Josh Allen is in danger of becoming the Dan Marino of his NFL generation

The Buffalo Bills have enjoyed tremendous success since selecting quarterback Josh Allen No. 7 overall in the 2018 NFL Draft. Previously one of the league’s laughing stocks, they managed to turn into a model of consistency.

Buffalo made the playoffs in each of its last five seasons, including four times as AFC East champions. In those five years, the team went a combined 58-24 to post one of the best regular season records in the league.

The problem, for the Bills, is that their regular season success has yet to find continuation in the playoffs. Sunday’s divisional round loss to the Kansas City Chiefs dropped them to 5-5 in the postseason during the Josh Allen era, and they are still waiting for their first Super Bowl appearance in 30 years.

“It sucks. Losing sucks,” said Allen after the 27-24 defeat against Kansas City. “Losing to them, losing to anybody at home sucks.”

Allen is one of the best quarterbacks in football, and as unique a talent as any in the league. Just this season, he became the first player in NFL history to post four consecutive seasons with at least 40 combined passing and rushing touchdowns.

However, he would not be the first Hall of Fame-caliber player to fall short in the playoffs time and again. It happened to Peyton Manning and John Elway to start their careers, and it also happened to Dan Marino.

For Allen, and by extension his team, Marino would be the worst-case projection.

Whereas Manning and Elway overcame their team’s playoff failures to eventually win championships, Marino never was able to get over the hump. Despite arguably being the best pure passer in football in the 80s and early 90s — something he might have in common with Allen four decades later — his teams went just 8-10 in the playoffs.

(obviously, you could also add ex-Bill Jim Kelly to that conversation, but his Bills teams were the class of the AFC for four straight years despite eventually going 0-4 in Super Bowls)

Marino’s talent was undeniable but he became poster child for playoff disappointment, much like Allen is nowadays. In fact, if we look at their first five career postseason trips we see some parallels: they both went 5-5 in the same pattern; 0-1, 2-1, 1-1, 1-1, 1-1.

That is merely a coincidence, of course. That said, the context surrounding it is similar in both cases, with neither quarterback being able to make enough of a difference when the stakes are highest. Sure, one single reason for the repeated heartbreak suffered by both men cannot be identified; there are too many interconnected factors contributing to the Bills’ playoff shortcomings.

But at the end of the day, neither Allen’s Bills nor Marino’s Dolphins were able to translate regular season success into postseason celebration. To be entirely fair, though, quarterback play appeared to be relatively low on the list of issues for both QBs, and especially in Allen’s case.

Sure, he has had a hand in Buffalo’s postseason misfortunes — that is the nature of playing the most important position in the sport. However, as a look at the numbers shows, he has still produced at a high level.

In his 10 playoff games, including Sunday’s game versus the Chiefs, he has completed 244 of 378 pass attempts (64.6%) for 2,723 yards with 21 touchdowns and just four interceptions. Allen also has gained 563 rushing yards on 83 carries and found the end zone five times.

However, the old “he can’t do it alone” continues to ring painfully true for Buffalo. Just ask his head coach.

“We didn’t play the way we needed to, I thought, in two of the three phases,” McDermott said after the loss to Kansas City. “Defensively first and then special teams. I thought offense, we did some really good things … Moved the football, possessed the football, which we knew we had to do against [Patrick] Mahomes and the offense. But overall, we didn’t do enough defensively to impact the game more than we could’ve.”

While McDermott found the blame primarily elsewhere, the Allen-led offense also left plays on the board. This drop by wide receiver Stefon Diggs to negate what would have been a gain of 55-plus yards, is probably the best example:

As has been the case throughout his six regular seasons in the league, Allen has also carried the Bills on his back in the playoffs. With the overall margin of error significantly smaller against the AFC’s best teams, however, his efforts have been in vein: after defeats in the wild card round and the conference title game in 2019 and 2020, respectively, Buffalo has now lost in the divisional round three years in a row.

Inconsistency, injury, coaching, opponent — you name it: it all contributed to those defeats. And for as much as he is trying, Allen has been unable to overcome that lethal mix in five straight years.

So, what has to happen to exorcise the Bills’ playoff demons? Nothing overly drastic, thinks the 27-year-old.

“I don’t think it’s a big change,” Allen explained on Sunday. “We’ve got to find a way to score one more point than they do. And every season, if you don’t win, it’s a failed season. That’s the nature of the business. There’s one happy team at the end of the season, really. And when it’s not you and you’re so close, it sucks.”

The Bills will always have a chance as long as Allen is their quarterback; he can do things no other player in the league can do. However, the team’s salary cap situation and an aging roster on both sides of the ball means that the window to win that elusive Super Bowl — or to even make more noise than recently — is closing ever so quickly.

Eventually, it fell shut for Dan Marino. Based on his career so far, Allen is running the risk of going down that same path.

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