All The Bills QBs I’ve Loved Before: A Tale of Patience

It’s official. Nathan Peterman is the Buffalo Bills starting quarterback. And my feelings are, well, muddled.

I’m just not invested in this relationship. Sure, Peterman has shown some flashes during preseason and he has all the intangibles as the scouts like to say. He’s tall, gets the ball out quick, has a strong arm. But, as a Buffalo native, I’ve seen this movie too many times  and the ending is always a letdown. Perhaps that’s why I’m a little bit guarded. I don’t want to open myself up and pour all of my excitement into Peterman. I don’t want to be disappointed again. It’s happened more times than I can count. And it’s made me jaded.

Since 2001, the Bills have had 11 different starting quarterbacks while the New England Patriots, our rivals and bitter enemies, have had one—Mr. Golden-Boy-with-the-good-looks-and-great-arm-and-gosh-jolly-gee, Tom Brady. It’s safe to say I’ve had some serious quarterback envy for almost two decades.

The last time I had any true commitment to a Bills quarterback was Jim Kelly. He was my first. I was a teenage girl. And you never forget your first. Like it or not, your first QB becomes the benchmark that you measure all other quarterbacks against. Kelly had confidence, flair and a hell of an arm. He led the Bills to four Super Bowl appearances, a feat that hasn’t been replicated to this day. But what I remember most about Kelly was how he simply made me feel like the Bills always had a chance to win.  Whenever he trotted out on the field, it was a reassuring sight. Even if the Bills were losing the game, I’d think—we’ve got Kelly.

I haven’t had that kind of confidence in a Bills QB since Kelly retired.

When Kelly left the Bills in 1997, I didn’t cry. He was my QB for most of my adolescence. But I was headed off to college and it was time to move on, to see what else was out there. After all, I told myself, there are thousands of quarterbacks in the sea.

Oh, how naïve I was.

Todd Collins had backed up Kelly for a couple of years, so I figured it made sense to hand him the keys to the offense. I wanted to like him, I did. But the hole left by Kelly was too big for Collins to fill. He was up against a QB reputation and winning culture that demanded instant results. And he just didn’t live up to the expectations. The Bills ditched Collins at the end of the season. Alex Van Pelt took over.

I liked Van Pelt. I’d flirted with him before, when he filled in for an injured Kelly back in 1994. He was a formidable back up. He came in and did his job. He didn’t whine and he wasn’t showy. Van Pelt was just a nice guy. Too nice perhaps. There wasn’t much there to “wow” me.

Rob Johnson stepped in after. I don’t have much to say about Johnson, since it was a rebound kind of thing. His attitude left something to be desired. And I quickly moved on to Doug Flutie instead.

Now, Flutie was exciting. He was the Johnny Manziel of his era, only without the attitude and off-the-field problems. He could turn any blown play into a 20-yard gain. I thought this might be it, that I had finally found someone to measure up to Kelly. Sure, he was an older guy, 36 years old. And yeah, he was much smaller than your standard quarterback. But Bills fans loved him. I loved him, too. I even bought a box of Flutie Flakes. Then, something odd happened. After leading the Bills to a 10-5 record and a playoff appearance against the Tennessee Titans, head coach Wade Phillips swapped out my beloved Flutie for Johnson. The Music City Miracle ensued and I don’t need to say anything more about that.  The Bills brass never inserted him back into the starting lineup. To this day, I’ll never understand why.

Doug Flutie one of only a few exciting Bills QBs
Doug Flutie, a rare Bills quarterback who brought joy.

Enter Drew Bledsoe, the hand-me-down quarterback from the Patriots. It’s easy to pick up and move on when you have a Pro Bowl caliber QB in your midst, even if he dated a rival team before. Flutie? Who’s Flutie? Bledsoe had one of his best seasons ever in 2002 and I was hopeful yet again. But that QB relationship didn’t last either. The Bills moved on in 2004, vaulting J.P. Losman as the heir apparent.

By then, I wasn’t only bitter, I was also dog tired. And in comes this cocky QB who’s talking like he’s the Bills savior. It was a turn off, especially since he couldn’t back up his words with his on-field play. I figured it was time to take a break from the QB scene, pay attention to something else for a while, and put my energy into other things like not being invested in Buffalo quarterbacks.  I never fully disengaged, though, and wasn’t surprised when the Bills moved from Losman to Kelly Holcomb to Trent Edwards and back to Losman again.

Somewhere in the mix, Ryan Fitzpatrick showed up. Did you know he went to Harvard? He was polite, smart and took chances on the field. I was intrigued. Slowly, I started opening up to the possibility that he might be with the Bills for the long term. I let my guard down little by little. But he never could quite get us over the playoff hump. In the end, I just couldn’t commit to a QB who couldn’t deliver on the playoffs.

I quickly sought out short term answers in EJ Manuel, Thad Lewis, Jeff Tuel, Kyle Orton, Manuel (again), Matt Cassel, Tyrod Taylor, Manuel (again), Taylor (again), Manuel (again) and Taylor once more. When Nathan Peterman showed up, I finally had enough. He was a major disappointment from the start, a five-interception outing that left a lot to be desired. And though it was Taylor who led us to the playoffs last year after a 17-year drought, we knew the Bills weren’t going to keep him around.

We were right. They drafted Josh Allen no. 7 overall in the spring. I tweeted my distaste.But throughout training camp and the preseason, he grew on me a little bit. Maybe more than a little bit. But I’m still not sold.

So, here I am. It’s 2018. And after searching for the right QB for two decades, I’m at a point in my life where I don’t want to settle. I’ve waited this long and I know that the perfect quarterback is out there. I refuse to throw all of my emotions into a guessing game.  I’m older and wiser than I was before. I know better than to fall too easily. I’ve got standards. I’ve got a list of wants and needs. I’m not going to sit back let just any QB turn me into a diehard fan. I need Peterman or Allen to give me a reason.

Eh, who am I kidding. I’m a Bills fan. If Peterman shows any kind of promise in the first couple of game (heck, even the first game), chances are good that I’ll be swept up in the hoopla and dive right back on the quarterback carousel against my better judgement. And if he doesn’t pan out, I’ll hold out for Allen next.

If they both bomb, well . . . there’s only one thing left to do—add their names to my growing list of all the Bills QBs I’ve loved before. And keep waiting for the right one to come along.