FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The 2012 season was a quarterback disaster for the New York Jets. The once-promising Mark Sanchez turned into an interception machine and got benched. Then, of course, there was the Tim Tebow debacle. Something had to be done, and Rex Ryan had an idea.
"I wanted Tyrod Taylor when I was with the Jets," the former coach said in a recent phone interview.
At the time, Taylor was a seldom-used backup for the Baltimore Ravens. Ryan said Cam Cameron, the Ravens' offensive coordinator and a close friend, was "the guy that turned me onto him." The way Ryan tells it, he approached the front office about trading for Taylor, but it apparently gained little to no traction.
If the John Idzik-led front office had listened, perhaps Taylor would be starting for the Jets, not the Buffalo Bills, when the division rivals meet Thursday night at MetLife Stadium. Just imagine: The Jets wouldn't have drafted Geno Smith, they wouldn't have traded for Ryan Fitzpatrick and they wouldn't have burned a second-round pick on Christian Hackenberg.
Then again, who really knows? The Jets' quarterback history is filled with what-if stories, but it's a fun game to play.
"They wouldn't trade him to us," Ryan said. "I was the only one who really wanted that kid. When I had a chance to get him in Buffalo, I did. He was brought in to be the third guy, and I said, 'Bulls---, he's better than both these guys.' And he is. The kid is a good player."
In Ryan's first offseason as the Bills' coach, they signed Taylor as a free agent to a modest three-year, $3.4 million contract. He was behind former first-round pick EJ Manuel and journeyman Matt Cassel on the depth chart, but he impressed in the preseason and was named the opening-day starter.
In his third season with the Bills, Taylor is 19-16 as a starter, with 45 touchdown passes and only 14 interceptions. Consider this mind-blowing comparison: Fitzpatrick threw 17 interceptions last season alone, in 600 fewer attempts than Taylor over two-plus years.
"The big thing is, he protects the football," Ryan said of Taylor. "He's got the ability to throw the ball outside. There's a question about whether he sees the whole field -- and being accurate inside the numbers -- but he's shown this year he can do that.
"That's what I loved about the kid, and he's got that great escapability and that run ability. I thought this guy would have a chance. I still think if they give him some weapons that some of these other quarterbacks have, I think he could do it."
On Tuesday, the surprising Bills (5-2) traded for wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, who led the Carolina Panthers with 475 receiving yards. Suddenly, Taylor has a legitimate weapon. It's unclear if Benjamin will play Thursday night.
The Jets have received solid quarterback play from Josh McCown, but he's 38 years old and will be a free agent. They're not counting on Hackenberg or Bryce Petty to be the future starter, so they will be in the market. Taylor, 28, is signed through 2018, but his future remains a hot topic in Buffalo. He could become a cap casualty if the Bills decide they want to draft a quarterback.
If they cut bait, the Taylor-Jets rumors will start. We already know what a certain former coach would do.