BALTIMORE -- Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott said after Sunday's 44-point loss to the Baltimore Ravens, the second-most lopsided defeat in franchise history, that he would "look at the tape" and "be objective" about his decision on who starts at quarterback next Sunday.
McDermott's refrain about examining the tape -- something he mentioned three times in his postgame news conference -- might annoy some Bills fans who believe the second-year coach's decision about his starting quarterback is obvious without careful scrutiny of the 47-3 defeat.
But the reality is McDermott does not face a simple choice in potentially handing the keys to rookie Josh Allen in Week 2 and beyond. McDermott's case in sticking with Nathan Peterman might be paper-thin after Peterman completed 5 of 18 passes for 24 yards with two interceptions Sunday, but turning the team over to Allen and never looking back doesn't seem likely to solve the Bills' problems.
The Bills are stuck between a rookie and a hard place at quarterback. Peterman has been one of the worst starting quarterbacks in recent NFL history. Of the 227 quarterbacks who have started games since 2001, Peterman's 16.8 passer rating in his three starts ranks 224th. He has been replaced in all three of his career starts, either by poor play or injury.
Benching Peterman for Allen seems like an obvious move, but the Bills weren't markedly better under Allen, who completed 6 of 15 passes for 74 yards and took three sacks in mop-up duty Sunday. It's a reminder he will hardly serve as a quick fix. Allen needs plenty of development, so playing behind a porous offensive line with a shaky group of receivers might only stunt his growth.
Sunday showed the Bills have plenty of problems beyond quarterback. Their defense allowed the Ravens to score touchdowns on all six of their red zone trips. It's the first time an opponent has converted touchdowns on six or more red zone trips since the New England Patriots went 6-of-6 in a 56-10 victory over Buffalo in 2007, the only defeat in Bills history more lopsided than Sunday's. That came against Tom Brady, Randy Moss and a historic offense. The Bills' defense on Sunday could not come up with a red zone stop against Joe Flacco and a middle-of-the-road Baltimore offense.
McDermott has used terms such as "process-oriented" and "methodical" since taking over a team perceived as more impulsive and underprepared under former coach Rex Ryan. Bucking what McDermott in training camp called a "calculated" plan for Allen after one disastrous game for Peterman might come across as reactionary, anointing Allen as the starter out of necessity instead of strategy.
McDermott has avoided the "rebuilding" label for his team since his arrival in January 2017, something his veteran-heavy locker room seemed to appreciate last season. Turning 2018 into a season in which Allen can work through his growing pains while the Bills' playoff aspirations potentially sit on the back burner does not seem like the ideal approach for McDermott.
However, it might be his only choice. Trading away AJ McCarron after an underwhelming preseason has left the Bills with a rookie and a young quarterback whose first three career starts are statistically among the worst in NFL history.
McDermott has praised Peterman for being a "faith-based young man" who seemed to have overcome the unavoidable embarrassment of his starting debut last season. The Bills coach has stuck by the fifth-round pick he helped select in 2017, a player McDermott believes has the "DNA" to fit the character of his team.
But if McDermott is being objective, it might be time to turn the page from Peterman.