Quarterback Josh Allen has been cleared from concussion protocol and is expected to start for the 3-1 Buffalo Bills on the road against the 2-2 Tennessee Titans on Sunday.
Allen got medical clearance from the Bills’ team physician and the independent neurological consultant.
Starting Allen is a risky decision for the Bills. It can go sideways in a hurry.
But it seems the club is looking only at the potential upside. If Allen is feeling no ill-effects come game time, there’s no question he gives Buffalo the best chance to win over backup Matt Barkley.
But there is plenty that can go wrong too. The worst case is that he gets another headshot and has to leave the game again, putting his career at risk. The Titans are one of the strongest defensive teams in the NFL and among the leaders in the sacks department.
But even beyond that, there are risks. What if Allen turns in a bad game, even by his standards? Critics will jump all over him and the coaching staff, declaring that perhaps he wasn’t quite right and should have sat out in favor of Barkley. And how would his affect the team’s confidence?
You have a backup QB for a reason, and that reason may be now. If not now…when?
Barkley is 29 and has started only seven games in a five-year career. Those numbers don’t inspire confidence. But isn’t it better now to find out what you have in him than later when it may be too late?
There is some rational thinking behind sitting Allen, or at least starting Barkley. The Bills have a bye week next week, which would afford Buffalo the luxury of added rest for Allen.
This is the perfect time to let Barkley log some significant minutes, perhaps as a starter. If he struggles, you could bring in Allen.
The Titans are favored by three points. This is not a must-win game for Buffalo. The Bills have a host of weaker opponents coming up where they can make up ground.
Look at their next six games, with four of them against (currently) winless clubs.
NEXT SIX GAMES
Starting Allen against the Titans may work out perfectly well for the Bills and the sophomore QB. But in these eyes, it works out only if the Bills win and Allen has a strong game.
If the Bills lose, even with Allen having a strong game, Buffalo will have lost the chance to test Barkley again under game conditions. He didn’t get a fair chance last week late against the New England Patriots, who are only the best club in the league.
At the very least, the Bills should have strict orders for Allen to slide feet first if he is chased from the pocket. Or better yet. Order him to just eat the ball and go down.
Of course, this tactic will take away one of Allen’s strengths, and that’s his running ability, which keeps defenses honest.
On the flipside, there is risk in NOT playing Allen. The Bills would look foolish sitting him and having the Titans bottle up Barkley and the Bills offense.
In some ways, it’s a no-win decision. If you sit Allen, you run the risk of having your team sputter to a 3-2 record. But if you start Allen, and it’s clear he’s not quite right, you run the risk of him having a setback so early in the season.
Allen is such a competitor, he wants to be out there. That’s why the player is often not in the best position to make these calls.
The Bills coaching staff and medical staff are in the best position to judge what is right for them. But it’s also their responsibility to be guided by a long-term vision and not short-term thinking.
This decision on Josh Allen should not be about trying to win one game in Week 5 with your franchise QB having just come out of concussion protocol at the last minute, only a week later.