Amidst one of the worst seasons to witness as a fan of the Buffalo Bills in the past decade - and as the entire decade's been bad, that's saying something - calls for the Bills to change quarterbacks occur on a seemingly weekly basis. With Buffalo all but eliminated from playoff contention and awaiting organizational direction in the form of new football decision-makers and a new coaching staff, Bills fans are making their voices heard about the quarterback position.
It's tough for me to understand why. Buffalo doesn't have a desirable starting quarterback option on its roster. The man with perhaps the most vocal fan support at the moment, Brian Brohm, has been with the Bills for less than three weeks. Starter-by-default Ryan Fitzpatrick has put up some truly horrendous stat lines this season, to the point where even Trent Edwards, who fell out of favor quickly after a slow start in his third season, is the choice candidate in some circles.
Ultimately, however, it's Fitzpatrick that should stay in at quarterback for the Bills. I understand completely that that's not exactly the best news in the world. The reasons behind that opinion aren't great, but they're better than the reasons for starting Edwards or, far more importantly, Brohm. Buffalo has bigger fish to fry than trying to find a franchise quarterback this month.
The argument against Brohm
Since he became a Bill on November 19, infatuation with the second-year player out of Louisville has grown each week he's been on the sidelines as the Bills' emergency quarterback. (He's done it twice, by the way.) Once heralded as a sure-fire Top 5 pick and one of the more prolific college passers of recent memory, Brohm was a huge flop in Green Bay, failing to impress the coaching staff that developed Aaron Rodgers, losing confidence more rapidly than Edwards himself, and landing on the practice squad in just his second year while 2008 seventh-round pick Matt Flynn became Rodger's undisputed backup.
Yes, the talent is there with Brohm. He's not a blue-chip prospect, but his raw talent says he's capable of being a productive player in the NFL. But his psyche is fragile, he doesn't know the playbook yet, and even if he started all four games, we likely wouldn't learn anything definitive about him. He might end up playing an entirely different offensive scheme next year. If he played great, that'd be awesome, but that's incredibly unlikely given the Swiss Cheese nature of our offensive line. Do we really want to be putting a player who may or may not have the mental fortitude for the position into the lineup just to "see what we have" when the negative effects of the move could ruin yet another young quarterback in Buffalo? How, exactly, is that a good idea?
Seriously, what might we learn? That Brohm might be a good player? Can't we make the same claim right now, with Brohm stuck on the sidelines? Yes, it's the conservative approach, but there is absolutely no reason for the team to be aggressive in bringing Brohm along, nor is there a good reason for the fan base to want them to.
Here's the biggest reason that Brohm seeing any field time is a bad idea: Perry Fewell is his head coach. More accurately, Perry Fewell is his interim head coach. Like it or not, Fewell is three weeks into a seven-week job audition. If Fewell were to insert Brohm into the lineup, no matter how prepared or not he might be, Fewell would be asking Brohm to save his job. Fewell's coaching for a permanent head coaching gig. He's not coaching to groom talent, and his players realize it. Brohm would be in the lineup to play lights out and prove that his coach is the right man for the job. Fewell wouldn't do that to Brohm, and if he did, it'd be a severe blow to his head coaching chances, no matter how well Brohm performed. It's just not going to happen, folks, and y'all should be glad it won't.
Fitzpatrick still gives the Bills the best chance to win
Nothing against Trent Edwards. I'm not nearly as anti-Edwards as the venomous corner of the Bills' fan base, but he shouldn't be on the field unless playing in injury relief. Nothing would be better for Edwards at this point than a change in environment. He's proven himself to be dysfunctional as a starting quarterback in the current environment. His career is in a holding pattern; whether or not it continues in Buffalo remains to be seen, but throwing him back into the fire would do him nor the team any good at all.
That leaves Fitzpatrick. His play is incredibly hit-or-miss, but he's the choice starter of the offensive unit, he plays smart football, and for all of his flaws, he at least is capable of keeping the Bills competitive in games. Those are hardly glowing arguments, but it's the best we've got. He's the best choice for Fewell, who needs wins to remain here as the head coach. He's the best choice for the team, who at least are still playing with some small semblance of confidence.
Fitzpatrick obviously isn't the long-term answer at quarterback for any team, including the Bills. He's a good backup quarterback at his best, and with two more years on his current contract and some solid performances in the last two years under his belt, it's likely he'll stay as a backup quarterback for at least 2010. He's the best the Bills have right now, and he's the best choice for Perry Fewell. Like it or not, Fitzpatrick should, and very likely will, close out 2009 as Buffalo's starting quarterback.