Allen’s evolution to this lofty moment toppled a principle of football doctrine: that quarterbacks can’t enhance their accuracy. After selecting Allen in 2018, Bills General Manager Brandon Beane was told that he had just taken a tight end. He knew otherwise.
At his job interview the year before, after Buffalo’s 16th consecutive season without making the playoffs, Beane noted that the New England Patriots dynasty had been sustained in part by their three fellow A.F.C. East teams, which regularly changed coaches and front offices.
Unseating the Patriots, he said, demanded time and patience, and as he scouted quarterback prospects before the draft he resolved to invest both in Allen.
On the farmstead where Allen grew up in Firebaugh, Calif., a small community about 40 miles northwest of Fresno, his family has long nurtured cantaloupe, cotton and wheat — and, more recently, pistachios. Much like Allen himself, their trees need years of cultivation before producing a yield. Allen’s progression from imprecise college quarterback to N.F.L. star took an honest assessment of the transformation he required.
“When you lie to yourself, the only person you hurt is yourself,” Allen said. “Being completely honest and understanding that there’s things I need to work on, I’m not afraid to reach out and ask somebody for help.”
Rarely does a quarterback improve by vast margins, as Allen did, in his third season.
The best predictor of a third-year eruption, according to a May 2020 study by Pro Football Focus, is a proclivity for completing passes. At Wyoming, Allen had connected on a meager 56.2 percentage of his throws, and in his first two seasons in Buffalo, he rated last in the league.
To better evaluate Allen, Beane needed to protect him, so in 2019 he signed offensive linemen Mitch Morse and Jon Feliciano in free agency. He bolstered the receiving corps, too, adding Cole Beasley in 2019 and, in a trade with Minnesota in 2020, Stefon Diggs, who led the N.F.L. last season in yards and receptions.