I told you we'd talk about it. It's not a fun subject, to be sure, but it has to be discussed. Yes, I'm referring to the quarterback of the Buffalo Bills. At 5-5, the Bills are still on the playoff radar, but the fan base continues to be split (to a lesser degree than a few weeks ago) over whether J.P. Losman or rookie Trent Edwards should be starting during the Bills' stretch run. It's not even clear exactly what direction the team will be going next year. One thing is certain: this Bills team won't be a sure-fire playoff contender (and no, they still are not) until the team puts its stock behind one signal-caller.
Allow me to offer an opinion - and keep in mind that it is just an opinion here - about J.P. Losman. He is a captain of this team, was handed the reigns in the off-season, and despite all the chaos that has ensued at his position, the Bills are still alive. Why, then, do Bills fans continue to speculate in regards to the veteran's trade value? Perhaps it's a reflection of reality: Losman needs to prove this year that he deserves another shot next year. What will save Losman's bacon? I can only think of one thing.
J.P. Needs the Playoffs
That's really the long and short of it, in my mind - if Losman can't find a way to sneak the Bills into the playoffs this season, he's got very little chance of being a Buffalo Bill in 2008. I believe that includes pulling out a winning season and still missing out on post-season action. Yes, this is only his second season as the starter - and he hasn't even had the whole season. No, his time in Buffalo hasn't really provided him a fair shot to prove he can be "the guy" here (or anywhere). I've been saying it for months - Losman is my guy. I have a lot of faith in the kid. But the reality is that anything short of a playoff berth will leave the Bills with questions, rather than answers, at quarterback.
How realistic are the playoffs? Well, that depends on your viewpoint. The Bills have two difficult road tests coming up against the 7-3 (yet banged up) Jacksonville Jaguars, and a Washington Redskins team that gave Dallas quite the scare on Sunday - in Texas. The Bills must also face a Miami team that should have beaten them two weeks ago, the resurgent (and explosive) Cleveland Browns, a 7-3 Giants club, and a 5-5 Eagles club on the road in the season finale. It's not going to be easy. But it's doable.
Jauron Sticks with J.P.
Obviously, with the road to the post-season so difficult, a new question may arise: if the Bills fall out of contention, do they switch back to Trent Edwards? It would certainly make sense - if Edwards is indeed the future of the team, why not get him some experience (against high-quality opponents) when the games don't mean as much to the team? Therein, I believe, lies the problem: if Dick Jauron is willing to afford Edwards that opportunity, why not give it to Losman?
It is my belief that contending or floundering, Losman should start as many games as possible for the remainder of this season. It's about proof. If the Bills can't contend, can they at least beat teams that are contending? How hard does J.P. prepare if he's starting as a lame duck? How hard does Edwards prepare if he's sitting on the bench behind a lame duck? The answers to these questions are important.
Perhaps the most important point to be made here, however, is one that I've made before: Trent Edwards doesn't need to start this season. He's a rookie. Edwards will benefit more from watching and learning than Losman would from sulking on the sideline. The franchise benefits more with Losman playing and Edwards learning, rather than vice versa. It's common sense. Losman needs these six games to prove something - prove anything. If he can't, that's when you hand the keys to Edwards. (Handing the keys to Edwards sounds scary, but if Losman isn't keeping the keys, what other option does the team have?)
Obviously I don't claim to be clairvoyant, but at this point only one conclusion to this QB mess seems obvious: Losman will start the remainder of the season. The Bills will win 2-3 of those 6 games, finish at or just below .500, and miss the playoffs. Then the questions will ensue: Losman or Edwards? Trade Losman? Start Edwards? Sign a quarterback? I don't even want to think about it. What's important here is that while Losman needs the playoffs, he shouldn't have to.
The NFL is a business, and the Bills need to make a business decision at the position. That doesn't mean "money decision", it means "franchise decision". It's going to be interesting, and it'll likely be a wild ride. Anyone care to speculate on how it's going to end?