How this became a Josh Allen World
We stage a virtual roundtable with ex-quarterbacks, including the man who developed Allen (Jordan Palmer), to figure out how the Bills starter went from raw-as-hell rookie to MVP frontrunner.
On Super Bowl Night, Josh Allen was right in Southern California.
Not at SoFi Stadium. Not playing for the Lombardi Trophy.
No, the quarterback’s blistering postseason ended at Arrowhead Stadium with those fateful 13 seconds. So, instead, he was here. At Jordan Palmer’s house. The Buffalo Bills quarterback actually bought a house right down the road from his private coach in Orange County. He watched the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals square off in Super Bowl LVI and… yeah. It hurt.
It’s not like Palmer was “interviewing” Allen that night. Palmer also happened to be a few beers deep like every good American should be during the Super Bowl. A bunch of fellas were hanging out — Sam Darnold, Kyle Allen, Logan Thomas, potential 2023 top pick Will Levis.
Even then, Palmer could see the pain in Allen.
“It stings anybody to lose that,” Palmer says, “I think that was tough. Knowing that you should be in that game. And you have a really good feeling that you’ll have a chance to get back to that game. But obviously nothing is guaranteed in this league.”
Yes, Allen believed the Bills should’ve been playing in that game.
“I think all the Bills players thought that, I think the staff thought that, I think the entire city thought that,” Palmer continues. “That’s not specific to Josh, you know? That one stung. I don’t know how long it took. I never really asked him. I know he has channeled all of that into this year. This is probably the hardest he has ever worked and the most focused he has ever been.”
Finally, the quarterback and the team turn the page on that “bad, bad situation.”
The 2022 NFL season is here. Tonight, the Bills visit the Rams right at SoFi and the hype around this team is unprecedented. Per Caesars Sportsbook, the Bills have received more than twice as much money to win the Super Bowl than every other team, four times as much money than 22 teams and 10 times as much money than 12 teams. The man fueling such insanely high expectations is, of course, Josh Allen. The rocket arm. The athleticism. The Paul Bunyan-build. His conglomeration of skills has arguably never been seen at the position.
The pressure was on Allen for a while. As written back in November 2020, this franchise’s owner was in love with Patrick Mahomes out of college, yet decided not to interfere. The next year, Buffalo maneuvered up the board for a total project out of Wyoming and Allen has proven to be an all-time consolation prize.
Now, he’s a MVP frontrunner.
To continue the conversation, Go Long chatted with four experts for a virtual roundtable.
Jordan Palmer: Allen’s private QB coach is credited for rewiring his mechanics. One of the most inaccurate passers in the NFL became one of the most accurate. How? Palmer digs into the nitty gritty. (Also: Palmer recently chatted with Allen for his new podcast, “The Room.” It’s worth the two hours.)
Rich Gannon: Not only is Gannon the former 2002 NFL MVP and a four-time Pro Bowler, but he’s called several Bills games for CBS. The former Oakland Raider is close to Allen and many people at One Bills Drive, tracking Allen’s progression from 2017 to today. His insight is rooted in countless conversations with Allen, head coach Sean McDermott and former Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.
Warren Moon: The Hall of Fame quarterback threw for 49,325 yards and 291 touchdowns and also trained a weapon that’s most similar to Allen: former Carolina Panthers MVP Cam Newton. As you’ll read, Moon was also at “13 seconds” in Kansas City.
Rob Johnson: In a roundabout way, the Bills should be thanking their old friend for Allen. What people may not know is that Johnson’s father started this whole QB Guru trend in So Cal. Bob Johnson trained Carson Palmer as young as 10, 11 years old. Rob helped him out, too. He’d physically pick up Carson’s feet to show him how to do a three-step drop. When Jordan got into high school, he worked with Bob and Rob’s brother. Then, Rob helped out as Jordan got ready for the pros. Of course, Johnson can relate to being the anointed one in Western New York. Long ago, he was supposed to deliver a Super Bowl to the city of Buffalo. (Here’s our Q&A, icymi. Johnson relived it all.)
Johnson is still upset he couldn’t win it for Ralph Wilson, for the city.
