You knew it was going to happen, didn’t you? You knew the Bills would find a way to ruin your Sunday afternoon and give you that gnawing feeling in your gut. They led you to believe that they might just pull the upset over the last undefeated team in the NFL (on the road no less), but it was all just a setup to reach into your chest and rip your heart out. On the plus side, if you’ve been a Bills fan this emotional pain is in no way new to you, and if you’re a tremendous optimist you probably won some money as the Bills actually covered the spread (seriously, if you’re putting money on the Bills these days, realize you have a serious gambling problem – seek immediate help).
And so the season wears on. Unless you live in western New York, you’ll either be getting your money’s worth out of your satellite TV NFL subscription or you’ll continue making trips down to the local sports bar to catch the game (the third, most intelligent option is to quit watching the games). Buffalo has no nationally televised games and with their level of play there is absolutely no way any of their remaining games will be moved to the Sunday night game of the week on NBC. It’s tough to be a Bills fan.
In my last column I assigned blame for the current (and recent past) poor performance on poor talent evaluation and personnel moves. You may recall I didn’t pass judgment on the newest Bills and J.P. Losman in particular as there has been precious little time to evaluate their performance.
As I sit here once again trying to figure out why the Bills are so bad I’d like to put some focus on the young quarterback from Tulane – has Losman proven he is or is not the man who will call the signals for the Bills in the next few years?
To this point in time I’ve been rooting for Losman – I really think that, on paper, they guy has everything needed to be successful in the NFL – strong arm, good size, very good mobility, and a swagger not seen since a man named Jim Kelly took the snaps. Then again, I also thought that Rob Johnson would develop into a very solid quarterback for the Bills and today I think he’s taken Kurt Warner’s old job stocking grocery store shelves.
As the season wears on I’m still not sure what the Bills have in Losman, but I am starting to smell a bust. Simply put, I haven’t seen much that makes me think he’s got great talent that simply needs to appear on a more consistent basis. I haven’t seen many, if any, perfect passes – the type where the ball is thread into good coverage or the ball is placed in a location where only the receiver can get it (look no further than Manning’s TD to Reggie Wayne on Sunday to know what I’m talking about).
It may be unfair to compare Losman to Peyton Manning, so I’ll make a more apt comparison – Rex Grossman. When the Bills were destroyed by the Bears in week 5 Grossman was on fire – he looked unbeatable and threw some amazing passes. Grossman’s problem seems to be that he doesn’t play that well every game – he looked terrible against Miami in week 9 – but he’s shown that he’s got “it”. Grossman is capable of playing at a high level in the NFL – is Losman? I still haven’t seen “it” from Losman and I’m worried it’s just not there.
Sure, Losman has decent numbers. His QB rating through 9 games is 80.5 – not a Pro Bowl season, but also not the worst in the league (he’s ahead of the guy who won the Super Bowl last year and sandwiched between 2 #1 overall draft picks – Eli Manning and Alex Smith). Amongst quarterbacks with 9 starts this season, Losman ranks 12th in completion percentage (61.6%) and 7th in interceptions (6). Unfortunately, he is also second to last in touchdowns thrown (7), and dead last in yards per game (166.4).
Perhaps most telling for me is the lack of stats put up by Lee Evans. Evans has “it” – he is a very talented receiver who just isn’t getting the catches he should be. His season long reception is 43 yards, that coming on an under thrown ball he had to wait for. It was actually the second time in the Green Bay game that Evans beat his coverage and Losman didn’t get him the ball on time – the first ball was so late the cornerback was able to catch up to the play and break up a sure touchdown. 8 games into the regular season and Losman isn’t in sync with his #1 receiver? He can’t get the ball to that guy even when he’s beaten coverage and has at least 2 steps on the defender? This does not bode well for Losman’s future.
I know what you’re thinking – I’m a Losman hater who is hanging all the blame on the quarterback and not factoring in mitigating circumstances. Circumstances like a shaky offensive line and extremely conservative offense that limits Losman’s contributions. I understand these factors and their tremendous impact on Losman’s play. That’s why I am advocating the Bills taking the leash off of Losman and let him show us what he’s capable of over the second half of the season. Instead of telling the quarterback to go out and not lose the game, why not allow him to take a shot at winning the game? Let Losman use his mobility to try and mitigate poor offensive line play. Let Losman show us whether his play is a lack of consistency or ability – does he simply need to make good plays on a more regular basis, or does he simply lack the ability to make good plays? Only then will the Bills, and Bills fans, know what we have in a young quarterback. God help us if we are still wondering if Losman is “the man” as we start the 2007 season – we can’t take another year of that.