We've been talking about it for two weeks - ever since rookie QB Trent Edwards led the Bills to their first win over the Jets - and we'll be talking about it for another two weeks, as the Bills have a bye this week. Will Edwards, with just two NFL starts under his belt, win the starting QB job, unseating young veteran J.P. Losman?
That question, for the forseeable future, does not have a clear answer, as Bills head coach Dick Jauron has refused to commit to either quarterback until after the bye week. Until he makes that decision, the QB Debate will rage on. The problem is that, for Jauron, his decision really isn't that difficult: he needs to name J.P. Losman his starting quarterback. Emphasis on the word "needs".
The Trent Edwards Perspective
Let me preface this by saying that I am a Trent Edwards fan. In two starts, he's shown that he has what it takes to be a bona fide starter at this level. But that is all he's proven - he hasn't proven he's the long-term answer as this team's quarterback, and he has not proven he's a star in the making. He is very smart, very poised and pretty accurate - but that is all we know. The kid has a future.
But is it time to say "The Future is Now"? There is a huge contingent of Bills fans who are screaming "Yes!" at their monitors right now, but I don't think it's necessarily true. Even if Edwards has supplanted Losman in the team's long-term plans, putting Losman back in the starting role won't inhibit Edwards' development at all. We can even use J.P. as an example of that here - in 2004, after being benched following a 1-3 start, Losman came in for the injured Kelly Holcomb at home against the Chiefs and threw two touchdowns in a 14-3 Bills win. Many attribute his time off the field that year as the reason he had success when he returned. The same would be true for Edwards - he has just as much to learn by returning to the sidelines as he does from continuing to play.
Starting Losman Preserves Chemistry
We all know the playing disparity between the two players: Losman played poorly in his two games, Edwards played relatively well in his three. But at this point, Edwards' playing role has purely been as a fill-in; a backup, if you will. As it stands right now, Edwards played because Losman was hurt. The fact that this controversy sprung up in that fashion makes this decision predominantly about one thing: team chemistry.
The big question Jauron needs to ask himself is this: What kind of message am I sending my young, developing football team if I bench a guy after he was injured? Especially if that guy happens to be a team captain, and was voted into that position by his teammates?
The answer, Coach, is that that message would be potentially devastating to this young team. For better or for worse, Losman is a leader on this team. He can't do his leading from the sidelines. Meanwhile, if Jauron chooses to sit Losman, we're left to entrust that leadership role to a rookie? A rookie who, despite his positive press, was still only able to muster 20 offensive points in his two starts? That, ladies and gentlemen, is a very poor notion. That message could set this team back another full year in their development.
The Deciding Factor
Let me be perfectly clear here: I am not endorsing Losman as the savior of this franchise. I have just as many qualms about his play as the Edwards backers out there. I think that both of these quarterbacks have the ability to be highly successful in this system. I think both players could be the answer, and I think there is a good chance both players could not be the answer.
What it comes down to is this: there are 11 games yet to be played this season. If there were, say, 4 games left in the season, we might be having a different conversation here. But there are 11 games to play. It is still too early to give up on the 2007 season - just turn to the Monday Night performance as proof that this team can hang with anybody. Simply put, it is too early to commit to Edwards. If you sit Losman now, you've officially declared that you're done with him. If you sit Edwards, he's returning to his original role. See the difference here?
Bills players know that, in reality, the starting job is still Losman's. That's why JP got a ringing endorsement from Lee Evans. Evans, Losman's offensive co-captain, is right: it's still J.P.'s job. You can say that Evans is a minority in this camp, but can you prove the opposite? The media would like to; they're coming up with hair-brained trade scenarios for Losman already. Be glad that Bob DiCesare is not the GM of this team, folks.
To summarize: Starting Edwards would create a split in the locker room, damaging the psyche of an already fragile young football team. It would leave the rookie to pick up the pieces; it is incredibly unfair to ask a rookie quarterback to play well on the field and re-unify a locker room at the same time. Trent will not be hurt by a return to the sidelines, because he can continue his development process from there, with game experience under his belt. The only psyche that starting Losman would damage would be the fans'.
So please, Coach Jauron. It's not a matter of preference, and it's not a matter of picking correctly now which quarterback is right for this team. It's simply a matter of logic, and logic dictates that, at least for now, J.P. Losman needs to be the starting quarterback of your Buffalo Bills.