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Armando Salguero: Bills Need A Talk With Josh Allen Before Trying Another QB Sneak

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The day after the Buffalo Bills ran the unsuccessful play that everyone seemed to love despite its failure, no one brought it up again during coach Sean McDermott’s day-after press conference.

No one questioned it a second time.

It was as though McDermott and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll calling a quarterback sneak on fourth-and-1 with the game hanging in the balance the previous night against the Tennessee Titans enjoyed such analytical approval and consensus opinion that revisiting the subject seemed moot.

Except it’s not moot.

The Bills truly need to think about this one. They need to talk about this one. Because they may find themselves in a similar situation in the future and need to be sure they know what they’re doing.

The Bills, by the way, are going into their bye week now with the lingering unpleasant aftertaste of a Monday Night Football defeat against the Titans still on their palate.

That defeat happened for multiple reasons but the most obvious is they couldn’t gain about 1 yard on a fourth-down quarterback sneak from the Titans’ 3 yard line with 22 seconds to play.

And during this bye week, the Bills will discuss things they feel are important as they prepare for their stretch run the remainder of the season.

“It gives us a chance to reflect and have some truthful conversations,” McDermott said Tuesday, “and evaluate why we got the results we got last night and try to improve our football team going forward.”

The Bills have a chance to discuss their red zone struggles. They can evaluate their talent, especially with the trade deadline coming up in a few weeks. They can also weigh the team’s overall health.

One more thing: They can and should have an honest conversation with quarterback Josh Allen about quarterback sneaks. Because after his failed quarterback sneak against the Titans, Allen raised a question about how he feels about such plays.

“I was just trying to find a window to get in there and quarterback sneaks aren’t the funnest play by any means,” Allen said. “I got to find a way to get a first down there. So, it happens.”

Did you catch that?

Allen doesn’t think QB sneaks are loads of fun.

It may be nothing. But Daboll and McDermott need to probe Allen about this because they may find themselves in a fourth-and-1 situation in an important game when they come back from the bye.

They may find themselves considering whether to run a sneak in a postseason game.

Don’t they want to know for sure whether Allen is sold on the play?

Every week in the NFL, quarterbacks meet with their position coaches or offensive coordinators or even head coaches to discuss plays they’ve run in practice and might run in games. And with only rare exceptions, when a quarterback tells his coaches he doesn’t like a play, that play is out.

Gone from the play sheet.

It isn’t used because no team wants to waste a down on a play the guy with the football in his hands doesn’t like or believe in.

So does Allen like the quarterback sneak? Or does him admitting to reporters it’s not fun to run a good hint about how he feels?

I don’t know.

But the Bills would be making a mistake not to find out.

Please note this is not an indictment on McDermott or Daboll electing to go for it Monday Night. And it’s definitely not questioning them putting the football in the hands of their best player.

Everyone agrees that’s not only the courageous thing to do but the smart thing to do.

NFL Next Gen Stats show that teams electing to go for it in that situation convert 75 percent of those plays and go on to win 63 percent of the time.

And, again, everyone loved the choice of putting the ball in Allen’s hands.

“We trust our team. We trust our coaches. We trust 17 (Allen),” safety Jordan Poyer said after the loss. “I mean, I’m with coach 10 out of 10 times, if he wants to go for that.”

Even Allen appreciates the coaching staff putting the game in his hands.

“I love Coach McDermott for giving me that opportunity,” he said. “I’ve got to go out there and prove him right.”

But that doesn’t mean the sneak is right if Allen doesn’t love the play. And, by the way, the play can be hard to love.

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes dislocated a kneecap on a fourth-and-1 quarterback sneak in 2019.

“The first thing I’ve always said to any quarterback that is going to try it is, ‘You have to be willing to do it,’” New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels told the Boston Globe in 2019. “There’s an inherent courage and willingness to send your body into a bunch of 300-plus-pound men and push and not go to the ground and not lose the ball and have an awareness of where you’re at and also find the sweet spot.”

McDaniels coached the best of all time in New England.

Yes, Tom Brady is arguably the best quarterback ever to play the game. He’s certainly the most successful.

And he’s definitely the best ever at running the quarterback sneak, according to the NFL’s own analysis.

Brady, who has averaged 3.5 yards rushing per game and 1.7 yards per attempt in his career, has picked up a whopping 224 rushing first downs rushing, many on QB sneaks.

In Brady’s first game with the Buccaneers in 2020, he led an 85-yard touchdown drive, and culminated it with, what else, a quarterback sneak for the score.

Brady has spoken over the years about how he likes to run quarterback sneaks, how his pliability workouts suit him to have more success on the play.

It’s hard to find a similar sentiment from Allen. Maybe he’s previously embraced the play. Maybe not.

It would behoove Sean McDermott and Brian Daboll to find out whether Allen really doesn’t think the play is much fun.

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

Written by Armando Salguero

Armando Salguero has covered the NFL since 1990 for the Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald and ESPN. He was a 2016 Associated Press Sports Editors Top 10 columnist. He is a Pro Football Hall of Fame selector and AP All-Pro team voter.

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