The Buffalo Bills have an open quarterback competition in training camp this season. While obviously none of the QBs on the roster are household names outside of Western New York, the Bills have an interesting choice to make in the short term on who will be the leader of their offense in 2010. The Bills choices are Trent Edwards, Brian Brohm and Ryan Fitzpatrick. While sentiment has been torn on who would make the most sense for the Bills in the upcoming season, I think Edwards is far and away the choice for the Bills in 2010.
Trent was the third round selection out of Stanford for the Bills in 2007. He came recommended by Bill Walsh, a guy who knows a thing or two about quarterbacks. In his first season he was the second string QB behind starter J.P. Losman, who was coming off an impressive end to a 2006 season in which he threw for 3,051 yards and 19 tds with an 84.9 rating. Losman fell victim to a cheap shot courtesy of Patriots’ thug Vince Wilfork, and Edwards was pressed into duty. He led the Bills to a touchdown in his very first NFL possession against the hated Pats, and showed skills that made him the darling of Bills’ fans. They were impressed by his poise in the pocket, his ability to be patient and not force throws into heavy traffic, and his ability to not sound like a 12 year-old girl in his postgame press conferences. Edwards was named the starter and Losman was sent to the bench.
Trent’s second season got off to a terrific start, where he guided the Bills to a 4-0 record, averaging 232.5 ypg on almost 8 yards per passing attempt, an impressive number. He threw 4 touchdowns to 2 ints, and had Bills fans calling into local sports station WGR, debating whether or not they would sign up for the 3 seed in the AFC (many people said no, believe it or not). Then came the game that many people felt ruined Trent. He suffered a concussion in a game against Arizona, where both his season and the Bills’ season started to come off the tracks. The most confusing part of this theory to me is that Trent started the following week against the San Diego Chargers, where he completed 25 of 30 passes for 261 yards and 1 td, with no ints in a 23-14 win. This may have been the finest performance I’ve seen Edwards have. However, in the next 4 games, Trent threw 8 ints and was sacked 9 times as the Bills lost four in a row. He has never seemed to recapture his confidence since.
I think a lot of what impacted Trent was the Dick Jauron approach of trying to not lose games. This approach is apparently the blueprint to going 7-9. While taking the underneath throw and not turning the ball over are both sound approaches to playing successful football, teams need to stretch the defense and score touchdowns to win (seems obvious, no?). When Turk Schonert tried to put in an expansive, aggressive offense at the start of last season, Jauron fired him and installed untested Alex Van Pelt as coordinator. Needless to say, the rest of the season did not go well for Trent and the Bills’ offense. Trent was eventually supplanted as starting QB by Ryan Fitzpatrick, who interim head coach Perry Fewell and many Bills fans felt gave the team the best chance to win. Despite Trent’s shattered confidence and ineffectiveness, he may still have been the Bills’ best last season.
Fitzpatrick completed just 55.9% of his passes on 6.3 yards per attempt. He threw for 9 tds and 10 ints and had a 69.7 rating. Edwards completed 60.1% of his passes on 6.4 yards per attempt, with 6 tds and 7 ints and a 73.8 rating. Fitzpatrick’s numbers were pretty consistent with his career statistics, whereas Edwards had a much poorer season than his 2008 campaign.
Edwards has shown glimpses of being an effective starting NFL QB, and now has a head coach with a reputation for getting the most out of even the most limited QBs (Jay Fiedler, anyone?). Fitzpatrick is a backup QB at best in this league. While a case could be made for Brian Brohm, that may just be because he’s the most unknown entity. He was a 2nd round draft pick in 2008 who the Green Bay Packers gave up on pretty quickly, and they were only trying to groom him to be a backup to Aaron Rodgers. Based on Rodgers’ success, it appears that team has a pretty good handle on what a QB needs to be successful.
Under Chan Gailey, let’s hope Edwards can regain the poise and confidence that made him such an effective QB for the Bills at the start of the 2008 season. If he can’t, the Bills are on the fast track to the Jake Locker sweepstakes in the 2011 NFL Draft.