If you want to know just how tough it is to be a Bills fan these days, look at what makes us happy. While other teams rejoice in the on-field accomplishments of their gridiron heroes, Bills fans derive joy and excitement from who is no longer in the starting lineup.
Shout it from the hilltops! Break out into spontaneous song! Skip like a schoolgirl through the halls at the office! Trent Edwards is no longer the starting Buffalo Bills quarterback!
I don’t think I’ve been this excited since Edwards was benched in favor of Ryan Fitzpatrick last season. Or maybe it was when J.P. Losman was benched in favor of Trent Edwards. Or when J.P. Losman took over from Kelly Holcomb. Or when Kelly Holcomb took over from Drew Bledsoe. Or when Drew Bledsoe took over from Alex Van Pelt. Nah – had to be when Alex Van Pelt took over from Rob Johnson. I’m not even going to think about how excited I was when I found out Dick Jauron replaced Mike Mularkey – I couldn’t sleep for a week and my cheeks hurt from the perma-smile I had.
While other teams have t-shirts touting the multiple division championships they have had, the Bills really should have shirts with the quarterback and coaches they’ve gone through in recent history. You could even make the shirt with a Halloween theme – seriously, who wouldn’t want a festive shirt displaying the heads to Rob Johnson, J.P. Losman and Dick Jauron on spiked sticks under the title Ghosts of Bills Past?
Everyone knew Edwards wasn’t the answer, and if he was the answer the question was horribly wrong. Edwards proved that most important physical attribute a quarterback can have lies between his ears. Being a product of Stanford I have no doubt that Trent is a very bright guy. He could probably have some pretty deep discussions on great 19th century philosophers and might even be able to draw the chemical structure of hemoglobin but he lacked a fundamental understanding of football – you have to throw the ball, often into tight spaces, to move the team and win the game.
I suppose it only fitting that Edwards’ last play as Bills starting quarterback was completely emblematic of his football acumen. Down by 27 points with 1:19 left on the clock and facing a 4th and 11, Edwards looked for a downfield receiver, didn’t find one sufficiently open and trotted out of bounds for 4 yards. Not only did Edwards go down without a fight, his aversion to risk made you want to throw something through the TV. Did he not realize that running out of bounds well short of the sticks was the end of the game? Did he not understand that even an interception on a deep pass was no worse than going quietly into that goodnight? Did he just want to end the game like thousands of Bills fans around the globe?
Alas, replacing Edwards with Fitzpatrick is akin to being rescued from the Titanic by the Andrea Doria – you escape one sinking ship by hitching a ride on another one. Remember – we went through this last year and Fitzpatrick didn’t exactly prove himself as a Pro Bowl quarterback. In fact, he was so mediocre he was beaten out by Edwards in training camp when almost all observers said the Stanford man was substantially better than his Harvard counterpart.
In Fitzpatrick we get a signal caller willing to throw the ball more than 5 yards over the line of scrimmage but is woefully inconsistent and inaccurate. He won’t win many games for you with his arm but can certainly lose them. If nothing else he might make Lee Evans more relevant as a receiver, and might force offensive players to work on tackling drills. At this point I’m with Lee – give me something deep and generate some excitement because watching the Bills has all the fun of watching paint dry and all the pain of bleeding ulcers and high blood pressure.
Trent will likely spend the rest of the season waiting for the season to end so he can plan his life after football or move to Canada. He might take up the understudy role as the tree mascot of his alma matter or spend time brushing up on the writings of Immanuel Kant. Mostly though, he’ll be waiting for Fitzpatrick to get crunched on the field so he can return to the field – should happen by week 8 and we’ll all be rejoicing that Fitzpatrick is finally out of the starting lineup.
I’ve actually stopped trying to figure out the Buffalo Bills as an organization because quite frankly, it makes me feel like I want to hurt myself. Looking at the endless parade of absolute junk we’ve had at quarterback over the past decade plus an the unwillingness to do anything about it is mind boggling. Not only has Buffalo failed to draft or acquire a solid quarterback, they have failed to find one who even belongs anywhere in the league. Are there any words to describe the feeling of knowing that the quarterback the Bills feel can lead the team can’t even find work as a backup elsewhere in the league? Combine that with a willingness to pay someone like Cornell Green to play tackle (they had a Harvard guy and a Stanford guy and wanted a Cornell guy?) and completely ignore both tackle positions with the unwillingness to get their most exciting running back more than a handful of touches and you have a team that defies explanation.
If the current coaching staff has any more sense than their predecessors they’ll do what they can to provide some more exciting football even if they are completely outclassed by the talent of their opponent. They will realize that winning right now isn’t realistic and that young players with promise should be getting substantial work – that’s not giving up – that’s being realistic and preparing for the future. The team will also need to understand that they have to show their fans something – anything – if they want to continue to enjoy a dedicated and enthusiastic fan base that stands any chance of growing rather than shrinking. Benching Edwards shows that change is in the air – let’s hope it continues because it’s all we currently have.