Part One, discussed the changes to the offense and how the offense needs to find an identity.
Everyone continually wants to call this the Quarterback Era of the NFL. Everyone's wrong. The NFL is filled with bad quarterbacks at a time when the games rules have been designed to allow teams to score. Speed dominates the league, and the only way to beat speed is to outsmart it. Thanks to Dick LeBeau, Monte Kiffin, and Jimmie Johnson (of the Eagles), defenses are smarter than quarterbacks, and this truly is the era of the Defensive Coordinator. Schemes are more complex and dynamic than ever, and there are very few quarterbacks with the brain, physical tools and the willpower to be great.
That being said, from Elway to Eli, besides the brilliant defensive schemes of the Ravens and Bucs and efficient quarterbacking of Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson, teams have shown it takes not just a good, but a great quarterback play to win the Super Bowl. Doug Flutie fans be damned, the Bills have not had a good quarterback since Jim Kelly retired in 1996. That’s eleven seasons ago. Eleven.
In that time, Bills fans have embraced and subsequently cast off Todd Collins, Billy Joe Hobert, Alex Van Pelt, Doug Flutie, Rob Johnson, Drew Bledsoe, JP Losman, and probably another one or two I’d prefer to forget as well over that time span. Since the heated Flutie-Johnson QB battle tore the Western New York community apart in ways which were ridiculously inconceiveable and in many ways indescribeable, the community has long thrived for both more quarterback drama, as well as a player to help heal the wounds.
However unlikely it seemed at first, it appears now, Trent Edwards is that guy (cue sappy music). Since the Flutie-Johnson issue, quarterbacks have been the main point for criticism and the lightning rod issue for fans. The Bills gave up hefty picks and money for Johnson, Bledsoe and Losman, and none of them met fans expectations – which were to be reminded in some way of Jim Kelly, be it his leadership, his numbers or his determinantion. Despite the league changing significantly since Kelly’s departure, Buffalo fans still want the golden quarterback and have a level to which they expect their QB to play.
Johnson, a California native with a Californian attitude, didn’t understand the Buffalo culture. He came off as arrogant and aloof in interviews and press conferences, and that didn’t play well in a city which still tries to paint itself as one of the the Joe six-pack, blue collar steel industry cities (even though that is no longer the case). Johnson’s surfer attitude, stellar prototypical QB tools, size and injury proneness, gave him the Goliath role in his matchup against the energetic, rag armed, mullet wearing, drum playing, molson-drinking Flutie. Despite being better, Johnson didn’t have a chance.
As the Bills saw Drew Bledsoe’s skills deteriorate, they again made a big trade to draft a young QB, this time trading into the first round and snagging another cocky QB with all the tools in JP Losman. Losman, another Californian, quickly started walking a similar path as Johnson, however with his only completion being Bledsoe, he was fast-tracked. Already weary of Johnson, fans were skeptical of Losman from the beginning.
Fan’s fears weren’t quelled when Losman was injured in training camp by veteran Troy Vincent on a play which was supposed to be non-contact. It brought questions about whether the veterans were on board with Losman and whether management made the correct decisions. Also not helping, in the same year was fellow rookie Ben Roethlisberger winning the Super Bowl, as well as Phili Rivers having a successful rookie season.
When Bledsoe was jettisoned, Losman took the reins as what should have been the unquestioned full-time QB for two seasons, however poor play and weak conviction from the coaching staff put Kelly Holcomb in the mix in 2005. Fans would not warm to Losman. He would show flashes, but his cocky attitude, high draft pick status, and laid back attitude, which included a quote from Yoda and a reference to Gandhi would not allow fans to warm to Losman.
Finally in 2006, things started clicking for Losman on the field, as he threw for 19 TDs and over 3000 yards, but he couldn’t win back many fans, and the Bills were stuck with another questionable situation at QB from a public relations standpoint. JP tried making amends, showing leadership and commitment to the team by staying in Buffalo through the entire offseason and making all the minicamps, as well as a commitment to the community by buying an expensive condo in struggling downtown Buffalo and also organizing neighborhood charity events and cleanups.
Losman had won many new fans in the area, but there was still a contingent who would never support the guy, which is why when the Bills third round pick came around in the 2007 draft, many eyebrows were raised when Trent Edwards name was called. Despite the Bills stating JP was the starter and Edwards was just drafted because he was the best player on the board, anyone following the Bills could read between the lines, and would be digging in for a harsh quarterback battle.
Then Edwards took the field in training camp and looked like he knew what he was doing. Then he did the same during the preseason. Many weren’t sure what to think. How could a third round pick “get it” so quickly? Losman just had won many people over, why was Edwards doing this, now? Those who couldn’t see it, didn’t want to.
When the season started, Losman was the starter, and he played like a player knowing his job was going to be taken by a better player. Eventually it was. Losman got to play again during an Edwards injury stretch, however Edwards won the job.
Edwards was smart, efficient, his arm wasn’t great, but he hit receivers in stride. We hadn’t seen that in years – seriously. He could audible because his coaches trusted him enough to audible. We hadn’t seen that in years – seriously.
When you’re single, you convince yourself single life is great because you eventually don’t remember the things about dating that make it great. The intimacy, the flirting, the whimsical wonder of it all, or the comfort of another person. Having a bad quarterback is like being single. Bills fans hadn’t been flirted with in a long time, and it felt amazing. Nobody cared that he was from California, nobody cared that he might be injury prone. He's finally the guy who can stop the carousel of quarterbacks.
1000 words later and what does this have to do with the Bills winning the Super Bowl? Edwards is now entering his second season as the starter. He has a new coordinator in Turk Schonert, who was his QB coach last season. He and Schonert apparently have a special relationship. I don’t care if its true, I just want that in my article. Edwards is the real deal, but he needs to be better than he was last season. He can be. The Bills used the draft to get him another weapon in 6’6” wide-out James Hardy, an athlete with a build which has never been on the roster. Lee Evans, a good friend of Losman but the Bills best offensive player, is now officially on board with Edwards and needs to be the man. He can be. Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson are for real in the backfield. If Edwards, like Jim Kelly once did, puts the key in the car and makes it go, this team can be special.