So maybe this isn’t quite Ali-Frazier or even Flutie-Johnson. However, it is an important battle for the Bills to resolve before the start of the regular season. With Trent Edwards on sure footing as the starter at this point, and Levi Brown likely to be the third string QB, so the Bills don’t lose him to teams scouring practice squads, there is just one spot left for either Ryan Fitzpatrick or Brian Brohm on the Bills’ roster.
To this point, both Fitzpatrick and Brohm have had one chance to show what they can do in the preseason. Fitzpatrick was 9-14 with 61 yards and 1 td against the Redskins, while Brohm was 14-21 with 125 yards against the Colts. There isn’t too much difference in those statistics, with Brohm playing in the cleaner game for the Bills’ offense. There are reasons to want/not want each QB.
Ryan Fitzpatrick: Fitzpatrick, a 7th round selection by the St. Louis Rams out of Harvard, brings experience to the table. He’s been in the league for 5 seasons and has played in 28 games. He really has been the starting QB in some capacity in each of his last two seasons. In Cincinnati in 2008, he took over for Carson Palmer after his season ending injury, and started 12 games. In Buffalo in 2009, due to Edwards’ injuries and then ineffectiveness, he became the preferred starter for interim head coach Perry Fewell. Fitzpatrick was much more aggressive down the field than Edwards, and has a little more mobility. He’s run 91 times for 445 yards and 3 tds in his last two seasons. However, Fitzpatrick appears to be a finished product. His numbers last season were pretty commensurate with what he has done the rest of his career. While it was refreshing at times to have a QB who would try to utilize the high-priced wideouts the Bills had, his accuracy is too poor for him to be an effective starting QB. Despite replacing Edwards, his passing numbers were statistically worse. Fitzpatrick completed just 55.9% of his passes (he completes 57.8% in his career) and averaged just 6.3 yards per attempt, compiling a 69.7 rating. Edwards had a down year by his previous standards, and still managed to complete 60.1% of his passes, with 6.4 ypa and a 73.8 rating. Luckily for Fitzpatrick, however, he is competing with Brohm, and not Edwards, for the roster spot.
Brian Brohm: As the most unknown entity of the Bills’ three “veteran” QBs, there was hope that perhaps Brohm could take over as the starter this season. The backup QB tends to be one of the most popular players among fans. Brohm was a 2nd-round pick out of Louisville by the Green Bay Packers in the 2008 draft. Brohm came out of Louisville a fairly well-respected prospect with some great numbers. With Aaron Rodgers already on their roster, the Packers selected Brohm to be the long-term backup QB behind Rodgers, or perhaps to even compete with him for the starting, if Rodgers were to falter. Needless to say, Rodgers turned out to be a great passer, and you’d be lucky to have him on your fantasy team this season. Brohm, on the other hand, was pretty much let go without a fight by the Packers, disconcerting for a player they selected in the 2nd round. Word out of Green Bay is that Brohm didn’t practice well, and didn’t have the best showings in his preseason outings. From what I hear out of Bills camp, Brohm has worked very hard this offseason. Brohm has good size, good arm strength and appears to make decent decisions with the ball from what I’ve seen out of him thus far with the Bills. He seems to play a more conservative style of QB, closer to Edwards than Fitzpatrick. Brohm logged his only start against Atlanta in Week 16 last season, where he was an unimpressive, but not disastrous, 17 for 29 with 146 yards and 2 ints. I like to look at yards per attempt as the best barometer of how a QB moves his team, and Brohm’s was a paltry 5.0. Tough to say if that’s his doing, or the responsibility of the ultra-conservative previous coaching staff.
With their preseason play pretty much a wash to this point, it will be interesting to see who Chan Gailey selects as his second QB in the rotation against Cincinnati tonight. I may not have thought twice if Gailey had just stuck to a rotation, and allowed Fitzpatrick his turn. However, the fact that he’s keeping his QB rotation close to the vest may be an indication that he’s leaning one way or another in the backup QB battle.
If I were Gailey, I’d probably be leaning towards keeping Brohm at this point. I know Edwards is injury prone, and the backup is likely to get a chance to play. This would seem to favor the more experienced player. On this young team, though, keeping Fitzpatrick doesn’t make quite as much sense to me. While Fitz certainly is not an old QB at just 27, he is, as previously stated, seemingly a finished product. He has made 28 starts to Brohm’s one, and would need to be much more impressive to make sense for the Bills at this point, which I don’t think he has been. If I was residing over a team with Super Bowl aspirations, I’d be leaning towards Fitzpatrick. Since I’m a Bills fan, I’m leaning towards Brohm’s upside on a young team.