Buffalo Bills fans everywhere held their breath, crossed their fingers, and closed their eyes Sunday following the Bills' third play from scrimmage. Trent Edwards, one of the NFL's best surprises and a budding star at quarterback, was laying immobile on the field. Half the feeling was that of despair, "what will we do without our starter?" The other half was the inevitable, "what can we do with our backup?"
Not many Bills fans had any confidence left in the team's 2004 first-round pick and current second-string signal caller, J.P. Losman. Losman, after all, had begun three seasons at the starting QB and only finished one of them in the same role. He had a penchant for locking onto speedster Lee Evans, holding onto the ball much longer than necessary, and being oblivious to oncoming pressure. We saw a glimmer of all of the above on Losman's second drive; he took a sack on a 2nd down play, and evaded one on 3rd down to hit Evans for an 87-yard touchdown strike.
Overall, Losman seemed to have a pedestrian day in the blowout loss to Arizona, completing 15 of 21 passes for 220 yards with one touchdown, one interception, and a rushing touchdown. He also took 5 sacks and lost 2 fumbles. Most fans figured the game was lost when Losman was to come in the game, and while it certainly didn't help to lose Edwards, Losman actually performed admirably.
The backup QB did not lose Sunday's game for the Bills; the loss lies squarely on the shoulders of Perry Fewell's defense. Not many teams can allow 41 points and expect to win with any quarterback at the helm. The offense did look futile at times, but the sacks and ensuing fumbles were not a direct result of Losman holding onto the ball for too long, but more so the complete failure of the offensive line to stave off the Cardinals' pass rush.
In most situations where a starting QB goes down, Losman's performance as a backup would be heralded. He cannot be judged as a starter, as he probably will never be a franchise passer in the NFL. He will, however, have a job for as long as he wants to play as a backup. He is still athletic and is capable of the big strike. He came off the bench with very few reps all season and posted a 101.3 passer rating, above average for any QB. He will have a job next season, albeit most likely not with the Bills, and may have a chance to compete for a starting job with one of the NFL's bottom feeders (Detroit, anyone?).
If the Bills have to go on after the bye without Edwards for any amount of time, quarterback play should not be the primary concern. As much as fans don't want to believe it, J.P. Losman is a good backup quarterback, and is actually a pretty good emergency plan for when a starter goes down.
He will get more reps in practice, and should be ready to go against San Diego regardless of Edwards' condition. While there is no quarterback controversy brewing, fans shouldn't give up on a Losman-led offense. Based on Sunday's performance in the desert, that is the least of our worries.