Balling in the face of adversity: Tyrod Taylor leads the Bills to the playoffs despite all odds

  (AP PHOTO/D. ROSS CAMERON)

(AP PHOTO/D. ROSS CAMERON)

“I’m obviously disappointed and it’s a decision that I don’t agree with. Ultimately, it’s Coach McDermott’s decision and I need to continue to be the leader and teammate that I know I can be.”

That was the statement Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor made after being benched during week 11 for rookie Nathan Peterman. The Bills were 6-5 when and very well involved in the playoff hunt, and seemingly threw away their playoff hopes by making the switch.

“This was a decision made by myself," said head coach Sean McDermott at the time. " Certainly I spoke with (GM) Brandon (Beane) like I do about every decision like we do. Really it's about becoming a better team. Like every position, the quarterback position is no different. I understand the headline part of it as you guy are typing away this morning. I understand that. Every position is evaluated and that's the direction I decided to go.”

Starting Peterman over Taylor was the ultimate head scratcher, but he eventually proved the Bills made a terrible decision, throwing five interceptions in the first half en route to a 54-24 loss to the Chargers. Taylor has only thrown four interceptions all season long.

 (Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports)

(Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports)

Taylor has not been out of the lineup since, and has led the Bills to their first playoff appearance in 17 years. He's been extremely efficient throughout his career throwing for a solid QB rating of 91.2. Tyrod is the face of the Bills, and benching him for a rookie just emphasized the losing culture that has engulfed the whole organization for years.

It has never been easy to lead a team in the NFL as an African American quarterback. Hall of Fame Quarterback Warren Moon stated:

"I think we're judged a little bit differently…Some of it is just the mentality of people. That doesn't mean that the person is a racist but they definitely put a different type of judgment on African-American quarterbacks. Especially if you're one that moves around because there's a lot of people that don't have respect for quarterbacks that move around, they think that's all they do.”

Black quarterbacks typically come under more scrutiny and have to go above and beyond to prove themselves worthy of leading an NFL team. Donovan McNabb stated in a Real Sports interview that black quarterbacks "have to do a little bit extra" because there are relatively few of them, adding "people didn't want us to play this position... Every year I'm part of some criticism, but every day that we go through life, you're faced with a lot of adversity. Now the answer is how do you handle that adversity? How do you respond?”

It's safe to say Taylor has responded well and is stepping up to the challenge of turning this Bills organization around. “All that I’ve been through, it makes me who I am,” Taylor said. “I wouldn’t change it. I embrace those opportunities to grow as a person, to grow as a player and I’m still going to continue to keep growing.”

Taylor is a proven winner - he was a 3-time ACC Champion at Virginia Tech and the ACC Player of the Year in 2010. The two-time pro bowl invitee has been solid during his three-year span in Buffalo after riding the bench for four seasons behind Joe Flacco in Baltimore. Taylor has taken full advantage of his opportunity to be the franchise QB and is not looking to let up anytime soon.

"You never let things surprise you. My focus is still the same. I'm going to continue to be the leader that I am, the player that I am, week in and week out.” Taylor will lead the Bills into their wild card playoff game this weekend against the Jacksonville Jaguars and look to revamp a franchise that has been a doormat in the NFL for as long as we can remember.