On Wednesday, McDermott announced that rookie Nathan Peterman will start on Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles when the Bills take on the Chargers in a game they can ill-afford to lose.
That sends three-year starter Tyrod Taylor to the bench at a critical time in the season, and speaks to the power McDermott wields in his rookie season as an NFL head coach.
"First and foremost, it was a decision made by myself," McDermott said. "The coaches were not involved with this decision, it was a decision that I made.
"I spoke with Brandon (Beane, the general manager) like I do about every decision, but really, it's about becoming a better team and the quarterback position is not different. I understand the headline part about it. I do."
It's an interesting decision because the Bills, despite two horrific one-sided losses in succession, are 5-4 and sitting in the sixth and final spot in the AFC playoff picture.
It certainly seems like a tenuous position given how they played in losing 34-21 to the Jets and 47-10 to the Saints, but it's clear McDermott believes Peterman can get the offense back on track in a system that may be more suited to his skills than Taylor.
"I get that, and I understand that; we are 5-4, I understand that and we're in the playoff hunt," he said. "It will always -- and for the time I'm here -- be about becoming the best team we can become. We are made for more than 5-4 and I've come here to be more than 5-4."
Taylor admitted to being shocked by the move, but the Bills passing game has slipped to 30th in the NFL, Taylor is 26th in yards per attempt, and he's the third-most sacked quarterback in the league. Last week, he had the worst game of his NFL career -- 9 of 18 for 56 yards, a passer rating of 33.6.
"Obviously disappointed," Taylor said. "I don't agree with the decision, but the decision was made and you have to move forward. Ultimately, coach McDermott has a vision for this team and what he feels is best for the team as well as the owner and GM. I have to move forward and continue to be the teammate and leader I am from a different role."
Peterman, Buffalo's fifth-round pick in April, made his NFL debut last week in mop-up duty against New Orleans. He completed 7 of 10 passes for 79 yards and threw a touchdown pass, though it was against as soft a defense as possible with the score 47-3 at the time. Still, McDermott liked what he saw, and has liked what he has seen since Peterman walked into the building seven months ago.
"I've been impressed with Nate's maturity as a rookie and at a very early point in his career," McDermott said. "He's certainly worked hard. When you look at Nate and what he was able to do through OTAs, training camp, preseason, and then the other day, I thought he did some good things, albeit it was a small sample size. That said, he has a lot of work to do like we all do."
This may be a good week to make the move. The Chargers rank 32nd in the NFL in run defense, so the Bills theoretically should be able to ease Peterman in by relying on LeSean McCoy and the offensive line to control the ball.
Also, the StubHub Center isn't exactly a loud, raucous stadium, so playing on the road as opposed to home in his first start should be minimized.
SERIES HISTORY: 35th regular-season meeting. Chargers lead series, 22-10-2. The teams have also met three times in the playoffs and the Bills won the first two in 1964 and 1965, winning the AFL championship, the franchise's only two championships. The Chargers won the last meeting 22-10 in 2014. Buffalo has not beaten the Chargers on the road since 1981, a 28-27 victory in San Diego.
--Nathan Peterman will get the start at quarterback Sunday against the Chargers, a move that was greeted with a bit of wariness by a Buffalo team that is inside the top six for an AFC playoff berth. Several veterans seemed a bit tepid, though they believe head coach Sean McDermott is doing what he thinks is best and they have bought into his process.
"I think everybody was kind of surprised," said running back LeSean McCoy. "Nobody knew until today. We've been struggling, everybody, the last two weeks, so we were a little surprised. We're not playing well, from (Tyrod Taylor) to me, guys up front, other playmakers, we're not playing well."
Peterman's elevation seems to be the proof that McDermott believes he's a better fit in the offense than Taylor is. Peterman, of course, wouldn't confirm that, but he explained his ability to drop back, make a quick read, and throw, this way: "I was told by a coach in college who's in the NFL now, what separates quarterbacks from college to the NFL is anticipation," said Peterman. "That's what I try to do, make sure I'm getting balls to guys in those windows, playmakers, and letting them do their thing with it."
--The Bills may again be without left tackle Cordy Glenn Sunday in Los Angeles. Glenn sat out Sunday's loss to the Saints with his never-ending foot and ankle problems, and he was again sidelined for practice Wednesday. Dion Dawkins, the rookie second-round pick, has filled in admirably for Glenn, but if Glenn can't play, Dawkins will have his hands full with either of the Chargers defensive ends, Joey Bosa or Melvin Ingram.
--Wide receiver Zay Jones was able to practice after missing last week with an ankle injury, and just as he came back onto the field, wide receiver Jordan Matthews was limited by a knee injury. Matthews, though, will likely play in the game against the Chargers. That would give Buffalo a full complement of receivers.
--Defensive end Jerry Hughes has been sidelined with a shin injury suffered in the Saints game, but while he didn't practice Wednesday, he seemed fine in the locker room and will most likely start in Los Angeles. The Bills need Hughes because their pass rush has been non-existent the last six games, during which time they've had only four sacks.
Hughes has only three sacks thus far, a disappointment given that he's back in his preferred 4-3 defense. Of course, he's the only guy who can get to the quarterback, so he draws constant double-teaming, and the rest of the front line is being single-blocked, and losing.
Shaq Lawson had been solid against the run until the last two games, and he has brought nothing as a pass-rushing end. Inside, Kyle Williams is not getting push anymore at age 34, and neither is the other tackle, Adolphus Washington. This week, the Bills cut veteran lineman Jerel Worthy and re-signed DeAndre Coleman, who gives them additional bulk in the middle of the line.
NOTES: QB Nathan Peterman will make his first NFL start against the Chargers. He was 7 of 10 for 79 yards and a touchdown last week in the final minutes of the blowout loss to the Saints. ... QB Tyrod Taylor, coming off his worst game as a Bill with a 33.6 passer rating, has been benched as the starting quarterback. ... RB LeSean McCoy has had four games where he rushed for less than 50 yards this season. ... WR Kelvin Benjamin will make his second start with the Bills, one week after a debut that included only three catches for 42 yards. ... TE Charles Clay had a disappointing return after a four-week absence as he caught only two passes for 13 yards. Clay sat out practice Wednesday, but that was for maintenance purposes. ... WR Zay Jones returned to practice Wednesday after sitting out last week's game with an ankle injury. ... LT Cordy Glenn did not practice because of his ongoing foot and ankle problems. Head coach Sean McDermott did not say what his status would be for the game. ... DE Jerry Hughes left last week's game with a shin injury and he did not practice Wednesday. ... WR Jordan Matthews is bothered by a knee injury and he was limited in practice Wednesday. ... LB Preston Brown leads the Bills with 70 tackles, but he suffered through one of his worst games last week.