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The Buffalo Bills Quarterback Succession Plan



Last Sunday, the Buffalo Bills defeated the Las Vegas Raiders but almost lost their quarterback. With five minutes left in the second quarter, Josh Allen hiked the ball and looked downfield on third down. He couldn’t find an open receiver so he did what he does best: he extended the play. Allen scrambled to the left and made a ridiculous flick pass to Stefon Diggs as he was going to the ground to avoid a sack and set up a 34-yard field goal. It was one of those “hero ball” plays that give Bills fans heart palpitations, but it worked. This play was scary for a different reason, as Raiders edge rusher Arden Key landed on Allen’s back, which led to a left shoulder injury.

I immediately thought that the game, and possibly the season, was over because the whole offense relies on his arm and athleticism. Fortunately, it was a sprain to his non-throwing shoulder, and he was back on the field for the second half. However, in light of that injury and the recent coronavirus outbreak in Tennessee, I began to think about what would happen if Josh Allen went down for a prolonged period of time. In order to stave off disaster, every prosperous business, government, and, yes, NFL team, has to have a succession plan in the event their leader is incapacitated. So join me, as I explore both practical and irrational options to fill out a succession plan for the most important position in the free world: Quarterback of the Buffalo Bills. (Cue the theme music from HBO’s Succession.)

Note: This is intended to be an extensive, US constitution style line of succession for the quarterback position, consisting of current Bills players.

The Line of Succession

1.) Matt Barkley

If Josh Allen goes down, the first man up would be Matt Barkley. The 8-year veteran has started in a pinch before, beating the Jets less than 10 days after signing with the Bills in 2018. The downside here is that Barkley does not have the arm to execute the deep passing element of the spread offense, which will severely limit the offense’s effectiveness.

2.) Jake Fromm

If Barkley goes down in practice because of a missed Brian Winters block, the next man up would likely be Jake Fromm. Buffalo’s likely good neighbor (and 2020 fifth-round pick) has been limited in practice every week because he is McDermott’s insurance policy at the position. However, Fromm also does not have a strong arm and lacks experience against professional caliber defenses. (No offense to the SEC conference or FBS, but defense is not the first thing that comes to mind when I think of college football.)

3.) Davis Webb

If Jake Fromm finds himself ralphing uncontrollably before his professional debut and gets locked in the restroom, Davis Webb would then be in line to start at quarterback. The former third-round pick has spent the past two seasons on Buffalo’s practice squad learning Brian Daboll’s offense and playing scout team safety. He has a stronger arm than both Barkley and Fromm but also has limited experience in game situations.

4.) John Brown

If Davis Webb was to slip on a banana peel jogging onto the field and break his ankle, John Brown would take over. He is the most recent non-quarterback to throw a pass for the Bills, so he would be a natural choice in an emergency situation.

5.) Dawson Knox

Now let’s say that John Brown feels some discomfort from throwing so many dimes on the run and has to leave the game. At that point, Dawson Knox would take over as the signal caller. Knox played quarterback in high school before converting to tight end at Ole Miss, so he has experience running an offense.

6.) Devin Singletary

However, once Dawson Knox fumbles the ball (because we all know he will drop it at some point), he would likely be benched for Devin Singletary. You’re probably thinking, why would you move your starting running back to quarterback? First of all, we crossed that bridge a while ago. Secondly, he played pee wee football against Lamar Jackson, so he knows the position well. Plus, as I mentioned in a previous article, he has the ability to make people miss in the open field, so he could run an effective read-option attack.

7.) Isaiah McKenzie

Eventually, Motor will need to refuel. At this point, Isaiah McKenzie will take over. He can use his versatility and speed to become the first player in NFL history to run a one-man jet sweep.

8.) Lee Smith

When the offense faces a short-yardage or goal-line situation, they will have to sub in Lee Smith, the only pass-catching offensive lineman on the team not named Dion Dawkins. He would run over linemen and drag linebackers around like toddlers grabbing their father’s legs in his pursuit for one-yard touchdowns.

9.) T.J. Yeldon

Now, with Singletary and McKenzie still gassed and Lee Smith useless in long-yardage situations, T.J. Yeldon would finally get to see the field…

10.) Reggie Gilliam

…For three plays before being replaced by Reggie Gilliam. The undrafted H-back from Toledo can catch, run, and block, making him a solid option to run the wildcat offense.

The 2020 season is the living embodiment of Murphy’s Law. Anything and everything seems to be going wrong as players are dropping like flies. The Bills need to brace themselves for the possibility of losing key contributors at any position, including quarterback.

What do you think? Is there any current Bill that you feel would do well as an emergency quarterback? Am I completely nuts? Did I just jinx Josh Allen? Let me know on Twitter (@zvaughn2712).