November 13, 2015
Buffalo GM excited about Tyrod Taylor's future
Doug Whaley came to Blacksburg for the NC State game and talked about the former Tech quarterback and current Buffalo signal caller

By Jimmy Robertson

BLACKSBURG – Virginia Tech’s press box routinely serves as the Saturday home for NFL scouts who come to town to watch both the Hokies’ and the opposing team’s players.

A month ago, though, Doug Whaley sacrificed a cherished Friday evening by coming to Lane Stadium to take in the Tech-NC State football game. He hoped to find another player of Tyrod Taylor’s ilk – fast, strong, athletic and someone with impeccable character.

Whaley isn’t a household name to Hokie Nation, but he serves as the general manager of the Buffalo Bills. Back in March, he signed Taylor, one of the most accomplished players in Tech history, to a contract to play for the Bills after Taylor had spent his first four seasons in the NFL with the Baltimore Ravens.

“Obviously, he had athletic ability – there was no doubt,” Whaley said shortly before the Hokies’ game with the Wolfpack. “The arm strength was there. It intrigued us that he had been able to sit behind a Super Bowl-winning quarterback [Joe Flacco] and learn a craft and learn the intricacies of being a quarterback. That really intrigued us.

“Rex [Ryan, Buffalo’s coach] had connections with the Baltimore Ravens and a couple of guys on our team, like Corey Graham [Buffalo’s safety who spent two years with the Ravens], they had been around him and saw what he brought during practices. Everybody thought the sky was the limit. The arrow was pointing up on this guy.”

Ryan actually tried to trade for Taylor when Ryan served as the coach of the New York Jets, according to this story - He loved his athleticism, and for a lack of a better description, viewed him as a “poor man’s Russell Wilson [quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks].”

Taylor – who threw for 2,743, with a school-record 24 touchdowns and just five interceptions en route to the ACC Player of the Year honor in 2010 and helped guide the Hokies to the ACC title – only played in 14 games in his four seasons with Baltimore while serving as Flacco’s backup, though he won a Super Bowl ring in 2013. He completed just 19 passes for 199 yards during his time with the Ravens, with no touchdowns and two interceptions. He rushed for 136 yards and a touchdown in that span.

But the knowledge he acquired made him attractive – and ultimately paid off. Today, most college teams run spread offenses as opposed to pro-style offenses, so quarterbacks need to learn an NFL team’s system before becoming an effective NFL quarterback. Taylor spent those four seasons in Baltimore learning the NFL style, and now, the Bills hope to reap the benefits.

“What we’re seeing now is that the college game is getting so far away from the pro game,” Whaley said. “Guys with physical tools – you’re going to start seeing those guys creep in two, three, four years down the road and start having some success. So we were intrigued with his physical ability and his mental makeup as well.”

Taylor competed with E.J. Manuel, a first-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, and veteran Matt Cassel in the preseason. The week before the regular season started, Ryan named Taylor the starter.

Taylor has started seven games this season, missing two games with a knee injury. He has completed 70.5 percent of his passes for 1,436 yards, with 11 touchdowns and four interceptions. He also rushed for 243 yards and two touchdowns.

“He’s been everything we thought he’d be and more,” Whaley said. “Just because of his demeanor. You can always see on film a guy’s physical aspects, but you don’t know how they’re going to carry themselves, especially when they’re put into a situation of being the starting quarterback and possibly the face of the franchise for a long time to come.

“His demeanor, his even-keeled attitude, and his ability to have people look up to him and to galvanize the team – we didn’t know. You don’t know until you’re around the person.”

Buffalo faces a difficult road to the playoffs. Just in the Bills’ division alone, the AFC East, the Bills face the New England Patriots and New York Jets twice, and New England beat Buffalo on Sept. 20 in Buffalo. The Patriots are rolling, and the Jets are much improved, though Buffalo won 22-17 over New York last night.

But Whaley said the Bills are not intimidated.

“The goal is to not only make the playoffs, but to win it all and be successful,” he said. “It’s a quarterback-driven league. I’ve been chastised for saying we’re in quarterback purgatory because we’re a talented enough team that I hope we’re never going to be taking that first or second pick in the draft, and that’s when you get most of those marquee, franchise quarterbacks.

“That puts the onus on our scouting staff to find those guys later in the first round, or second or third round, or a free agent like Tyrod to get that franchise quarterback. That’s a tough thing to do, but hopefully we’ve hit the nail on the head with Tyrod. So far, we’re excited. There are going to be some growing pains, but there are growing pains with any quarterback. We feel his trajectory is going nowhere but up.”

Tech fans always felt the same way, and of course, are glad to see him get this opportunity. They proudly wear red, white and blue on Sundays for one of their own, and even though he plays in Buffalo, for them, Blacksburg will always be his home.

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