Greg Gabriel: Patience the key for Buffalo Bills with top pick Josh Allen

Bills must have plan for developing Allen and stick to it, not rush him in lineup

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In the months leading up to the NFL draft, critics of Josh Allen have written and said countless words on why he can't and/or won't be a successful NFL quarterback. The fact remains that no highly rated quarterback with a completion percentage as low as Allen’s (56 percent over the last two seasons) has had success in the NFL. Does that mean that Allen and the Buffalo Bills are doomed? Of course not. But if Allen is to have a chance, the best thing for him is to sit in 2018 and learn.

The Bills signed former Cincinnati Bengal AJ McCarron, who is now entering his fifth season as an NFL quarterback. He has sat and learned behind Andy Dalton, and now he is ready to lead a team. Is McCarron the answer for the Bills? We don’t know that right now, but he has had four seasons to perfect his craft, and I have no doubt that he gives the Bills a better chance to win than Tyrod Taylor.

Still, McCarron has his limitations and lacks Allen's upside. There are few, if any, quarterbacks in the NFL that have Allen's natural physical traits. He stands 6-foot-5, weighs 237 pounds and runs a 4.75 40. Allen’s overall athleticism is excellent, and his arm strength is second to none. What will make Allen successful is if he spends every minute of the 2018 offseason program, OTAs, training camp and regular season trying to learn and improve.

That includes Allen and his new coaches studying Allen’s college tape at Wyoming and breaking down what he did right and wrong. Why was he successful with some throws and why was he off target with others? Once that is determined, and his footwork, throwing motion and decision-making are closely examined, then a plan can be devised on how to improve Allen’s weaknesses.

This is where Allen’s football character comes into play. As I have stated several times in the past, football character has nothing to do with personal character. Football character has everything to do with a player’s work ethic, drive to become a great player and passion for the game. If Allen has as strong a football character, as many believe, to go along with his outstanding physical tools, there is no reason he can’t eventually become a winning NFL quarterback.

Still, he can’t be forced to play too early in his career. He has to be ready and feel confident that he can succeed. His attention to detail during meetings and practice will help him with this goal.

Allen will get plenty of playing time in the preseason, but in those situations he is playing in a watered-down offense against vanilla defenses. Yes, it will help his confidence, but decision-makers can’t be fooled into thinking he is ready to play.

One of the best quarterbacks in the game right now is Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, the 24th overall pick in the 2005 draft, who didn’t see the field as a starter until his fourth season in the NFL. Before starting, he saw nothing but spot duty studying under Brett Favre. In Rodgers' first three seasons he threw a total of 59 passes — with 28 of those coming in his third year. That time sitting and learning did nothing but benefit him, and when he got the starting gig, Rodgers was more than ready to play at a high level. He then threw for over 4,000 yards and 28 touchdowns in his first year as a starter.

Now I’m not saying that McCarron is Brett Favre, but the situation is similar. A veteran was acquired as the starter, and he should remain in that role until Allen is ready to play! There have been too many young quarterbacks drafted high who fail in the NFL because they were forced to start before they were ready. The last thing the Bills want to do is be in that same situation.

Develop a plan, implement that plan and stick to it. Both Allen and the Bills will be better off if they adhere to the plan. None of us know if Allen will be ready in one year, two years or three, but the Bills' decision-makers and coaches will know based on what Allen does in both the meeting rooms and practice field. Let’s hope they are correct.

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