JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Tyrod Taylor snaked his way through the cramped visitors locker room at EverBank Field, holding a white towel around his waist as he slowly made his way past the TV cameras and reporters to his assigned locker.
The Buffalo Bills quarterback never spoke, but his eyes — wide and glassy — spoke volumes.
Less than an hour removed from a hellacious hit during Sunday's loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars that resulted in the back of his helmet bouncing off the turf, Taylor still appeared in a daze.
Due to the parameters of the NFL's concussion protocol, he was unable to provide postgame commentary on his subpar performance, his team's short-lived playoff run or any insight on his uncertain future. But Taylor's distant gaze said enough.
The Bills, a franchise that had waited nearly two decades to play in the postseason, never expected their season to end with an anemic offensive showing in a 10-3 loss to Blake Bortles and the Jaguars in a first-round matchup. Taylor, Buffalo's embattled starter, never anticipated his final stat line of the season would feature a 32.1 quarterback rating.
And now come the inevitable questions about his NFL future.
Buffalo is expected to either trade or release the seventh-year veteran before Taylor is owed a $6 million roster bonus on March 14, the third day of the 2018 league year.
"Hopefully that's not his last game as a Bill," veteran outside linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said. "Hopefully we can win more games with him next year."
When Taylor and his teammates boarded the plane bound for Florida this weekend, they carried with them the weight of a 17-year absence from the NFL playoffs. The Bills believed this was their moment, their chance to win a playoff game for the first time since 1995. And Taylor believed he would seize the moment too, and perhaps finally quiet the skeptics who long questioned his accuracy, his acumen as a pocket passer and his ability to mount a comeback on a stage much bigger than regular season play. Instead, Taylor's outing ended with zero touchdowns, an interception and him laying motionless on the field with 1:17 left in the fourth quarter.
The Hampton, Virginia, native had to be tended to by trainers after Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., admittedly, "tried to slam him" into the turf after Taylor scrambled for a two-yard gain on third and five. The crushing blow left Taylor in a crumbled heap, as Bills players formed a circle around him and knelt.
"That was scary," Bills fullback Mike Tolbert said. "You don't know what's going on. You just see your brother laying there motionless. I went out there, said a prayer for him.
"I saw the look in his eyes," Tolbert added. "He wasn't himself. And then the fact that you could see he was struggling, it was pretty scary."
In a subdued postgame locker room, Bills players took turns checking on their starting quarterback. Taylor, now dressed in gray sweatpants, a gray Bills T-shirt and white sneakers, assured them he was okay. But his low voice offered little in the way of comfort.
While his replacement, rookie Nathan Peterman, and running back LeSean McCoy, held court, Taylor sat with his back turned to the nearby media scrums. He slowly fastened the watch on his wrist. He slowly placed a chain around his neck. And he barely spoke.
But after a game in which he threw far too many errant passes and finished 17 of 37 for 134 yards, there wasn't much he could have said in defense of himself.
"I thought he handled himself just like the rest of our football team, with class and with a lot of pride," Bills Coach Sean McDermott said. "I could say that about every single one of those men in that locker room."
And while their starting quarterback could not offer insight into what his future may hold, his teammates were left to rue their missed opportunities and the ways in which they failed each other and the city of Buffalo.
"It's a lot more we could have done as a team — and that includes coaching and players — to put ourselves in a better position to win this year. A lot of that was on display today," Tolbert said. "Not pointing fingers, but there was a lot more we could have done, all around today, to put ourselves in a spot to win."