Pete Metzelaars knows what a great quarterback looks like. He caught passes from Jim Kelly and coached in Indianapolis while Peyton Manning was breaking records. Two straight years of subpar quarterback play has seen Metzelaars find unemployment twice.
"I don't want to throw Fitz under the bus, but you've got to get an answer at quarterback," the departing tight ends coach told Tim Graham of The Buffalo News. "That's got to be the No. 1 priority."
A year after Manning's injured neck led to the Curtis Painter show with the Colts, Metzelaars joined the Bills only to see Fitzpatrick come just close enough to winning games where it's fair to wonder, "what if?" Big Pete wasn't shy about calling out his former quarterback, either.
"If you have a dominating defense, you can get by with an average to below-average quarterback. If you don't have a dominating defense, you need a winning quarterback in the NFL. Fitz is an average to below-average kind of guy, and unfortunately he made some bad decisions at the end of games and then didn't make plays at the ends of other games we had chances to win. So it's got to start there."
Metzelaars may not have wanted to throw Fitzpatrick under the bus, but his comments sure veered in that direction. The coach hoped the defense would be dominating, but when that didn't work out, Fitzpatrick wasn't up to the challenge.
"I thought we needed to dominate on defense to let the offense work, because when you don't have a great signal caller, there's going to be times when you can't be explosive on offense, when you'll have to go three plays and punt," Metzelaars said.
The Bills lost four games by one score or less. In those games, Fitzpatrick threw four interceptions and lost two fumbles with three of those picks all but ending the game. The game-ending interception has become somewhat of a hallmark of Fitzpatrick's career as a starter.
"You want to be positive about it and think 'We're close. Give us another year,'" noted Metzelaars when discussing the close games. "If Fitz gets better or we get better at the quarterback position or get another wideout, then we really could get this thing going. But we're not going to be there to see that happen now."
Metzelaars has not found work since being fired along with the rest of Chan Gailey's staff. The Bills did not return his call when he inquired about interviewing with new head coach Doug Marrone, according to Metzelaars.