Ever since the first reports surfaced on Sunday evening that the Buffalo Bills were on the verge of acquiring quarterback Tarvaris Jackson in a trade from the Seattle Seahawks, I've repeatedly been asked for my opinion on the move. I've been relatively quiet about the whole thing over the past couple of days, taking a back seat as the cacophony from Bills fans has crescendoed.
I'll try to boil my opinion down as simply as possible: the move is only on my radar because it's on everyone else's radar. I promise you, if I didn't run a Bills blog, I wouldn't be paying the move much attention. I'm still not, aside from the whole "repeatedly blogging about it" thing. Why? Because we're talking about a backup quarterback.
The timing of the trade stinks. Perhaps the most surprising part about the trade is the fact that there was a trade at all. It took two years, but now Buddy Nix - the self-described "riverboat gambler" (which was obviously a tongue-in-cheek quip) - is flipping late-round draft picks like he's giving candy out at Halloween.
The only uncomfortable part about the trade for me is the timing of the move. The Bills very clearly wanted to upgrade their backup quarterback spot this off-season, and when it became clear that neither Vince Young nor Tyler Thigpen were going to do that, the team reacted. Now they're going to go into the regular season with a backup quarterback that's been on the team for less than two weeks (no, I don't believe they'll keep Thigpen - can you imagine them keeping four quarterbacks and a kickoff specialist?). Ryan Fitzpatrick was always going to be important; now he is absolutely paramount to whatever amount of success the team will have in 2012, both in terms of performance and health.
This has nothing to do with Fitzpatrick. I realize that the fact that conspiracy theorists continually posit Bills backup quarterbacks as "an eventual starter" is simply a function of dissatisfaction with the starter. That still doesn't make it right. The Bills made this trade without Fitzpatrick in mind, aside from vaguely wondering "gee, how screwed are we if Fitzpatrick gets hurt?". He is the starting quarterback. Period. The team is planning on contending, and they think they can do it with Fitzpatrick. If they think they can do it with Jackson, particularly this year, then fans should be far more worried about the sanity of the front office than they currently are. So please, lay that notion to rest. Jackson is here as a backup, just like Young was here as a backup.
This has nothing to do with Brad Smith. It's tough for me to comprehend why some fans have such a hard time understanding why the Bills want Smith as the third quarterback. It has nothing to do with his ability as his quarterback, and everything to do with only being able to suit up 46 guys on game days and not wanting to commit two of those spots to quarterbacks wearing baseball caps and holding clipboards. That's it. That's the entirety of the logic. It's fair to wonder if it's wise to do this - just as it's fair to wonder if their faith in Fitzpatrick is justified - but it doesn't change the fact that Smith will be the third quarterback (and they have faith in Fitzpatrick). Time will tell if the team gets enough utility out of Smith on game days to justify the experiment, but the experiment is still ongoing. Smith isn't going anywhere.
This has nothing to do with the NFC West. It seems like every time a transaction is made on an NFL roster these days, a group of fans says something along the lines of "watch [team rival] sign him to learn our secrets," or "we should sign him to learn about [team rival]." Folks, there is nothing that Tarvaris Jackson can tell Bills coaches about the 49ers, Cardinals and Rams that the coaches can't learn for themselves by watching film - and anything that Jackson can supply about the Seahawks will be almost entirely irrelevant when the two teams play in three and a half months. Jackson was brought here as a player, not as a source of information. Which leads into my next point...
This had everything to do with Young and Thigpen. Seriously, these two guys were terrible. Young was occasionally acceptable, which is why he had pushed ahead of Thigpen, but both were largely horrible this entire off-season. The Bills traded for Jackson because they recognized their need to get a better quarterback - or maybe just a different quarterback - and Jackson became available on the open market. That's all. There doesn't need to be any deeper meaning about flipping a late-round pick for a quarterback beyond that.
This doesn't really matter. Fundamentally, nothing has changed for the Bills - which is why in a vacuum, without the pull of writing a blog, I wouldn't be paying this move much attention. It's still Fitzpatrick's team. The same questions we've been asking all summer about the team still apply today. I'm not the type of guy that takes every opportunity to ask and answer the same questions all over again, or to pick the scabs off of not-fully-healed grudges. Nix, Gailey and the Bills organization made their bed long before they traded for Jackson. We'll begin to discover the fruits of their labors and beliefs on September 9 - and that's a game that Tarvaris Jackson likely won't be involved in.