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What if… Josh Allen Quarterbacked the 2010 Buffalo Bills?

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By: Skarekrow

Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images

Would Allen’s brilliance have overshadowed Fitzmagic?

A common refrain among Bills Mafia during the 2023 NFL season and continuing now is the sentiment that Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott should be replaced. By whom? Many don’t seem to care — with the idea that Josh Allen is a generational talent who creates an “easy button” for a head coach.

That got me thinking. What if we plugged Josh Allen into the underachieving Bills teams of the past?


What if… Josh Allen Quarterbacked the 2010 Buffalo Bills?

Overview

After being fired midseason 2009, the Dick Jauron era was over. Interim head coach Perry Fewell wasn’t given the full-time gig, which meant it was time for Chan Gailey. The Jauron/Fewell duo finished with a 6-10 record. Figuring to be a transition year, the 4-10 start to the Gailey era was still a disappointment. Gailey switched to quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick in Week 3, beginning the lovable loser era of the Buffalo Bills.

Coaches and Stats

Prior to landing in Buffalo, Gailey had a plethora of stops in the NFL and college game, spending time all across the offensive side of the ball. His most recent stops included a ho-hum run as Georgia Tech’s head coach and offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs. The latter lasted one season. Brought in to help Herm Edwards turn around a 4-12 team, everyone was let go when they somehow got worse and ended up 2-14. To be fair, the 2008 offense did put more points than the 2007 unit Gailey was asked to help. He was successful in making them “less awful.”

Jacksonville Jaguars v Buffalo Bills
Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images

Gailey landed George Edwards for defensive coordinator, previously coaching linebackers for the Miami Dolphins. Curtis Modkins had coached running backs for the Arizona Cardinals prior to coming to Buffalo to be Gailey’s offensive coordinator. Both coaches are still in the NFL on their respective side of the ball.

Buffalo’s offense struggled mightily in the 2010 season. They scored 1.42 points per drive (26th), scored on 25.3% of drives (29th), and turned the ball over on 19.2% of drives (31st). Buffalo had 21 interceptions and 18 fumbles lost, which is preposterously bad. On the plus side they were fairly average at avoiding sacks.

On defense they managed 11 interceptions and 11 fumble recoveries. That’s right, only one more takeaway than just the interception numbers on offense. You won’t be shocked to learn that Buffalo had the worst turnover differential in the league that season (-17). They allowed 2.14 points per drive (29th), allowed scores on 39.3% of drives (28th), and unbelievably were somehow at 10.5% of drives ending in a turnover (26th, which is quite a bit better than I’d have expected).

Supporting Cast

Trent Edwards got the start for the first two weeks of the season in what can only be considered an audition. How did he do? Ryan Fitzpatrick got the nod in Week 3 and was only replaced in the final game of the season to give Brian Brohm and Levi Brown a look.

Fitzpatrick had a fairly good season, all things considered. Four of the interceptions in total occurred while Brohm and Brown auditioned in Week 17. Two more came from Edwards in his starts. Fitzy’s interception rate of 3.4% wasn’t great by any means, but not as bad as the volume stats might have suggested. Fitzpatrick also sported a healthy 5.2% touchdown rate.

The Bills had access to an injured Marshawn Lynch before trading him to the Seattle Seahawks early in the year. The tandem of Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller took over after, with Jackson leading the way. Both players were reasonably effective running the ball, but Buffalo was tilted toward passing in this year.

So who was catching the passes? Though Lee Evans was on the team and still quite productive when catching the ball, the connection fostered between Stevie Johnson and Fitzmagic on the practice squad led to Stevie seeing vastly more targets than Evans. Jonathan Stupar led the team with targets to a tight end with 13. The good news is that he caught 12 of them.

New York Jets v Buffalo Bills
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The offensive line featured Eric Wood prior to his moving to center. I’ll let you explore the other names if you want.

On the defensive line, Kyle Williams was flanked by Marcus Stroud, and Dwan Edwards. At linebacker Paul Posluszny and Chris Kelsay were the mainstays. The defensive backs were highlighted by Leodis McKelvin and Jairus Byrd. The group was rounded out with Drayton Florence and Donte Whitner — who Bills fans still hadn’t tired of just yet.

The Josh Allen Effect

For our defensive ripple, this team may have seen a decent change. Specifically, Buffalo had the 28th-lowest time of possession. Sustaining some drives could reasonably have led to less-fatigued defenses at the end of some games, as well as a few less scoring chances for opponents — either of which could be a difference-maker.

