Another week is in the books for the Buffalo Bills, and with the team's third victory comes another week of QB controversy. This time, it's different, however, as veteran J.P. Losman's performance on Sunday - coupled with a sprained wrist for rookie Trent Edwards - has thrown Losman squarely back into the mix to start this week's contest against the Cincinnati Bengals.
So the debate over who should be Buffalo's starter rages on, one week after the charade ended with Edwards' name at the top. And while it seems pretty obvious who head coach Dick Jauron prefers at this point, it's also obvious which QB is a better fit right now for the Bills. That quarterback is J.P. Losman.
Losman Better than Edwards... For Now
Before some of you get in a tizzy about this, know that this opinion I hold isn't something I've flip-flopped on as the coaching staff has. Losman has been my guy all season. Nor is this an indictment of Edwards - for a rookie third-round pick, Edwards' play has been above-average, and the level of comfort he's given the coaching staff is very, very rare for a player with his experience. He has a bright future. The point I'm making here is that the time to bring that future to the forefront has not yet arrived.
The play of both quarterbacks in yesterday's win is the perfect microcosm of the current situation at quarterback: Edwards is good enough to keep this team in games; Losman is good enough to win them. It's true that the coaching staff prefers a methodical offensive approach that favors the run and time of possession, something that Edwards' style of play is very conducive to. But with opposing defenses loading up the box with 8 defenders to stop RB Marshawn Lynch - Buffalo's only consistent offensive threat this season - Losman is the smarter choice to relax that style of defense and open up the offense. That's not to say Edwards can't accomplish that - Losman is just better at it, right now.
Take a Look at the Play-Calling
Here's a point I was ready to make, but the ever-awesome Chris Brown beat me to it:
...Losman wasn't in the game for more than five plays before they took a shot deep to Roscoe Parrish INTO the wind near the end of the third quarter. That was followed by two more long passes to Evans with the wind. One set up the go-ahead field goal and the other was the lone touchdown in the game.
It's still unclear whether or not the offensive play-calling - mostly cautious and conservative through 3.5 quarters - changed because Losman entered the game; it's ironic, however, that the decision was made to go deep when the better long-ball QB entered the game. Play-calling has been an issue all season; the fact that Buffalo's coaches felt compelled to open it up with the vet in there is yet another reason that Losman should get the nod.
Perhaps the biggest reason that J.P. should start, to me: the schedule. The Bills, at 3-4, can easily jump back into the wild-card playoff chase with a win on Sunday against the struggling Bengals. After that home contest, the Bills must play 5 of their remaining 8 games on the road - against some pretty good competition to boot. Plus, one of the 3 home contests is a re-match against the juggernaut that is New England. Tell me - would it not make more sense to play the veteran in that situation, if only to maintain the rookie's psyche? Edwards struggled yesterday - and that was the Jets. He'd have a much, much more difficult time holding his own in Jacksonville, Washington and Philadelphia. What's so wrong with protecting the rookie, allowing him to continue his learning process from the sideline while simultaneously providing Losman the opportunity to, at the very least, audition for his next team?
One final point: I'm not making the statement that Losman is the future of the franchise - because it's pretty clear that that title belongs to Edwards. The Bills, right now, can win with either quarterback - but as long as this team has a shot to make the playoffs, and as long as the coaching staff plays to win games with their play-calling, Losman should get the nod for those reasons alone.
Not Getting My Hopes Up
Jauron, on par for the course, won't reveal anything until Wednesday. But this quote tells us everything we need to know:
"I probably do know the answer to that," said Jauron. "But come back on Wednesday and we'll tell you."
The writing's on the wall, and it says that if he's healthy, Edwards starts. The coach made his choice last week, and contrary to how he handled the demotion of Losman, won't bench Edwards due to injury. That's me guessing, but I'd place a lot of money on that guess if I were a betting man. And part of me doesn't disagree - if in fact Jauron makes that statement on Wednesday, I'll applaud him. I'll disagree, but I'll give Jauron credit for (finally) sticking with his guns.
But if Edwards gets the call again, and continues to struggle (especially on the road) and throw untimely interceptions, Jauron will continue to feel the heat. Why? Because right now, the better quarterback and the logical choice is Losman. Right now - and I can't stress "right now" enough - Losman is the QB that can take this team places. Edwards is the QB that can keep this team afloat. That difference alone should be the deciding factor. Alas, it's not.