Playing quarterback in the NFL is about as high-pressure as jobs in sports come. Trent Edwards has now been the starter at that position for the Buffalo Bills in 27 regular season games. He's 13-14 as a starter in those games, but the only ones that matter right now have been his last four - and in those starts, the Bills are 1-3 and have regressed to the point where the firing of the head coach is now more eventuality than possibility.
Quarterbacks are scrutinized closely for good reason: generally, NFL teams go as their quarterbacks go. Finding consistent winners with average to below-average quarterbacks is difficult to do. The way these Bills are built, good play is imperative from Edwards if the Bills want to win games consistently. They haven't gotten it from the third-year pro. Now, Edwards is departing the realm of what we might call "usual pressure" and entering a territory where he's not just playing to win games. He's playing to save his coach's job, salvage a promising season, keep an enigmatic receiver from blowing up, and to ensure his own future in the league.
A tale of two two-game stretches
To say that Edwards has been a completely different quarterback in the last two games - both blowout losses - is an understatement. In Buffalo's first two games this season, Edwards completed 64.3 percent of his throws at 7.9 yards per attempt, with four touchdowns, one pick, and a QB rating of 104.9. The Bills were 1-1 in those games, and should have been 2-0.
In the last two games, Edwards' numbers have slipped drastically. In the losses to New Orleans and Miami, Edwards completed 55.7 percent of his throws at a meager 5.7 yards per attempt, with one touchdown, four gruesome interceptions, and a QB rating of 50.4. Buffalo was outscored 65-17 in those two defeats.
Part of Edwards' inexplicably massive regression can be attributed to an offensive line in flux. Say what you want about Buffalo's young line, but they were playing well in the New England and Tampa games. Then Brad Butler went to IR, Demetrius Bell hurt his groin, and voila - Edwards has been sacked a whopping 10 times in the last two weeks. But let's not pretend that the O-Line is the single point of blame in this fiasco, because they're not. The coaching staff can't be the sole point of blame, either. Edwards has been terrible, and it's nowhere near surprising that the team on the whole has been terrible right alongside him - this team goes as Edwards goes, folks.
Examining the task ahead of Edwards
Let's just take a look at the to-do list on Edwards' fridge as the Bills enter the second quarter of a season that appears to be quickly slipping away from them:
- Play better. Easier said than done when confidence gained is so quickly and emphatically lost.
- Stay healthy. Easier said than done when your offensive line is in a complete state of flux and Kirk Chambers looks more like a matador than an NFL offensive lineman.
- Win football games. Easier said than done when the franchise that employs you leads Earth in creatively fumbling away opportunities to win football games.
- Get a contract extension. Easier said than done when your fate is tied directly to your head coach's.
- Prove you're that ever-elusive "franchise quarterback." See above.
- Save your coach's job. Easier said than done when your coach may or may not already be in lame duck territory.
- Make believers out of the fan base. Easier said than done considering what Bills fans have been through over the past decade.
You have to feel for Edwards, no matter your opinion on his quarterbacking abilities. No quarterback with less than two full seasons' worth of starting experience should be in the situation that Edwards now finds himself in. One might argue that he's been set up to fail, and if that argument is made, one might not hear many counter-arguments. It's extremely unfortunate. Buffalo's decision-makers, coaching staff, and Edwards himself need a miraculous turnaround, but that won't happen unless Trent plays better.
The clock is ticking. Jauron, Edwards' teammates, and the current regime at One Bills Drive will only go as far as Edwards can take them. Good luck, kid - you're going to need it.