No matter how confident or self-deprecating you are when it comes to how you make your way around the world, you will come across a hot streak. You could have absolutely no idea how to play blackjack or fantasy football, but sometimes, the cards you are dealt will lead you to go on a hot streak. You can be absolutely terrible with picking up girls at a bar, but there are moments in which you can get in the zone. Yes, I'm going by personal experience when I used to be in the zone in college and I'd go out trying to catch game, and for weeks at a time, I'd get rejected, but sometimes, and it happened enough, I'd be getting girls numbers and executing random makeout sessions like it was my job. There was no rhyme or reason to it, it was just a hot streak. No different than what a gambler goes through when he's betting on games. This is no different when it comes to (Bad) QBs.
There have been 9 starting QBs since Jim Kelly has retired from the Bills. 9 guys you most likely hate today or feel indifferent about them. However, all of them at certain points went on a hot streak...only to then crash down in flames.
Todd Collins: In his 2nd start, Collins threw for over 300 yards against the Colts, who were a year removed from the AFC Championship. Collins started the 1997 season with a record of 3-2 and had 8 touchdowns in five games.
Rob Johnson: We all know about the QB controversy in Buffalo, but there were a few hot streaks by RJ that made you think he'd be the future of the franchise. Beating the undefeated 49ers in 1998, him leaping into the end zone for the game winner against the Chiefs, throwing for over 330 yards against Flutie and the Chargers.
Doug Flutie: 1998 was a magical year as Flutie took the league and region by storm. Flutie rolling right for a TD against Jacksonville was a franchise moment. His performance during the 3 years he was here are probably the closest to Kelly we've had. At least it lasted longer it felt.
Alex Van Pelt: People forget, Van Pelt played pretty well during the 2001 season after Rob Johnson went down with an injury (shocker). He started only 8 games, but passed for 12 touchdowns and during his first 2 starts that season, he'd passed for over 300 yards in both of them. If it wasn't for the draft day deal for Bledsoe, which was on/off more times than Bass Pro, Van Pelt would have been your 2002 opening day starter.
Drew Bledose: It can be argued that nobody had a faster start at QB in team history than Drew Bledsoe. First 8 games of 2002, 16 touchdowns and 5 picks. Four games of 300 yards or more. People were comparing him to Jim Kelly after those first 8 games.
JP Losman: I remember like it was yesterday, sitting in McFaddens with my friend Scott, and JP Losman throwing two pretty rainbow TD passes to Lee Evans against Houston. However, he needed one more. With less than 20 seconds left, Losman fired a bullet to Peerless Price for the game winning TD. At that moment, McFaddens erupted and I was saying/yelling "Defining moment! Just like Kelly running in the end zone against Miami!"
Trent Edwards: Almost like last year, the Bills raced out to a 5-1 start during the 2008 season and Edwards was the main reason for it. He was able to read defenses and make the quality throw. When the Bills needed 8-yards, he'd get them 9 and a half. It wasn't flashy, but he got the job down during those 6 starts.
At one point or another, the majority of this list was anointed as our franchise QB by fans and media members. It was because of a hot streak that everyone in life seems to get on. Of course, they all fizzled out and became nothing more than Buffalo punchlines. And so the saga continues, which begs the question:
Was Fitzpatrick start to last year nothing more than a hot streak or will he have better moments and finally end the search for the next Jim Kelly?
Hot and Cold
If you decide to draft Fitz in a fantasy football league, be sure to trade him after 8 weeks. Fitzpatrick started last season well, passing for 1,739 yards, 14 touchdowns, just seven interceptions and a passing rating of 97.8 during the Bills 5-2 start. During Fitzpatrick's first 8 starts of 2010, he passed for 1,961 yards, 18 touchdowns and nine interceptions. We all know what happened next, whether it was bad ribs or defenses catching up to him, Fitz went into a tailspin. In his last 9 games last year, #14 threw for only ten touchdowns and 16 interceptions. His rating went from 97.8 after week 8 to 79.1 for the entire season. In his last 5 games of 2010, Fitz threw for only 1,039 yards, 5 touchdowns and 6 picks. His QB rating over those five games was 74.8. Keep in mind he had a QB rating of 90.4 during the first 8 games.
These numbers are pretty similar.
