National Football League
Josh Allen continues to prove he's the perfect Buffalo Bills QB
National Football League

Josh Allen continues to prove he's the perfect Buffalo Bills QB

Updated Jun. 14, 2023 2:53 p.m. ET

The city of Buffalo and its citizens like pretty much everything Josh Allen does, whether it takes place within the lines of the gridiron or not.

They like what he's doing right now, as he tries to defuse a lingering issue that saw wide receiver Stefon Diggs leave the Bills training facility ahead of the team's first mandatory minicamp practice.

[What we know about Stefon Diggs’ strange situation with the Bills]

They like the way he plays, those muscular runs and forceful throws — and the photo-friendly hurdles over defenders.


They love how he screams and whoops to fire up the crowd before games, they like the upturn in the Bills' overall situation since he was drafted in 2018 and they like the optimism each new season brings, even if a trip to the Super Bowl has so far proven elusive.

But perhaps more than anything — and with arguably the greatest impact on how he will be perceived long-term there — they like what he says, and what it says about him.

It is one of the enduring truths of the National Football League that if a fan base feels like a star player speaks their particular football language and they view him as one of their own, then things will go a whole lot smoother. That's how it has played out.

Allen, as much as any player in the league, seems to be an ideal fit for the surroundings he found himself in when drafted out of Wyoming.

Sometimes the bond comes across in heartwarming ways, like when Bills supporters raised more than $1 million for a local children's hospital in honor of Allen's grandmother, when she passed in 2020.

And sometimes, like last week, it plays out through humor.

After Allen was named as the cover athlete of the latest installment of the Madden video game series and subsequently interviewed by Complex, he was asked about the status of the "three New York teams" this offseason. Without skipping a beat, he couldn't resist the opportunity to take a little dig that warmed the hearts of the Bills Mafia.

[Madden cover curse: Does it still exist and could it impact Josh Allen?]

"I'm going to say it," he said. "I have to say it. Are there three teams in New York?"

On the surface, it was nothing more than a throwaway remark. It was certainly harmless banter, the kind of thing that helps make the NFL tick and makes regional, divisional and historical divisional feuds matter. It was referencing, of course, the jibe often thrown at New York Jets and New York Giants fans on account of their stadium being based in New Jersey, not the state of New York itself.

To Buffalo, however, and its legion of football followers, it meant more. The comments were greeted with widespread glee on fan forums and local radio. It is a lot easier to root for a guy who makes $43 million per year if you feel, for all the differences in wealth and lifestyle, that he's on your wavelength.

And that's the case with Allen.

"Allen's answer channeled Bills fans," Erik Brady, contributing columnist for the Buffalo News, told me via telephone. "He felt the need to say it because Bills Mafia knows there is only one (New York team) — and he knows that they know.

"Bills fans love Allen not only because he wins and has a cannon for an arm and plays with the joy of a boy on a backyard ballfield. It is also because they believe he is one of them. And they believe this for very good reason: he believes it, too."

How Allen is received matters. Buffalo craves success for its Bills, but it doesn't spread love solely based on it, far different from the way that Los Angeles adores winners and nothing but championships count. Embracing the struggle is the real currency.

It is hard to know how long the Bills' championship window stays open. Neither is it so simple to decipher exactly how wide that window is even cracked right now. They've reached an AFC Championship and two divisional rounds and they'll again be among the preseason favorites, yet the big prize still seems somewhat distant.

With Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs looking as invincible as ever, and the AFC stocked with an embarrassing overload of quality QBs and optimistic teams, you'd give the Bills a reasonable chance of getting to the greatest game of all soon — but it is by no means a certainty.

This leads to the realization that, unlike so many QBs around the league, Allen's legacy in the city and at the franchise, might not have much correlation with championship rings.

"That dude's Buffalo," Giants head coach Brian Daboll said of Allen, back when he was the Bills' offensive coordinator. Daboll would know, having grown up in a suburb not far from the Bills' stadium.

Allen is their ride-or-die, whatever comes next.

"I think the odds are probably against us making a Super Bowl when you look at what is going on elsewhere in the AFC," lifelong Bills fan J.D. Hartman, 67, told me. "But we will love Josh Allen just the same.

"He hits the right tone. Like the New York thing with the Jets and Giants, he knows what to say. He can walk into any bar in Buffalo and be greeted like one of the family, because he acts like one of the family.

"That stuff, the words, it is important here. Don't try coming up here and using the term ‘upstate New York.' This is New York. Josh Allen gets it. Jim Kelly never won a Super Bowl. Heck, he lost four of them. He was loved by Buffalonians then, and he still is now."

Issue with Stefon Diggs missing mandatory minicamp?

It is important to consider what came before Allen's arrival for Bills fans. There were 25 years that passed between AFC East divisional titles. For 19 years in a row, the team did not manage double digits wins. They were rarely horrible but were permanently suffocated by Tom Brady and the New England Patriots for most of that time.

What's going on now still feels fresh and new in Buffalo, where the perceptions from the outside don't necessarily carry. It could be that there is more frustration with the Bills' inability to make that final breakthrough from around the country than there is in Buffalo itself.

They've got their guy and their new normal. And they're good with it, even if this is as good as it gets.

Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and the author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX and subscribe to the daily newsletter.

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