Pick your scapegoat. A too-raw-to-be-true offensive line, a first-year offensive coordinator, a ravaged linebacker unit or a clueless owner. They all apply. There's plenty of blame to go around.
Each week exposes a new problem. Each week, another starter joins the injury list.
One scapegoat has risen above them all, though. In Sunday's nightmarish 6-3 loss to the Cleveland Browns, Buffalo's most glaring weakness was painfully magnified. Trent Edwards is not — let's repeat — is not a NFL starter. Not anymore. He has played horrid against horrible teams. All with a plethora of weapons at his disposal.
The only remedy? Start Ryan Fitzpatrick. Owner Ralph Wilson yet again pledged support for Dick Jauron, a ridiculously surreal reality in itself. The absolute last job-saving move Jauron can make is benching his starting quarterback. He already fired his offensive coordinator 10 days before the season-opener. This is it. Jauron must see if a new arm somehow reinvigorates a lifeless offense.
Edwards' regression has been sharp and steep, a Niagara Falls-like plunge into obscurity. This time last year, Edwards was the toast of the town. He was 5-1. Sports Illustrated's Peter King anointed him as the early-season MVP. Since then, Edwards has thrown 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions over an abysmal 3-12 stretch. He has only thrown for over 200 yards in five of those 15 games. In other words, sustained mediocrity.
We can stop blaming injuries and his supporting cast once and for all. Edwards is what he is — a backup.
Is Fitzpatrick better? Who knows? Really, the front office needed to sign Jeff Garcia or another proven veteran. Could you imagine a Garcia-T.O. reunion? Regardless, Fitzpatrick needs to start this coming Sunday against the New York Jets. He played in a no-huddle offense all through college at Harvard and at times with the Cincinnati Bengals. Maybe he's the espresso shot the unit needs. In the preseason, he got into sporadic unstoppable grooves. It's worth a shot. T.O. is here one year. That's it. Buffalo better try to get the best out of him any way possible before it's too late.
Before Buffalo's last-ditch hook-and-broken-ladder play against Cleveland, there was Owens jumping up and down to pump up Ralph Wilson Stadium. You have to give the guy credit. If anybody should be irate over the team's lame offense, it's him. Edwards has been downright terrified to throw the ball downfield. He "takes what defense gives" him.
Well, all that has produced is one offensive touchdown in three games. Edwards' quarterback rating has hovered in the 50s for three straight games. Considering he has Owens, Lee Evans, Josh Reed and Roscoe Parrish all flanked wide, that is sad. Who would have imagined that this offense would be better off with J.P. Losman under center? Yes, the L-word. It's a scary reality, though. At least Losman has the nerve to throw the ball beyond 10 yards. At least he'd hit Owens with the once-every-three-games bomb.
Edwards seems unable to differentiate third down from second down, as if there's no urgency to throw the football near the first-down marker. It's a droned out, borderline lazy propensity that the team must trash ASAP.
Edwards' elementary play has marred an otherwise noble performance from Buffalo's secondary. A unit ravaged by injury shut down Drew Brees and held another quarterback to 2-of-17 passing — a pair of remarkable achievements. If Edwards could put any points on the board, we'd be all be raving over Buffalo's bandaged-together secondary and the Bills may be above .500.
It's too easy to blame Sunday's loss on Roscoe Parrish. Sure, he McKelvin'd the game away. But this clunker of epic proportions should have never gotten to that point. Buffalo has the talent — even with all its injuries — to smother this team.
"Honestly, it's little things," Edwards said Monday. "The good teams don't make those little mistakes. We're making the little mistakes way too often. That's what frustrating because they're not happening in practice. They're not happening during the week and for some reason or another they're happening on Sunday."
Yes, "little things" like false starts and missed blocks are tripping up the Bills at times. No, that's not the reason they're 1-4. Buffalo has much, much bigger issues. Like a quarterback incapable of making NFL-caliber throws. Like a quarterback wasting away the most talented wide receiver of the decade. Multiple times Sunday, Edwards had Owens in favorable matchups deep.
"I know he's probably doing the best job he can," Owens said after the game.
Maybe this is the best Edwards can do. Maybe he has topped out. I've always been an Edwards supporter. He initially seemed to be the antithesis of all the disasters before him.
Unlike Rob Johnson, he seemed gritty. Remember that comeback against Oakland?
Unlike Drew Bledsoe, he seemed semi-mobile. Remember those two touchdown runs at Kansas City?
And unlike J.P. Losman, he seemed calm. Remember the rookie poise?
So much for all of that. Edwards hasn't evolved. The defensive coordinator of a terrible football team publicly called him out before Sunday's game and he did nothing about it.
Before this season is lost completely, Jauron needs to start Fitzpatrick. Next to Jauron getting fired, it's the best thing this team can do.
--- We talked to Fitzpatrick back in August about why he came to Buffalo and his familiarity with the no-huddle offense. Get the story here.
--- And as always, debate it all in the ROCKPILE.