COSTA MESA, Calif. — Sometimes you have to take a step back to take two steps forward.
After serving as a starting quarterback for three seasons with the Buffalo Bills and last season for the Cleveland Browns, Tyrod Taylor signed a two-year, $11 million deal at the start of free agency to work behind Philip Rivers as a backup quarterback for the Los Angeles Chargers.
Taylor initially had interest from teams like the Miami Dolphins to compete for a starting job. Instead, he chose to sign with the Chargers because of his familiarity with head coach Anthony Lynn, whom Taylor played with in Buffalo, and the fact that the Bolts are close to winning a Super Bowl.
“We had a strong bond,” Taylor said. “I was able to spend a lot of time with him, but also looking at this roster and playing against the Chargers the past two years, you see a team that’s very close to winning a Super Bowl.
“I want to be of any assistance — anything that I can do to help the team achieve that goal, I’m definitely for it. … There are a bunch of guys that play for one another. There’s not a bunch of selfish egos on this roster. I think that’s where you start as far as building a Super Bowl team.”
Things did not go well for Taylor in Cleveland last season. Brought in to serve as the starter while the Browns groomed rookie Baker Mayfield, Taylor left the third game of the season against the Jets with a concussion. Mayfield took over and never gave up the job.
Taylor threw just one pass the rest of the season.
In three games, Taylor was sacked 13 times and went 42-for-85 for 473 yards with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions (64.5 rating). He earned $16 million and was the Browns’ most expensive player under the salary cap last season.
Taylor played better with the Bills, starting 43 games in three seasons and completing 62.6 percent of his passes with 51 touchdowns and just 16 interceptions. He was the Bills’ career leader in passer rating (92.5), and his 1,575 rushing yards also are the most in franchise history.
At 29 years old, Taylor is 23-21-1 as a starter and still a young, developing player in the NFL. Joining the Chargers allows the Virginia Tech product to learn under an experienced quarterback in Rivers, and prepare himself for another bite at the apple as a starter down the road.
“I understand him and know how to use him,” Lynn said about Taylor. “He’s a heck of a person, and he’s going to fit in our locker room. He has outstanding work ethic, and he knows that he can sit behind Philip and learn.”
Chargers GM Tom Telesco sees Taylor’s addition as strengthening the most important position on the team in case the league’s most durable quarterback in Philip Rivers is injured.
“We’re in a position in our football team where we have a good team, but if a starter goes down the train can’t stop,” Telesco said. “I feel really comfortable now that we have two, starting-level quarterbacks.”
But there’s also no guarantee of Taylor’s future in L.A. For now, Taylor can learn from Rivers and be an important stop-gap at quarterback should Rivers succumb to injuries during the year.
“Philip’s the guy,” Telesco said. “He’s going to keep playing for as long as he can still go, but we had to be prepared in case something happens, like for every position. The quarterback position is so critical, and I think we have a good football team. So if God forbid something happens, he can go in.”
Along with working as a backup for Rivers, there could still be opportunities to use Taylor in specific packages on game days.
“[Taylor’s] a passer that can create, and that can make a defense stay up at night to prepare for all of the things that he can do,” Lynn said. “And when I had him, I had defensive coordinators call me all the time and say you guys are a nightmare to prepare for because of Tyrod, so he has a unique skill set.”