Before drafting Allen, Bills had a hair-raising plane ride
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Brandon Beane is happy he’s still around to tell the story of when the Buffalo Bills pegged quarterback Josh Allen to become their heir-apparent starter.
The amount of film the Bills general manager watched, games attended and people he interviewed before drafting the Wyoming quarterback in the first round was nothing compared to the hair-raising experience Beane and the team’s brain trust had visiting Allen in mid-March.
“Ha, ha, ha, you want that story?” coach Sean McDermott said, after Beane first mentioned how “interesting” their trip was to Laramie, Wyoming.
Sure, was the response, during an hour-long session McDermott and Beane held with reporters in June. By agreement, the contents of the interview were not allowed to be published until Thursday.
Beane shook his head in describing the turbulence the Bills’ private jet experienced during landing.
“We were coming in over the mountains, and the plane started just going like this,” Beane said, bobbing his arm up and down. “Literally, our heads are going off the ceiling.”
Beane and co-owner Terry Pegula, who had been watching video of Allen, suddenly started grabbing anything they could get their hands on — seatbacks and armrests — to steady themselves.
While McDermott remained calm, Beane said offensive coordinator Brian Daboll was in near hysterics.
“Daboll is face-timing with his wife. And every expletive, like, ‘It’s over,’” Beane said.
“It was like Fred Sanford: ‘I’m coming home!’” he added, referring to the character played by Redd Fox in the 1970s sitcom “Sanford And Son.”
Upon finally landing, the pilot informed them the turbulence was the result of what’s referred to as a mountain wave, which occurs occasionally when planes fly over high terrain.
Once they gathered their breath, the Bills then proceeded with meeting Allen, and put him through a workout.
Without providing Allen with a script of plays beforehand, Daboll began yelling out situations to see how quickly the quarterback could digest the information and make a throw.
“It was, ‘All right, the deep dig. Now. Five-step, this. Go.’ And he processed it quickly,” Beane said. “His workout was very good. And when we left there, we felt very confident.”
They were confident enough to give up two second-round picks to Tampa Bay and trade up five spots to draft Allen at No. 7.
Where their confidence wavered involved what bumps they might encounter upon leaving Laramie.
“We were a little distracted about how we were getting out of here,” Beane said. “It was like, ‘Where do we drive to have the plane meet us?’”
Here are a number of other notable topics discussed during the session:
McDERMOTT OWNS UP
Beane revealed how McDermott owned up to Bills players by acknowledging he erred in starting rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman over Tyrod Taylor in a bid to provide Buffalo’s sputtering offense a spark in Week 11.
The switch backfired , with Peterman benched after throwing five interceptions in the first half of a 54-24 loss at the Los Angeles Chargers, that extended Buffalo’s skid to three games.
“Sean stood up there and he owned the Tyrod decision,” Beane said. “He said, ‘It didn’t work. We tried it. And I’m trying to win every week. And unfortunately that decision didn’t work out for various reasons. Tyrod’s our starter.’”
The Bills responded with a 16-10 win at Kansas City the following week as part of a season-closing 4-2 run to finish 9-7, and end a 17-year playoff drought.
To address questions regarding Allen’s accuracy, Bills scouts turned to game tape to chart every throw he attempted. They assessed what caused the incompletions, including times he threw the ball away when his receivers weren’t open.
The Bills also took into account Wyoming’s offensive philosophy, which didn’t include many short passes.
“He had no gimme throws,” Beane said of a quarterback who went 152 of 270, in completing just 56.3 percent of his passes, with 16 touchdowns and six interceptions in 11 games last year.
The only real concern was Allen’s footwork, which Beane said notably improved by the time he played at the Senior Bowl in January.
“I’m not saying it’s fixed,” Beane said of Allen’s footwork. “But improved.”
McDermott has no intention of rushing Allen into a starting job once training camp opens in suburban Rochester on July 26.
Allen earned limited time with the starters during Buffalo’s three-day mandatory minicamp in mid-June. He spent the previous 10 practices working with the third-stringers, while Peterman and free-agent addition AJ McCarron split time with the starters.
McDermott previously coached in Carolina and Philadelphia, and noted how quarterbacks develop differently.
Whereas, Cam Newton started immediately during his rookie season in 2011 in Carolina, Donovan McNabb waited until Week 7 in 1999 to make his first start in Philadelphia.
“There’s no exact way to do it, right? It’s about bringing him along the right way,” McDermott said. “We’re not going to put him out there unless we feel like he’s ready.”
Beane concurred, while adding: “Whether he plays zero games or 16 games, we’re going to put out the guy that gives us the best chance to win each Sunday.”