ORCHARD PARK NY - DECEMBER 26: Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the Buffalo Bills readies to pass against the New England Patriots at Ralph Wilson Stadium on December 26 2010 in Orchard Park New York. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Speaking with the assembled media yesterday, Buffalo Bills head coach Chan Gailey was asked about every issue that's been nagging Bills fans and media since the season ended. Gailey spoke about QB Ryan Fitzpatrick while discussing some of the quarterback prospects available in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Fitzpatrick was the runner-up in a training camp competition, losing the starting job to Trent Edwards. Edwards looked the best in shorts and against a phantom pass rush, but it was clearly obvious once the bullets started flying that he wasn't going to live up to expectations.
Gailey cut him and inserted Fitzpatrick into the starting lineup, where he played adequately in some games and exceedingly well in others. Asked yesterday whether he regretted starting Fitzpatrick on the bench in 2010, Gailey was quick to admit his regret.
"Yeah. Shoot yeah," Gailey exclaimed.
"If I knew then what I know now I wouldn’t have done that," Gailey continued. "But you do what you have to do with the information that you have. You make a decision, you live with decisions. You hope that you learn from them quickly and you rectify the situation. We were fortunate to be able to do that."
He continued to discuss his starting quarterback giving, him yet another vote of confidence.
"Yeah, I’ve said all along, I am extremely confident in Ryan Fitzpatrick. I really am," affirmed Gailey. "I think that he played well enough, until he got to the very end - the next to the last game he was in when he got banged up - I think he played well enough to prove to a lot of people, me and my staff included, that he can play well. We can win a bunch of football games with a guy a like that. I’ve been to the playoffs a couple of times with guys that haven’t performed as well as Ryan has. So, I think we can do it."
Bills GM Buddy Nix has also stated on separate occasions that he's happy with Fitzpatrick. Yesterday he continued to support the Harvard grad while answering a question on sitting a draft pick behind the veteran.
"We really like Ryan Fitzpatrick," said Nix. "He's tough, he's smart. He's proved he can win for us. We're not in a position where we've got to have a quarterback. There's some people in the draft that do have to have one. There is some areas, and I'll be honest with you, that we're looking at very strong that's not quarterback."
These fresh comments come after both Gailey and Nix spoke out in defense of their quarterback earlier this off-season.
"Very committed," Gailey answered in January. "He's done a lot of good things. He can improve. But we've got to stop the turnovers. If we can do that, I think we give ourselves a chance to be a successful offense.
"I think he allowed other guys to flourish and that's what he does," Gailey continued. "He puts the ball where it needs to be for people to make plays. That's the one thing you like about the guy, he gives your team an opportunity to win."
Nix's comments from later that month also supported Fitzpatrick.
"We certainly like Fitz," Nix said at the end of January. "[His performance] wasn't more than we expected because I knew Chan would get him to play better. We counted on that and he did. I really like him. I think he's got a lot of qualities you need. We just need to keep putting good players out there."
"I think he plays good enough we can win and get to the playoffs with Fitz," Nix told Chris Brown. "We just need to put some more guys around him."
One thing is for sure, if the Bills are looking at quarterbacks to replace him, they won't publicly put down their starting quarterback. At the very least, it seems the team is comfortable with Fitzpatrick being the opening day starter while a rookie learns behind him.