The Quarterback Complex – A Buffalo Original since 1996

With three major facets of building a football team still waiting to begin, it’s not feasible to assume that the current roster is even relatively close to that of which we’ll see on opening day.

Whenever that might be.

Still awaiting the courts to decide on that date, but there’s no hold on speculation for how the free agent pool (undrafted, unrestricted, and restricted), supplemental draft, and trade market will shake out, thankfully for us. We’re going to take a look during these next few weeks at where the Buffalo Bills need help, and how that help should come – starting today with the quarterback position.

This much is known – Ryan Fitzpatrick will be the team’s starting quarterback for 2011, at least to open the season. Realistically, unless something highly unorthodox takes place (or, in this franchise’s case, completely plausible), it doesn’t look like Fitzpatrick will be supplanted for that role before this time next year, at the earliest. Then again, in this article last pre-season, I thought that Trent Edwards was a gift from the football gods and that Fitzpatrick couldn’t hold Levi Brown‘s jock. Now, Edwards is on the outs as the third string quarterback in Jacksonville (I mean come on, really?) and Fitzpatrick is leading his team into action to start a season with the least amount of cynicism and scrutiny that a Bills quarterback has enjoyed since Drew Bledsoe made his debut for the club in 2002.

Still, the point is, things change – and in Buffalo’s 15 year quest for a quarterback, the hot hand rules supreme. If someone else gets a shot and outplays you, it’d be a good idea to call your realtor, because you won’t be a Western New Yorker much longer. Ever since Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly retired in 1996, the fans here (and sometimes management, it seems) have an ever-growing lust for the backup. It’s not always that we think that we have a prized gem waiting in the wings, and in fact, that usually couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s just that when the guy who sits atop the depth chart isn’t showing you what you want statistically – and, as far as I’m concerned, the only QB statistic that matters is right below the W on the box score – you start to pine for the what if’s and maybes that your second and third guys bring… that free agency brings, that you, personally, could bring. That’s just how it is, and until we see consistent, quality football being played by a Buffalo quarterback, that’s just how it will be.

With the secondary options currently at the team’s disposal, though, it’d be hard to even doubt JP Losman as a lock to start (with no offense meant to Fitzpatrick) going forward. The second stringer is a former waiver pickup who I was gaga for until he showed that he has zero passion for the game, a low-level of skill, and no drive to improve himself – that man, Brian Brohm, is also scheduled to be a free agent as soon as the league year begins. I’d wager that he’d command too much capital for too little return, which would drive Nix to look elsewhere. The third option is a wiry 7th round pick from last year who came from Troy university, Levi Brown. Brown seems to have the tools and the drive, but as I said last year, it’s going to take him a little while to develop his abilities and physique into that of a professional quarterback.

Ideally, the team should be looking at two quarterbacks to head into camp with, so long as Brohm is on the outs. A defined number two who could be the push and drive for Fitzpatrick to stay consistent while also being able to step in when he isn’t should be the top priority. We don’t need a clear-cut starter – we already have that with #14. The team seems fairly set on waiting until they find Mr. Right (or Mr. Luck, rather) who could take the reins for a decade or more before they really commit to someone taking over Ryan’s role. The second quarterback that they should look to pick up doesn’t need to be anyone groundbreaking – just competition, even if just that. Someone to compete with Brown for the number three role, and maybe, possibly push the newly acquired #2. Could be, and likely should be, a veteran with little upwards potential considering the higher than normal probability that the team has a new long-term quarterback to develop at the end of April 2012. Or, they could go another route and grab one of the undrafted signal callers with some slight upside.

Some names that jump out to me are Miami’s Tyler Thigpen – a former product of Gailey’s in Kansas city, San Diego’s Billy Volek – whom Nix helped to facilitate a trade for while working for the Chargers in 2006, and Pittsburgh’s Dennis Dixon – an athletic quarterback from the University of Oregon that fits the mold of what Gailey runs on offense with his mobility and eagerness to learn. They won’t go after anyone with true name value because the ‘Quarterback Complex’ here. A name like Vince Young, Matt Leinart, or Marc Bulger could back up nicely, but would absolutely be looked at as potential starters on a weekly basis, and the team doesn’t need another controversy. Undrafted options to give Brown some competition include Minnesota’s Adam Weber, Louisville’s Adam Froman, Delaware’s Pat Devlin, and California Pennsylvania’s Josh Portis.

Whichever way they go, the first time that Fitzpatrick throws an interception, leaves a game with an injury, or takes a loss you can rest assured that the city of Buffalo will fall in love with someone on the bench holding a clipboard. Unfortunately, the Amish Rifle will fall out of favor with these fickle, tired-of-waiting fans if he’s anything short of spectacular.

Let’s just hope, for his sake and ours, that he’s at least good enough to win.

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