Ranking All Buffalo Bills Quarterbacks in Franchise History
The list of Buffalo Bills quarterbacks features both terrifying recollections — J.P. Losman and Nathan Peterman, anyone? — and legitimate top-end signal-callers such as Josh Allen and Jim Kelly. And, of course, plenty split the difference.
The Bills opened their doors as a member of the AFL in 1960, and they debuted with just three points in a blowout loss to the New York Titans. Bob Brodhead and Tommy O’Connell combined to go a putrid 5-of-25 for 52 yards and two interceptions while taking two sacks. Since then, the number of qualified signal-callers has swelled to 59, and they’ve combined for 18 Pro Bowl appearances.
Allen, already arguably the best of the bunch, should keep that number growing. But how high has he already climbed up the list?
Using the Total Yards Added (TYA) metric I developed for QB Math, which evaluates quarterbacks’ success relative to league average in four facets of the game — rushing, passing, sack avoidance, and fumble avoidance — we’re highlighting each and every one of the 59 Buffalo Bills quarterbacks with at least one qualified game for the organization since ’60. These rankings will be updated continuously and are accurate heading into Week 2 of the 2023 NFL season.
Buffalo Bills quarterbacks Nos. 59-8
|Franchise Rank||Quarterback||Qualified Games||Total Yards Added|
|41||Alex Van Pelt||22||-354.116|
|22||Billy Joe Hobert||1||-131.281|
Keep in mind that this is about career production.
Playing in more games usually means moving further away from the league-average score of zero, which is why Jack Kemp — objectively not the least-talented of the Buffalo Bills quarterbacks — falls all the way to the bottom of the pack despite having a far superior per-game output to other low finishers such as Dan Darragh and Nathan Peterman.
7. Matt Robinson
- Years: 1981-82
- Stats: 0-0 record, 5-of-10 (50.0%), 74 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT
- Total Yards Added: 41.6
After playing sporadically for the New York Jets and Denver Broncos, Matt Robinson finished up his NFL career for the Buffalo Bills to the tune of 20 appearances off the bench over the course of the 1981 and 1982 seasons. To his credit, he never threw a single interception, took only two sacks for 19 yards, and fumbled just once. Then again, he also only attempted 10 passes and logged just 74 yards and a single score.
6. Rob Johnson
- Years: 1998-2021
- Stats: 9-17 record, 401-of-663 (60.5%), 4,798 yards, 27 TD, 17 INT
- Total Yards Added: 51.3
Though Rob Johnson presided over the Buffalo Bills during a period in which they experienced little organizational success, it was tough to pin too much of the blame on his throwing arm. He never started double-digit games in back-to-back campaigns, but he threw five more touchdown passes than interceptions and completed his fair share of big plays down the field, making the most of a limited supporting cast he wasn’t capable of elevating to that proverbial next level.
5. Bill Munson
- Years: 1978-79
- Stats: 0-0 record, 27-of-50 (54.0%), 359 yards, 4 TD, 2 INT
- Total Yards Added: 53.011
Bill Munson had already celebrated his 37th birthday before joining the ranks of Buffalo Bills quarterbacks, so it shouldn’t be too surprising that he was only able to muster up limited success in his seven appearances off the bench. It’s a testament to the overall lack of quality at the position throughout franchise history that his four touchdown passes and two interceptions leave him on the right side of the ledger alongside only six other men.
4. Tyrod Taylor
- Years: 2015-17
- Stats: 22-20 record, 774-of-1,236 (62.6%), 8,857 yards, 51 TD, 16 INT
- Total Yards Added: 186.946
Tyrod Taylor’s brief success with the Buffalo Bills came using both his right arm and his two legs. Though he proved a relatively accurate passer capable of managing a game properly and minimizing his interceptions, he also kept defenses on edge by rushing for 1,575 yards and another 14 scores. From 2015-17, only Cam Newton (1,749 yards) accrued more yardage on the ground while lining up under center.
3. Doug Flutie
- Years: 1998-2000
- Stats: 21-9 record, 598-of-1,063 (56.3%), 7,582 yards, 47 TD, 30 INT
- Total Yards Added: 1,233.465
Don’t take this as a shot against Tyrod Taylor, but the history of Buffalo Bills quarterbacks features three men who existed in a class unto themselves. And really, Doug Flutie is just an honorary member of that club since he spent only three seasons with the franchise, but his peak performances outshined all but two other players featured here.
After coming off the board in the 11th round of the 1985 NFL Draft, Flutie spent four years failing to gain his footing. He struggled to generate interest from any organization and instead bolted to the Canadian Football League, where he shined for the BC Lions, Calgary Stampeders, and Toronto Argonauts, becoming one of the most successful players in the history of the CFL.
Following the forgettable Todd Collins era, Buffalo brought in Flutie to compete with Rob Johnson, and the Boston College product cemented himself as the QB1 in place of an injured Johnson by leading a fourth-quarter comeback victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Oct. 11, 1998. He completed 23 of his 28 passes for 213 yards and two touchdowns, and he never looked back.
Flutie started each of the next 10 games (and an ensuing postseason contest against the Miami Dolphins), made the Pro Bowl, and won Comeback Player of the Year.
Though he couldn’t quite replicate the magic of that campaign before leaving to join the San Diego Chargers, Flutie’s 1998 efforts still stand out as one of the best quarterbacking seasons in franchise history.
2. Josh Allen
- Years: 2018-present
- Stats: 53-25 record, 1,664-of-2,644 (62.9%), 18,907 yards, 142 TD, 63 INT
- Total Yards Added: 1,694.92
Though Josh Allen struggled tremendously during his rookie season, throwing wayward pass after wayward pass and often looking lost on the field, he’s since developed into one of the NFL’s most dangerous players.
A tank of a ball-carrier when he calls upon his legs and a deadly-accurate passer with a cannon for a right arm, he’s finished in the top three of MVP voting twice, made a pair of Pro Bowls, and played at arguably the highest level ever seen from a Buffalo Bills quarterback.
By TYA, Allen now claims the second-best (2021), third-best (2020), and fourth-best (2022) seasons among the pack, and the best may be yet to come. After all, the full-fledged superstar is just 27 years old, surrounded by a stellar supporting cast, and operating in a system perfectly designed to maximize his unique strengths.
1. Jim Kelly
- Years: 1986-96
- Stats: 101-59 record, 2,874-of-4,779 (60.1%), 35,467 yards, 237 TD, 175 INT
- Total Yards Added: 3,068.948
On a per-game basis, Jim Kelly falls well shy of Josh Allen’s level of performance. But we’re looking at the totality of a career here, and that leaves the franchise icon well ahead of the pack in spite of his inability to get the job done in the Super Bowl.
Kelly is a Hall of Famer, a five-time Pro Bowler, a two-time top-five finisher in the MVP balloting, and the owner of franchise record after franchise record. Plus, it helps that he never logged a single snap in a different uniform.
Allen might challenge him down the road, but that time has not yet arrived in this particular competition.