Although the situation at tight end limits the offense, what I recall of this season was a unit that was often a lot of fun to watch. No disrespect meant to the beard, but I think that statement becomes even more true with Josh Allen at the helm.

Chan Gailey represents the last new coach for me to consider within this series in the years between Marv Levy and Sean McDermott. Out of all of them, my hunch is that Gailey is the most open to letting Josh be Josh. Fitzpatrick accounted for 40 rushes this season. Not a ton, but also not an amount that suggests he was told not to. Tyler Thigpen ran the ball 62 times in 11 games started during Gailey’s 2008 season in Kansas City. More importantly, I don’t recall a single instance of Gailey critiquing or discouraging Stevie Johnson from being Stevie Johnson. So…

Chicago Bears v Buffalo Bills
Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images

Lee Evans was an incredible receiver in what I’d call the “traditional mold.” We’ve seen Josh Allen thrive with receivers like this. Stevie Johnson was one of the best we’ve seen at improvising and winning to get to his spot. We’ve seen how some similar traits with Cole Beasley were wildly successful with Allen who keeps plays alive and is adept at looking for a win via freestyle. I think this would have been a wildly entertaining combo (more so than it already was).

Allen’s mobility likely also helps Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller in the run game. This would be a fun Cerberus of the running game. I’m using words like “fun” and “entertaining” a lot and I don’t think I’m remotely overselling it.

Season Results

If Josh Allen can’t provide significant improvement to a 4-12 team, then what are we even doing here in this series? There were six games in 2010 lost by one score. Three of those went to overtime and all six are good candidates to turn into a win. Let’s weigh in on these ones.

Of the six losses by one score, I have two games where I think Allen definitively wins. Week 1 against Miami with Trent Edwards at quarterback and Week 8 against Kansas City where Buffalo only managed to score ten points and lost in overtime. Both featured enough missed opportunities by the QB to be firm in my thought that Allen performs better.

In the other two overtime losses Fitzpatrick played well, overall. It’s not unthinkable to believe Allen plays even better, but these are maybes for me. Similarly, in Week 3 against the New England Patriots and in Week 9 versus the Chicago Bears Fitzpatrick played well. I put these down as a maybe too.

With the maybes in other seasons, I’ve tried to calculate a percentage of them I think Allen wins and it’s not always 50/50. For the sake of argument though, let’s go complete homer for a second and say Allen turns all six of these to wins.

That puts the Bills at 10-6, which is pretty awesome. In this scenario they’re still behind the New York Jets at 11-5 and the Baltimore Ravens who would also be 11-5 in this scenario (with Buffalo beating them now in Week 7). Even adding six wins, Buffalo still misses the playoffs.

Buffalo would need to win all six of those contests, which include four maybes, and find another win or two in the other five losses. In those five losses, the defense allowed 34 or more points in every contest, with three of them allowing 38. The closest loss and most likely flip would have been against the Jacksonville Jaguars who beat Buffalo 36-26. Every other loss was by at least 24 points.

To replace the Jets in the playoffs, Buffalo would have had to either find an eighth win to surpass their overall record, or get seven wins with at least one against the Jets to begin looking at other tiebreakers. Gang Green swept Buffalo that season and both games the defense allowed 38 points. I’ll be candid, I think Buffalo winning either of these games is such a long shot I didn’t even bother to look at common opponent record, which would be the next tiebreaker.

Replacing Baltimore is slightly more realistic. Assuming Buffalo finds the seventh win, they’d have held the head-to-head tiebreaker. Do I think that with Josh Allen the 2010 Buffalo Bills find seven more, wins including a head-to-head win over Baltimore?

PREDICTION: Buffalo Bills still miss the playoffs

Buffalo’s defense was wildly inconsistent this season and straight up lost a number of games. The defensive ripple likely keeps some games closer but can’t overcome the problem.

Coming back to my maybe pile from above, I don’t actually think Buffalo pulls out all of them to find six more wins. The New England game in particular I just can’t in good faith say Allen would have played much better than Fitzpatrick under the circumstances. I’d like to say they pull most of them out and go 9-7, but realistically even with Allen this looks like an 8-8 team to me.


Note: This series is intended as nothing more than a thought experiment to open up discussion on the Buffalo Bills. Hope you enjoy it and feel free to disagree and add your own best guesses into the mix in the comments. Go Bills!

Originally posted on Buffalo Rumblings