Bills fans were pretty patient when Fitz started to struggle during the latter parts of the last two years. It wasn't like they were calling for his head all that much. Now...things are different. Expectations are extremely high and with Vince Young -say what you will about his talents- is still a name lurking behind his back and if Fitz goes into a 2-3 game slump, the catcalls will be heard.
What we like about Fitz?
I've mentioned this more times than f-bombs on this site, but the Bills have as many underdog stories as I can remember for a local sports team. Fitz leads the parade of castaway misfits. Did you know he played at Harvard? Did you know that his wife was an athlete there? Do you know he wears his wedding ban while playing? We get it...but it certainly doesn't get old, especially if he's playing well. There's a sense of pride in seeing Fitz play his ass off and guide the Bills to wins over the Pats and Eagles. It feels more fulfilling to rally behind an underdog than someone who was touted as being the next big thing. One thing Fitz has over the list of QBs I've mentioned, is no one saw him coming really. He was the backup. A guy that John Guy signed in order to backup Trent Edwards, nothing more. Fitz is also a guy that the locker room loves. Everyone has his back. Personality and storywise, you can't ask for anything better.
- In 15 of his last 30 starts, Fitzpatrick has thrown for two touchdowns or more.
- Fitzpatrick has five 300 yard games in the last two seasons. From 2003-2009, the Bills' QBs went over the 300-yard mark only 3 times.
- Fitzpatrick has been sacked only 46 times in his last 29 starts. Tom Brady has been sacked 47 times during that span.
- Fitzpatrick has lead the Bills in comeback wins when trailing by 21, 18 and 24 points.
- He has beaten Mike Vick, Tom Brady, Tim Tebow and Carson Palmer. Hey! He even beat Peyton Manning (Note: Yes, #18 only played two series).
What we hate about Fitz?
When Fitz is bad, he's a fricken tire fire. It was painful to watch how bad he performed during his final 8 games last year. It was a meltdown of epic proportions. We should know by now what #14's issues are. He has problems with throwing deep, he can be inaccurate, erratic mechanics, and he makes bad throws for no reasons. Even when the guy is playing well, I get fricken nervous whenever he throws the football. His unorthodox ways of delivering the ball will do that to me.
- Fitzpatrick lead the league in INTs last year.
- He's 14-25 as the Bills' starter. Trent Edwards had 14 wins in less starts. Not exactly great company.
- Since 2010, Fitz has only two wins against top 10 defenses.
- If you take out the Colts B-team game of 2009, he has only two wins against playoff teams (Broncos and Pats) during his Bills' career.
- Maybe this is the norm for QBs, but Fitzpatrick has a 2 to 1 ratio in yards passing when the Bills were trailing last year in comparison to leading (2,092 to 1,006). Comeback kid or garbage time QB?
How about them ribs?
Not since the McRib came out for McDonalds, have Bills fans been talking so much about the effect of ribs. Did Fitz's numbers go downhill when he London Fletcher drove him into the ground in Toronto, injuring his ribs? The numbers and the team's record says yes. However, the question for me is does bad ribs mean you go from a first half MVP to buyer's remorse?
There are some things I'd like to point out.
For one, you could make the case that Fitz's performance against the Jets (2nd time around) was one of his best games for the Bills. Fitz burned the 5th ranked defense for 264 yards, 3 touchdowns and a passing rating of 111.1. If Stevie doesn't drop that last second pass that would have put the Bills in the redzone, Fitz goes over 300 yards and has a chance to win. This all happened when he had these bad ribs.
Mike Vick broke his ribs during the middle part of last year. Vick took 3 weeks off and came back and threw for 7tds and had 3 picks while the Eagles went 4-0. Was he 100% healed? The best example I can think of is Tony Romo. Romo, punctured his lung and broke a rib during week 2 of last season. What did he do the rest of the year? Oh, he torched us and threw for 31 touchdowns and had arguably his best season as a pro. Big Ben played with broken ribs during SB 43. You know, the SB in which he lead the Steelers to the game-winning drive against the Cards? In 2009, Donovan McNabb fractured a rib during week 1 and finished the season with decent numbers, 22 touchdowns and 10 picks. When Steve McNair won the Co-MVP award during the 2003 season, he did it with bad ribs.
