January 26, 2022

Josh Allen Fulfills Immense Potential Despite Brutal Bills Playoff Loss

The insane, jaw-dropping end to the Buffalo Bills' 42-36 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Divisional Round was just another notch in the Bills' bedpost of heartbreak. It didn't matter that the Bills entered with the NFL's top defense, or how their fourth-year quarterback completed what should've been a game-winning drive with just 13 seconds left on the clock. The loss was painful and felt like the Bills lost the Super Bowl in overtime despite a near-perfect offensive performance.

For a franchise that has seemed snake-bitten throughout the years after mid-season breakdowns and playoff failures, the Bills losing to the Chiefs was especially bad. Quarterback Josh Allen fully realized his massive potential in the playoffs, completing 77.4% of passes for 637 yards, nine touchdowns and zero interceptions against the New England Patriots and Chiefs. It doesn't get much better than that.

This offseason will begin the painful process of revamping what may have been the best Bills team since the early 1990s. Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll is likely to land a head coaching job elsewhere after his wonderful achievements with Allen and the Bills. The team can open around $30 million in cap space after reasonable cuts and restructures, an amount that can swiftly diminish after new deals for Isaiah McKenzie and Levi Wallace, and extensions for Tremaine Edwards and Jordan Poyer, if the team chooses. 

Maybe the Bills only extend Edwards and turn to the draft for replacing the rest. It would make sense, as the Bills have an older core that will be churned in coming offseasons. Decisions on Star Lotulelei (33), Cole Beasley (33), Micah Hyde (32), A.J. Klein (31), and Poyer (31) range from easy to difficult. What happens if both Hyde and Poyer hold out for a new contract they rightly deserve? 

So long as Allen continues to be an elite playmaker when it matters most, the other transactions across the roster matter less. Good teams have hard financial decisions to make constantly, and the Bills' staff and front office are among the most trusted in the league. He's shown he can be a top-two quarterback in the NFL at any given moment thanks to his revamped mechanics improving his once-woeful accuracy, mastered poise, and incredible athleticism.

The leaps Allen has shown from Wyoming and throughout 2019 up until the last two seasons have been a revelation we've never seen before. There are exceptions, but Allen is arguably the largest we've seen in decades. When I charted all of Allen's throws in college and compared him to a decade's worth of prospects, his best-case scenario would be to overhaul his game like Kirk Cousins did. 

Of course, Allen's physical tools made it more likely he'd be able to accomplish the impossible. No one knew his aptitude for improvement, the Bills' ability to put the perfect staff around him, and their unwavering patience in his development. Most other franchises would've written him off after a horrible start to his career and they wouldn't have been completely out of line based on historical precedence.

The payoff has been franchise-changing for Buffalo. The prospect of outlasting Patrick Mahomes, Andy Reid, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce is daunting, but also not necessarily the proposition. The ebbs and flows of the league don't require massive improvements, even if a solid offseason could leave the Bills with much better trench play than they're used to.

The potentially scary outcome is Ken Dorsey takes Daboll's offensive coordinator role, and Allen regresses in 2022. Allen was less effective in 2021 than 2020 as his risky decision-making dipped, and his playmakers were less apt to win the jump balls. Some of that is chance, and some were bound to happen. Allen can't afford to become as streaky as he's prone to for stretches for Buffalo to be a true Super Bowl threat. 

For now, Allen's linear development is incredibly encouraging and the bigger storyline for the franchise. Potential regression is more of a thought than a reality, and even if it is a reality, Allen's baseline still features QB1 potential as he showed in the AFC Divisional Round.

Photo: Getty Images/Lines Illustration