In the Cohen Brother’s popular film “The Big Lebowski,” Walter Sobchak told his bowling opponent, Smokey, that his foot was over the line. If Smokey didn’t mark that frame a zero, Walter bluntly informed the silver haired pacifist that he would be “entering a world of pain.” Like Smokey, the Buffalo Bills entered their “world of pain,” by giving starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick a $59 million contract.
I’m a true believer that although Ryan Fitzpatrick is not an elite NFL QB, he receives a lot of unfair criticism. However, it’s easy to criticize someone who has such a lucrative contract and hasn’t put up the results you would expect for that amount of money. Fitz is a smart guy, he’s well liked, and he can be a real “gun slinger,” but his arm strength is questionable, he’ll often give his receivers too much credit, and has a tendency to hold on to the ball for too long. The downsides, are something you wouldn’t expect to get for $59 million dollars.
So, do you keep Fitzpatrick or do you let him go? ESPN’s AFC East blog reported that the Bills could save $4.45 million and cap space, and $7.45 million in actual cash if they were to cut ties with the Harvard grad. Doing so will save the Bills money, but enters them into “a world of pain.” Both backup quarterbacks Tyler Thigpen and Tarvaris Jackson are unrestricted free agents, and are unlikely to be re-signed. If the Bills do part ways with Fitz, that leaves Brad Smith as the only Bill with QB experience. In 2 seasons with the Bills, Smith has only thrown the ball twice, and both passes were intercepted.
What about Buffalo acquiring a veteran like 49er’s now backup quarterback Alex Smith, or former Philadelphia starter Michael Vick? Smith may very well be the most over rated quarterback to hit the market. Whether San Francisco releases or trades the former number 1 pick; buyer beware. This is the same QB who nearly lost his job to J.T. O’Sullivan. This is the same QB that wasn’t productive until the 49ers brought in “the right coach” in Jim Harbaugh. As for Vick: he’s an injury prone quarterback who makes just as many mistakes as he does in shades of brilliance. Last season Vick only threw for 4 more touchdowns than interceptions, and missed three games due to injury. The Bills would be wise to pass on both of these guys.
What about potential college prospects? New head coach Doug Marrone has expressed an interest in drafting his former Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib. From a continuity point of view, this could be a great match. However, Nassib earned little praise at the senior bowl. His long game has been deemed by some as “inaccurate”, which sounds eerily familiar to current starter Ryan Fitzpatrick. USC quarterback, Matt Barkely, has been mentioned as potential selections by the Bills in some mock drafts. Although Barkley has some strong attributes, his health is a major concern. Also, remember the last time the Bills had a California kid playing quarterback? His name was Trent Edwards, and we saw how that turned out.
General Manager Buddy Nix, and his staff, have a lot of work to do this off season. Do they pickup a veteran and make them compete with Fitz for the starting job? If Fitz loses the quarterback battle, do they restructure his contract? Do they draft a QB with the intent of competing with Fitz? Maybe Fitz will mentor the newly drafted rookie, as veteran quarterbacks have done in the past. Whatever the Bills decide to do at quarterback, eyebrows will be raised. As it stands: The Bills are entering “a world of pain” at quarterback.