Since Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly retired after the 1996 season, the Buffalo Bills have tried virtually every strategy available to find the next great franchise quarterback. With Trent Edwards faltering in his third year, the Bills may once again be in the market for the "next franchise quarterback". How might the Bills go about obtaining him? What has the organization tried in the past that may make them weary to go down a specific path again? The quarterbacks' winning percentages with the Bills are listed following each bio.
Draft a second-tier prospects in picks 15-45: Todd Collins (1995-1997), J.P. Losman (2004-2008)
The Bills selected Todd Collins No. 45 overall in the 1995 draft. That year, he started his first game in relief of an injured Kelly. The following year, he started three more games before taking over as the full-time starter when Kelly retired. In 1997, Collins' only full season as the starter, his numbers were adequate, going 215 of 391 with 2,367 yards. His 55% completion percentage and 12-13 TD-to-INT ratio were very lackluster, as was the team's 6-10 record. (41% winning percentage)
J.P. Losman was drafted No. 22 overall in the 2004 draft. In fact, the Bills traded up to get him, giving away their 2004 second-round pick and 2005 first-round pick to obtain the rights to the Tulane QB. Losman started for only one complete season throwing for 3051 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2006. The Bills went 7-9 that year but in 2007 Losman took a severe step back losing the first three games of the year and looking awful in the process. (30% winning percentage)
Trade for a promising backup: Rob Johnson (1998-2001)
Following the one season with Todd Collins, the Bills traded their first- and fourth-round draft picks to the for backup quarterback Rob Johnson. In three season in Jacksonville, Johnson had started one game and thrown 35 passes. Due to chronic injuries, Johnson started a majority of games for the Bills only once, in 2000, going 4-7 as a starter. His stats were impressive; he could just rarely led the Bills to a victory. (35% winning percentage)
Sign a free agent to stabilize the position: Doug Flutie (1998-2000), Kelly Holcomb (2005-2006)
36-year-old Doug Flutie joined the Bills in 1998 at the same time as Johnson. Flutie had last played in the NFL in 1989, but had found success in the Canadian Football League, breaking passing records and winning six league MVP awards and three Grey Cups. As starter for Buffalo, he found his way onto the field in relief of the oft-injured Johnson and won a lot of games for the Bills. In 1998, he went to the Pro Bowl after leading the Bills to the playoffs, going 7-3 in his 10 starts. He once again led the Bills to the playoffs in 1999, compiling a 10-5 record as the starter. Wade Phillips, for reasons only known to him and a select few, named Johnson the starter for the playoff game, and following the (dubious) loss to the Johnson entered the 2000 season as the starter. Flutie was released after the 2000 season for salary cap reasons. (70% winning percentage)
In Holcomb's first year with the Bills, he started exactly half of Buffalo's games opposite Losman, winning exactly half of his starts. He was seen as the safe, knowledgeable veteran, in contrast with the wild and risk-taking Losman. He managed to complete 67% of his passes - the highest percentage in team history with at least 40 passes - but his yards per attempt was so low (6.6) that it hardly scared opponents' defenses. In 2006, Losman started every game for Buffalo, and following the season, Holcomb was traded to thewho turned around and traded him to the . (50% winning percentage)
Starter by default: Alex Van Pelt (1995-2003)
Alex Van Pelt was cut by the a few months after they selected him in the seventh round of the draft. Buffalo signed him and he sat behind Kelly and Collins... and every other quarterback the Bills brought in after them. He started three games in relief of Collins in 1997, but returned to the bench until November of 2001, when he replaced the injured (again) Johnson. Van Pelt and Johnson each started 8 games that year, with AVP throwing for an impressive 2,056 yards and 12 touchdowns. Following that season, the Bills made a bold move to bring in a different answer to the question of Buffalo's starting QB. (38% winning percentage)
Trade for an established vet: Drew Bledsoe (2002-2004)
Following the 2001 season, Buffalo sent their 2002 first-round draft pick to the for Drew Bledsoe, who had become expendable with the emergence of . Bledsoe had a superb first year in Buffalo. He set the franchise record for passing yards (4,359), completions (375) and attempts (610), and became the last Bills quarterback to be voted to the Pro Bowl. In 2003, he had less of everything, including wins. After that season the Bills drafted Losman, and Bledsoe produced another so-so campaign under new coach Mike Mularkey. They almost managed to make the playoffs, dropping the final game of the season to Pittsburgh's backups. (48% winning percentage)
Draft a guy in a later round: Trent Edwards (2007-present)
In the 2007 draft, the Bills selected Edwards in the third round. At the time, Edwards was considered a value pick and a replacement at backup for the departed Holcomb. But Losman suffered
a dirty an unfortunate injury, and Edwards stepped into the starter's role. Edwards won three of his first four starts, the lone loss being a heartbreaking MNF defeat at the hands of the , before succumbing to injury himself. Upon his return, he won two more games, pushing his record to 6-1 as Bills starter and exciting the fan base. The Bills started hot again in 2008, rolling off four straight under Edwards. But over the course of the year wins, became fewer, though Edwards was still improving. So far to start the 2009 season, Edwards has appeared to show signs of regression, and is not considered by most fans to be the "next great franchise quarterback" anymore. (52% winning percentage)
Draft a top tier guy in the first 15 picks: None
In 2004, the Bills were rumored to be interested in trading up to select , but the Jaguars, the supposed other party, decided to draft the immortal instead. The Bills have not had many high first-round picks, due in large part to trading them to obtain Johnson, Bledsoe and Losman. In 2006, the Bills passed on and to draft (No. 8), and in 2007 decided against in favor of (No. 12).
The real problem with going down this road this year are the teams in front of the Bills in draft order (at least as it stands now). The, , , , Titans and may all be in the market for a quarterback, and are ahead of Buffalo now, and will likely remain there. The Jaguars will also be picking in the vicinity of the Bills, and possibly will be searching for a quarterback. In order to secure their favorite player, the Bills may have to move up from around spot nine or ten into the top four picks. This type of move would be very costly, both in picks and salary, but would be the only way for Buffalo to guarantee selecting a top tier quarterback.