimes dual threat quarterback’s don’t find a lace in the NFL. The Bills currently (pre-Browns game) sit with a record of 6 wins, 7 losses. Their chances of making the playoffs are slim. They are about the same as you or I making the playoffs.

Based on the above, there is an argument that Cardale should get a shot to play. Get that thought out of your mind right now. Carucci identifies the nub of the issue: Cardale is not ready to play. his is not a “let’s put the kid in to see what happens” scenario. Cardale is not ready. He was drafted s a long term project, and it appears the Bills are not even putting mentoring resources into that effort at the moment.

The intriguing fact is that, if Taylor gets injured this season (in relatively meaningless games), the Bills would be on the hook to pay Taylor his next season’s compensation of $27M. Here’s the gist of the article:

They could flat-out refuse to play Taylor for the rest of the season to protect themselves from being financially tied to the quarterback. Language in the contract surrounding the $27.5 million option says that, in the case of an injury, that money is guaranteed for Taylor.

In summary, that Bills have: 1) a starting QB they probably won’t bring back next year, 2) have a back up (EJ Manuel) who may/may not be with the team next season and 3) a rookie QB (Jones) who is in know way ready to take the field.

Finally, to answer the initial question about “red-shirting” Jones, my opinion is: yes; red-shirt him. This season is lost for Buffalo. There is nothing to be gained by starting Cardale in any games for the balance of this season. It would not accelerate Cardale’s development and it would not provide the execution the Bills need at quarterback.

It appears there will be a new coaching regime in Buffalo next season. The season will be over on New Yer’s (for the Bills). Let’s move on and not cause any more damage that has been done.