The Buffalo Bills finished the 2010 season with a 4-12 record. So, they must need a new quarterback, right?
A common misconception with bad teams is that everyone assumes they must have a bad quarterback. This assumption has been made quite a few times about Bills' quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Ryan Fitzpatrick started 13 games for Buffalo last season. In those appearances, Fitzpatrick became the first Bills quarterback to throw for 3,000 yards since 2006. Fitzpatrick also threw 23 touchdowns, the most for a Bills quarterback since 2002. When a quarterback throws for 3,000 yards and 20+ touchdowns, it usually leads to success.
So how did Buffalo lose 12 games?
The Bills allowed 169.6 yards rushing per game, ranking them 32nd in the NFL in run defense. The Bills also allowed 26.6 points per game, ranking them fifth worst in the NFL in points allowed. As cliche as it sounds, if you cannot stop the run, you cannot win. If you cannot stop the other team from scoring, you cannot win.
The Bills run defense was the main contributor to their 14 losses, leading them to draft Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2011 draft. It was no secret that Buffalo had a lot of interest in Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, but he was not available for them to draft at No. 3 overall.
There were other options for Buffalo to take at quarterback; there was Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker, Christian Ponder and Andy Dalton. Buffalo obviously had no intentions of taking any of these players, otherwise, they would have.
The Bills appear to be quite confident in Ryan Fitzpatrick; why shouldn't they be? Fitzpatrick put up the best statistical season for a Bills quarterback since Drew Bledsoe and appears to be the best leader that they have had since Doug Flutie. He has more than earned the right to start again for the 2011 season.
Fitzpatrick starting for the 2011 season is a win-win situation for Buffalo. Buffalo's defense can only get better (it is hard to get worse.) With solid quarterback play for the first time since 2004 and an improved defense through the draft, the Bills could be on their way to getting better.
If Fitzpatrick's play improves, along with the defense, the Bills could be a decent football team. If Fitzpatrick's play does not improve, along with the defense, the Bills will undoubtedly be picking very high in the 2012 draft, making Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck an easy pick for the Bills.
Minnesota, Carolina, Tennessee, Jacksonville, Cincinnati and San Francisco all took a QB in either the first or second round this year. That makes six teams who, more than likely, Buffalo will not have to compete with for Luck. Arizona will probably trade for Kevin Kolb, and the Dolphins will likely trade for or sign a veteran QB.
The NFL season is never predictable. There is no telling where these teams will end up picking in the draft, or who they will take, but it is safe to say that if Fitzpatrick does not pan out for the Bills, Buffalo has a clear shot to land their franchise QB in the 2012 draft. It may not even have to be with the first overall pick.
By sticking with Fitzpatrick for at least another season, the Bills will have solved their quarterback situation if he plays well. If he does not, the Bills will have a great chance at landing Andrew Luck in the 2012 draft. Not drafting a quarterback in the 2011 draft has more than likely set the Buffalo Bills up for a win-win situation.