While perhaps not the flashiest name available, Tyrod Taylor was always the best option to play quarterback for the LA Chargers in 2020.
After the departure of Philip Rivers, the LA Chargers needed to decide who would be their starter in 2020 rather quickly. After a wild free agency frenzy that had names like Tom Brady and Cam Newton thrown around for the Chargers at various points, they finally made a decision:
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 18, 2020
Many fans questioned the signing of Tyrod Taylor last offseason when the team still had Rivers. It wasn’t a shocking signing, but a high-profile backup was a little weird to some fans, considering Rivers doesn’t miss games. Now, it seems like Tom Telesco probably knew that there would be a mutual parting of ways between Rivers and the Chargers.
Before getting to who the other options were, let’s start with Taylor himself. For his career, Taylor has thrown for 9,562 yards, 7.0 yards per attempt, 54 touchdowns, and 20 interceptions. He’s also completed 61.6% of his passes.
One of his important qualities is that he doesn’t turn the ball over. In Buffalo, he averaged a 1.3% interception rate when he started. Rivers’ interception percentage was 3.4% in 2019.
The ability to extend plays and keep the defense guessing is important to some extent. Taylor provides nice mobility and athleticism in that regard. He’s not going to make defenses look silly like Lamar Jackson, but he also doesn’t have stiff drywall for legs like Rivers or Brady.
Speaking of Brady, the salary cap is another reason why Taylor was a preferable option. Taylor’s cap hit will be $7.5 million dollars. That allowed the Chargers to load up the team around him.
If the Chargers signed Brady or traded for Newton, they wouldn’t have even been able to think about signing quality talents like Bryan Bulaga, Linval Joseph, or Chris Harris. Taking an albatross contract at this stage when Taylor is serviceable just didn’t make sense.
Is Taylor as good as Brady or Newton when they are at their best? Probably not. However, there are fairly troubling question marks when considering either of them to start for a season. Brady is coming off of one of his worst seasons. His QBR was 0.5 points less than Rivers last year and he was tied with Jameis Winston.
He threw for a 35% completion rate when pressured. In his old age, he also has trouble forcing the ball past 20 yards downfield accurately. Brady had the least air yards on his passes last year.
For Newton, the shoulder is just too much to ignore. Two shoulder surgeries in two years and he’s on the wrong side of 30? No thanks. How are teams even supposed to give up draft capital for him before the draft without knowing his medical information?
If Newton were to be released, maybe it becomes a different story. Frankly, considering he’s never going to have quite the same throwing power or accuracy, it’s just hard to believe he’d be an improvement over Taylor at this stage.
Some have brought up the disappointing moments Taylor had in Buffalo or his tenure in Cleveland. Sure, he got benched for Nathan Peterman because he didn’t play well. How did that go? Charger fans remember that game vividly. Five first-half interceptions got Peterman benched for Taylor quickly.
As for Cleveland, that roster wasn’t nearly as good as the roster for the Chargers currently. He was also coached by Hue Jackson, who’s offensive scheming and ideas have been consistently bad. Oh, he also got a concussion, which is what caused Baker Mayfield to start in the first place.
As a bridge option, Taylor also provides flexibility for what the LA Chargers can do in the draft. They can go with the best player available, take a rookie quarterback, or address some key positions of need. The draft flexibility with other quarterbacks at the helm may not have been that way. Brady, in particular, wanted roster control. He also isn’t a fan of bringing along other quarterbacks, as reported by ESPN’s Seth Wickersham. Just ask Jimmy Garoppolo.
Taylor isn’t a perfect quarterback, but he’s a pretty perfect fit for what the Chargers need right now. He has a low cap hit, good mobility, and is an efficient passer. He was definitely a better option than 43-year-old Brady in decline or Newton with major health questions.
People have also made Taylor’s bad moments in Buffalo and Cleveland seem worse than they were. Flexibility with the cap and draft is also paramount to the future of the franchise. The Chargers couldn’t have improved the team the way they wanted to this offseason with a $25-30 million dollar quarterback.