On the surface, the NFL’s decision to give ESPN a preseason game between the Bills and Browns lends credence to the notion that NFL is retaliating against Bristol for criticisms of the Commissioner from former ESPN employees Bill Simmons and Keith Olbermann. But the game has plenty of intriguing story lines, starting with the starting quarterback job in Buffalo.
Albert Breer of NFL Media reports that Tyrod Taylor, a free-agent arrival with 14 regular-season appearances, 35 career regular-season passes, no regular-season touchdown passes, and a career passer rating of 47.2, could win the job with a “good performance” tonight against the Browns.
Coach Rex Ryan has yet to name a starter for the third preseason game. Whoever it is will likely have the inside track to winning the Week One job.
Ryan has raved about Taylor; per Breer, Ryan discussed trading for Taylor when Rex coached the Jets. Ryan has compared Taylor to Russell Wilson. For all anyone knows, Taylor is as good as Wilson, who like Taylor would have been stuck on the bench behind Joe Flacco for four years in Baltimore.
One factor that helps veteran Matt Cassel, the other apparent finalist for the job, comes from his experience playing with big personalities like Randy Moss. With running back LeSean McCoy and receiver Percy Harvin surely intent on getting the ball as often as possible, Cassel could be better suited to manage them than Taylor, whose primary concern will be the basics of running an NFL offense, not placating guys who want more touches.
But Taylor may be the better player, which could be the difference between a 16th season of no playoffs and a long-awaited return to the postseason.