Quick: when was the last time a Buffalo Bills quarterback passed for 300 yards in a single game? If you've heard that trivia question before, you're probably already aware that the answer is November 19, 2006. In that Week 11 victory over the Houston Texans, J.P. Losman threw for 340 yards and three touchdowns - including the decisive points late in the fourth quarter - in a 24-21 victory.
Fast math indicates that the Bills have since gone 54 straight games without featuring a 300-yard passer. That statistic alone speaks more to the mediocrity of the quarterback position in Buffalo than any other.
On the surface, nothing has changed at quarterback since GM Buddy Nix and head coach Chan Gailey took over the reigns of the franchise in January. The team's three employed quarterbacks from a year ago - Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brian Brohm - are still on the roster. The team bypassed selecting a signal-caller in the early rounds of the 2010 NFL Draft, instead electing to add Troy's Levi Brown in the seventh round. Buffalo's got its four quarterbacks, and appears ready to roll at the position heading into the summer months. Our State of the Bills Roster series begins with this group after the jump.
This is a feature that we'll add to the State of the Roster template, and obviously, it'll hold a little more utility once we get to positions other than this one. Given the nature of the talent the Bills have stockpiled at quarterback - that is, young, highly unproven talent - Buffalo's quarterback, whoever it ends up being, looks like he'll be a game manager in 2010. Look for lots of short, controlled passes, only occasional deep shots, and a huge emphasis on eliminating mistakes from whichever quarterback emerges as the starter. It'd also be nice if, for once, a quarterback - any quarterback - took a position of leadership with this club.
Don't read anything into the order in which players appear below - they appear based purely on level of NFL game experience, and nothing more.
5 - Trent Edwards. Yes, believe it or not, in terms of pure game experience, Edwards is Buffalo's most seasoned signal-caller. After a promising start to his 2009 season (64% completions, 442 yards, 4 TD, 1 INT in two games), Edwards again buckled under pressure - literally and figuratively - imploding over the team's next three games, getting injured, and eventually getting benched in favor of Fitzpatrick. He appeared in just eight games in 2009. Aside from his notorious nickname(s) and decision-making tendencies, the biggest question mark surrounding Edwards is his durability. No longer the most naturally talented quarterback on Buffalo's roster, Edwards will rely on his intelligence and - gasp - his experience in trying to win back his starting job.
14 - Ryan Fitzpatrick. In just one season with the Bills, Fitzpatrick has proven his value (the team was 5-4 in games in which he took the majority of snaps) and his areas of concern (55.9% accuracy, 13 turnovers, erratic decision-making) multiple times over. Fitzpatrick is the ideal backup quarterback - not consistent or talented enough to lead a franchise, but intelligent, willing to take a risk, and just athletic enough to get you by. That won/lost record detailed above is Fitzpatrick's wild card as he goes all in in this quarterback derby.
4 - Brian Brohm. Acquired last November, Brohm was pressed into action in one game in 2009 - and that's his lone NFL in-game appearance to date. One of the 2008 NFL Draft's most highly-touted quarterback prospects, Brohm was a second-round pick of Green Bay, where he promptly flamed out as he struggled to assimilate to the NFL work week and pick up Green Bay's complex offense. Possessing tremendous physical gifts, pure, unabashed potential is Brohm's most powerful trump card. Unlike the two more experienced players listed before him, Brohm enters 2010 training camp as a prospect that Gailey can quite literally start from scratch with.
10 - Levi Brown. Though he's just a rookie seventh-round draft pick, Brown already has a leg up on the rest of Buffalo's quarterbacks in that he was definitively acquired by new Bills management. Technically, Brown must polish his throwing mechanics, and mentally, he must adjust from a college spread offense to an NFL offense. Physically, Brown's got a lot of the qualities that you look for in NFL quarterbacks, including solid decision-making, adequate arm strength and accuracy, and something of a flair for the dramatic. He's a project player through and through, and it says a lot that there's still an outside shot that Brown could see playing time as a rookie.
Buffalo's got two quarterbacks in the final year of their respective deals, and two more who are (or eventually will be) tied up for multiple seasons. Edwards is entering the final year of the four-year deal he signed as a 2007 third-round pick; he'll make $550K next season. Brohm signed a two-year deal last November, and this will be the last and most decisive year of his current contract. Fitzpatrick signed a three-year free agent deal with the Bills in February of 2009, and has two years remaining on that deal - valued at $5.1 million in total. Brown's salary won't be known, but it's a virtual certainty that he'll sign a four-year deal sometime in July.
It's impossible to predict this early who will emerge victorious in Buffalo's quarterback competition. The least likely player to win, Brown, is also the most likely to be on the opening-day roster, as the team would be foolish to stash him on the practice squad for a year and therefore make him available to the rest of the league.
Fitzpatrick's situation is easily the most volatile. As it stands right now, he is probably the Bills' most proven signal-caller, but he's also the oldest (though at 27, that's not saying a lot) and by far the most expensive. He has as good a shot as anyone at winning the quarterback competition - but if he loses, and if the younger guys flash enough potential, Fitzpatrick's odds of making the final roster plummet considerably.
That's why Edwards and Brohm are certain to be the two players most closely scrutinized not just by fans, but by Bills coaches, as well. The team would love to have one or both of those guys outperform Fitzpatrick during the pre-season to go young and cheap - as opposed to young and cheap with one major exception - at this position. Some league insiders believe Edwards v. Brohm is the "real" Bills quarterback competition, and while I'm not completely inclined to believe that, those are clearly the two guys that the team is hoping emerge.
There are a few scenarios that could play out here, but the most likely, to me, is that the team doesn't see what it likes out of Brohm (a player I'm not nearly as high on as many of you are). Edwards or Fitzpatrick is named the starter, the non-starter becomes the backup, Brohm is released, and Brown serves the year as the third-string quarterback. That's my prediction - and if Brohm proves himself a viable starter and renders my prediction inaccurate, I will be absolutely elated.