Coming out of college in 2004, Bills quarterback JP Losman was pegged as a college athlete that had some growing up to do. Fast forward to 2008, and he has done just that.
Selected 23rd overall by Buffalo in the 2004 NFL Draft, Losman faced the pressure of becoming the next Jim Kelly. He was the highest drafted quarterback by the Bills since the former Hurricane in 1983. After Kelly's retirement in 1996, no one has been able to fill his shoes.
With Drew Bledsoe still under contract, Losman's broken leg during the preseason of his rookie campaign didn't seem that big of a deal. Yet, while Bledsoe lead the team to 27th in passing offense, calls for the injured Losman grew. A poor season-ending performance against a Steeler team playing mostly back-ups seemed to end the Bledsoe reign after three seasons.
Being named the starter in 2005, expectations where high for the former Tulane star. Yet, second-year head coach Mike Mularkey had a trigger-happy finger, and often benched the young Losman for veteran journeyman Kelly Holcomb—leaving Losman with only eight starts for the season. This scenario slowly chipped away at Losman's confidence, and created a division amongst Bills players and fans that led to Mularkey's exit.
New head coach Dick Jauron gave Losman the keys to the position in 2006, and was rewarded with glimpses of his first-round talent. Losman's completion percentage rose to 62 percent, and he finished 11th in the league with a 84.9 quarterback ranking. JP's big arm also helped fellow teammate Lee Evans finish sixth in the league with 1,292 receiving yards, and tied for third with six receptions of 40 yards or more.
However, Losman was once again thrown a curve with Buffalo's selection of Trent Edwards in the 2007 NFL Draft. An 0-2 start and a Week Three injury in New England opened the door for Edwards to take the helm. Edwards won two of the next three, with his only loss a 25-24 heart breaker on Monday Night Football against a solid Dallas team.
An injury to Edwards gave Losman another opportunity mid-season. But back to back losses in Weeks 11 and 12, in which the Bills lost by a combined 92-24, officially ended the Losman era in Buffalo.
Rumors existed this offseason that Losman's agent demanded a trade. Not that I fault JP for the request, but the Bills would be foolish to do so. The phrase "it takes two quarterbacks to win in the NFL" is not lip service, as evident by Buffalo's injury woes last season.
It's safe to say that Losman hasn't been given the same opportunity and patience to grow as other young quarterbacks have. One in particular by the name of Eli Manning—who was drafted the same year as Losman—entered last season as a huge question mark before leading his team to a Super Bowl win.
After the 2008 season, Losman will be a free agent. Given a chance, JP will be a winner in this league. He's only 27, has a rocket for an arm, and merely needs the confidence of a head coach to breed the success originally predicted when he first entered the league. Thanks to Trent Edwards, that won't happen in Buffalo. As for some other lucky NFL team, it may happen for them sooner than later.