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Just The Sports: Who The Buffalo Bills Should Start

Just The Sports

Friday, July 16, 2010

Who The Buffalo Bills Should Start

There is only one viable starting quarterback option for the Buffalo Bills for this season and for future ones. If the Bills are truly interested in turning around their franchise's losing ways and fielding a team that is actually in danger of consistently winning games, then they have no choice but to hand the starting quarterback job to Brian Brohm. Of the four quarterbacks currently on the roster, it is Brohm who has the greatest chance for success. The other three all have deficiencies they will be highly unlikely to overcome.

Brohm's biggest competition for the starting quarterback position is Trent Edwards, who has already attempted the most pass attempts for the Bills in twenty-nine games. Fortunately for Brohm, Edwards has two major strikes against him, strikes that should keep the Bills from continuing to trust in him to lead the Bills to victories. For both Edwards' college and professional careers, he has struggled to stay healthy, suffering myriad injuries and missing multiple games. Therefore, the Bills cannot even depend on him to appear consistently in the starting lineup.

Edwards' second strike is even more alarming than his injury history. Even when Edwards is healthy, he is not a particularly good quarterback. Before he was drafted, I used his mediocre college numbers (57.3% completion percentage and 6.5 yards per pass attempt) to predict he would have an equally mediocre NFL campaign. Nothing he has done since then has convinced me that I was wrong. Yes, Edwards had a surprisingly good 2008 season where he was actually an above league average quarterback except for his passing touchdown percentage, but overall during his three seasons, he has been an unsurprisingly below average quarterback.

Edwards has only completed 60.9% of his passes for 6.7 yards per pass attempt during the NFL games, which is slightly better than his college numbers, but not statistically significantly so. Therefore, Edwards can now make the claim that he is a little less terrible quarterback with the Buffalo Bills than he was at Stanford. Even so, he is still not good enough to have earned the right to start any more games for the Bills unless Brohm suffers an injury.

Ryan Fitzpatrick is the quarterback the Bills are second most likely to start over Brian Brohm, which would be an even more egregious error than starting Edwards over Brohm. Fitzpatrick is the epitome of a back-up quarterback as whenever he has been given the chance to start a number of games, he has been incredibly underwhelming and has actually hurt his teams by playing. Of course, that is to be expected from a player who didn't even complete 60% of his passes in college playing in the Ivy League conference, a league not exactly known for its football prowess. It is no surprise then to see a player not even equal his already pedestrian numbers when playing against superior competition. The only playing time Fitzpatrick is worthy of is mop-up duty.

Levi Brown is the seventh round draft pick the Bills just selected in April's draft. Hopefully, the Bills do not think they drafted their quarterback of the future because Brown is anything but. While his completion percentage of 61.7% and 7.1 yards per pass attempt in games where he played significant time is better than anything either Edwards or Fitzpatrick did, they are still not good enough to expect him to play well in the NFL. In addition, Brown was a wildly inconsistent college quarterback. His standard deviations in completion percentage (0.123) and yards per pass attempt (3.3) were far and away the highest of the four quarterbacks at which I looked.

Compared to these three quarterbacks, Brian Brohm looks like the second coming and I feel if given the chance, he will establish himself as a good quarterback in the NFL. For awhile, I was hesitant to give him my stamp of approval as I felt like he was a product of the offensive system the Petrino brothers (Bobby and Paul) implemented at Louisville, especially when I realized the amazing numbers he put up in his first two years as a starter for Louisville were matched by his predecessor, Stefan LeFors.

Then came Brohm's senior season, after the Petrinos had absconded to the Atlanta Falcons, where he did not experience the slightest drop off in his accuracy numbers. Even though he attempted ten most pass attempts per game his senior year without the Petrinos than his sophomore and junior seasons with the Petrinos, he still completed 65.1% of his passes compared to the virtually identical 66.0% completion percentage he had the previous two years. That level of consistency demonstrates that Brohm could have succeeded as an elite quarterback in any system, even one that relies heavily on him. Therefore, the Bills should be counting their blessings to have a quarterback of such supreme talent on their team and should use his abilities.

The Bills should already know what they can expect from Trent Edwards and Ryan Fitzpatrick: mediocrity and below average play. In Brian Brohm, they have a quarterback that has not been tested in the NFL, but based on his college track record, they also have a player who can finally return the Bills to their former winning ways.



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