Look, I'm not a rib doctor here, but having bad ribs doesn't mean life and death for a QB when throwing the ball.
In the end, I think defenses catching up, Fitz being Fitz, Fred's injury and the Bills having no defense, were bigger factors in his play than injured ribs.
Not as much pressure, yet it is do-or-die
I said it after Fitz's start against the Ravens 2 years ago, "If the Bills had a defense like the Steelers, I think you could win with Fitz." I still stand by that. Am I talking Super Bowl? No. But playoffs and maybe a win or two? Yes. Defenses don't exactly win championships anymore, but they can definitely get you in the playoffs. Six of the top 10 defenses last year went to the playoffs. The 49ers and Ravens were in the top 5 and came a play or two away from making the Super Bowl. If the Bills have a top 10 defense, they aren't going to have to rely on Fitz to throw the ball 40 times like he has the last two years. Fitz had had no choice but to throw a ton last year because the defense was giving away points like they give away condoms at UB dorms. As I've maintained, it would behove the Bills to not have Fitz carry the offense, let alone the team.
You now have a defense that will help you.
Of course, there is his salary and he's the QB. The position in which you get most of the blame and accolades for. If Fitz throws for something like 20 tds and 14 ints, is he worth the 60-million bucks they are paying him? Probably not. It was one thing when he wasn't making much money, now? Eh. If Fitz struggles like he did towards the end of last year, how can you really have him as your QB in 2013? I dont think you can. Bottom line: If the Bills struggle this year, I think it will be because of QB play. Just like almost every other team.
Another year, the same system
Amazingly, the last time the Bills had the same offensive system in place for three straight years was from 1998-2000. This was during the Joe Pendry era. The Bills are virtually running with the same players and the same system since Fitz took over at QB two games into the 2010 season. Erik Pears, Chris Hairston, Scott Chandler and TJ Graham are the only starters or contributors, who weren't on the offense in 2010. If Glenn beats out Hairston, he'll be the only new starter for the Bills offense from last year. Could this be viewed as the offense becoming stagnant because the same players are here from 2010? Possibly. However, you could look at it as young players getting better. The Bills are very young at the WR, OL and running back (Excluding #22) position. They have all played a season or two worth of games. Most of them are going into the magic #3 year, especially at WRs. This is the year where you'd expect a player to take the next step. Maybe it will be David Nelson or CJ Spiller? It is also the 3rd year for Fitz and Stevie in terms of being every down players.
Sidenote: I know a lot of people are talking about David Lee when it comes to footwork. Look, I know Bill Parcells liked him and a number of people in the football world have endorsed him, but I dont believe in 2nd hand information, especially with coaches. When he was helping with NFL offenses, he tutored Chad Pennington and Quincy Carter. Eh. I'm not that impressed with that sort of resume. So, yes, I'll wait until I start doing flips about Fitzpatrick's mechanics until I see them in September.
To avoid arguments, let's just say that Fitz is the best QB the Bills have had since #12 retired. His stats are like Flutie's and he's played on worse teams than Dougie. However, what are we comparing him to though? He's an upgrade over the bums we've had in Buffalo. Sometimes, I wonder if fans and media members are comparing Fitz to what we've had in the past and not to what the gold standard is of the NFL. Is Fitz really that good looking girl we are making him out to be or is he just an average girl who is walking onto our deserted desert island in which we haven't had a good piece of ass in years?
I think it would behove the Bills to not be as pass happy as they have been in the past. I know Gailey loves throwing the football, but when arguably your two best skilled players are running backs, you should probably give them the ball more and not get TJ Graham or David Nelson involved as much. The Bills were in the bottom 3rd in rushing attempts last year, I'm hoping that number gets to about the middle of the pack. Maybe it will with the defense not giving up truckloads of points.
Now if Gailey decides to let Fitz lead the charge and live and die by the pass, then the pressure will be on Fitz. He could go from being a 60-million dollar man to being the backup in 2013. I know it is harsh, but like I said, we've seen his hot and cold streak. I don't think Fitz can afford another cold streak, especially with this being year 3 of the Gailey/Nix era and them spending over 250-million bucks since last August on contracts.
However, mix in a top 10 defense with a lukewarm streak? Sign me up.