If these Bills hoist the trophy — once and for all — keep an eye out for Rob Johnson during the parade.
“I might fly out just for that party,” he says. “I’ll go to Chippewa Street and be the 50-year-old on the corner. You know how you see the old dude and you’re like, ‘Oh my God. What’s he doing here?’ That’d be me.”
Here’s how it’s gotten to this point…
When Allen was drafted seventh overall ahead of UCLA’s Josh Rosen, the locals were not pleased. A scroll through the comments is a fun time. Rosen was the polished, pro-ready product. Allen was the gangly, awkward, small-school project. McDermott even started Nathan Peterman that 2018 season. There were many rough moments that rookie season for Allen. He went 5-6, threw more interceptions (12) than touchdowns (10) and completed only 52 percent of his passes with an abysmal 67.9 rating. Still, there were glimpses.
Gannon: I did his first-ever game. I think it was in Baltimore. Nathan Peterman started, he got hurt, and he came in. Watching him in that game? He was wild. He was reckless. The game was going really fast. You could tell the accuracy was going to be a bit of an issue because he was all over the place. His feet were all over the place, his mind was all over the place.
Moon: He reminded me of Cam Newton because I trained Cam Newton coming out of college to get ready for the NFL Combine and the draft. He was this big piece of clay you could take and mold the way you wanted to based off of how you were going to use him. We had to re-teach him everything. He had never taken a snap from center in college except for a couple of quarterback sneaks. He didn’t know the three-, five-, seven-step drops. We had to teach him all that technique. The fundamentals. But he had all this raw ability. That’s the way I looked at Josh Allen when he came out of Wyoming. He didn’t play against top-flight competition. He could run. He could throw the football as far as anybody and as hard as anybody. But he wasn’t polished.
Johnson: He was winning games and he couldn’t even throw the ball his first year. He was jumping over people. He wasn’t a skilled enough passer. He didn’t understand the pass game enough to win it with his arm. He said, “F it. Let’s do it this way.” And he was getting the job done.
Gannon: I just remember the criticism that came down on him. It was, “Is this guy going to be a bust?” Because he completed 52 percent. All the criticism he endured. I think he internalized that, and I know he took it personal. I’ve had conversations with him. Particularly when it was coming from certain people like Hall-of-Fame players and broadcasters.
Johnson: To play quarterback in Buffalo, you have to be tough. It’s tough people. That was my Dad’s No. 1 thing, as a quarterback: Accurate and tough. Nowadays with the rules, maybe not so much “tough.” But you still have to be tough in Buffalo. It’s windy. It’s not the easiest place to throw. So, one, you have to be tough to mentally grind through that. Buffalo’s a tough area so they’re tough people. You better be tough, too.
Gannon: He goes from completing 52 percent to 59 percent to 68 percent. Now, all of a sudden, he goes from being the guy who was questionable his first year to being one of the top quarterbacks in the game. How does that happen?
Johnson: I watched film of him when he was in college, and you can’t blame him. He was in a not-great offense and it was colder than shit up there. I think his personality and how he takes in coaching and how he wants to always improve is amazing. Because he’s physically gifted off the charts. Crazy. His mechanics needed worked on and that’s where Jordan came in. And Coach Daboll. Dorsey. A lot of quarterbacks are frickin’ divas. It’s half and half. Some are dudes and cool. The others are pain in the asses.
Moon: There were things he had to learn. I think he learned that through his quarterback coach Jordan Palmer.
Not a fatal flaw
For decades, we’ve been conditioned to think accuracy cannot be taught. You have it, or you don’t. It’s innate. From Year 1 to Year 2 to Year 3, Allen trashed that logic in a way we haven’t seen. How? A combination of hard work and a deep obsession with the mechanics. Allen needed both. Not everyone believes this style of play works in the playoffs through three or four straight wins. We’ve chatted a few times with one Hall of Famer who’s skeptical in Kurt Warner. The former Ram MVP was not alone in thinking a quarterback with long levers would struggle with accuracy. The likes of Steve Young, Troy Aikman and Terry Bradshaw were all critical. It’s hard to blame them. Palmer believes Allen was “absolutely” motivated by criticism.
Palmer: It was always there. It was a matter of time.