You want to believe he's the answer, you want to knight Trent Edwards as the long-term face of the franchise. Because for 13 years, the Bills have eroded into Bears East. Quarterbacks treat Buffalo like a fast-food restaurant. They come. They go. Since Jim Kelly retired, successive chosen ones have failed with flying colors.
Todd Collins. Rob Johnson. Drew Bledsoe. J.P. Losman. Each mistake cost wins, cost dollars and cost draft picks and Bills were set back further than anyone could imagine.
There are moments where you believe that Edwards is different. Last year's comeback against Oakland and gritty win at Denver temporarily reloaded the Edwards bandwagon. But the same ailments are never too far away — injuries and hesitance.
This year, he must produce.
The front office supplied Edwards with one of the best wide receivers of this decade. Terrell Owens, for all of his juvenile shenanigans, remains one of the most explosive players in the league. He'll make Lee Evans better. He'll make all of the tight ends better. He'll open up Buffalo's running game. And most of all, he'll eliminate all possible excuses for Edwards.
Patience is running out. The dam is about to break on Buffalo's next rebuilding project. Valuing "continuity," team owner Ralph Wilson retained head coach Dick Jauron. Instead of flushing out three years of mediocrity for a fresh start, Buffalo is going for broke this season. A volatile wide receiver, a no-huddle offense, an offensive coordinator that's spent 10 days on the job. Everything but firing Jauron has been done.
But make no mistake about it. Edwards is at the heart of Buffalo's fate this season. Heavily criticized all preseason for not taking shots downfield, he must ascend into a legitimate NFL starter in Year Three. Even in Wilson's World, where pennies are pinched daily, another losing season will not cut it. Edwards will be out. Jauron will be out. The team will detour into a new direction.
Next year's draft crop should be rich in quarterbacks. Sure, it's taboo to think about next year when this year hasn't even begun. But with a shaky foundation and a brutal schedule, the Bills easily could be picking in the top 10 come April. An all-star cast of rookies await — Colt McCoy, Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow and Jevan Snead could all highlight a QB class for the ages.Don't think for a second that the Bills are ignoring the future. The team sent a scout to Texas' game this past weekend where McCoy erupted for 337 yards and three touchdowns. No way the Bills ignore another potential franchise quarterback if Edwards has another C-rate season.
Buffalo took the high road on Matt Leinart, Jay Cutler and Brady Quinn among others in recent memory. If the Bills cue full-scale rebuilding come January, they will not do it again. McCoy, Tebow, Bradford, Snead, whoever would be picked.
Then again, if Edwards raids Foxborough and shocks the world tonight, a roll of duct tape will be firmly strapped around the mouths of all the doubters. Nobody is giving the Bills a chance. Whereas Buffalo is tripping into the season-opener, the Patriots enter 2009 with a Super Bowl-or-bust attitude. They are two teams on two completely different paths. One is rolling like Federer. The other's falling like Kanye.
Edwards had all of one drive in the preseason to gel with T.O., who is — or isn't? — happy with the no-huddle offense. But maybe Owens' catalytic effect is for real. Maybe Buffalo turns Gillette Stadium into a playground tonight. The team has nothing to lose. Might as well rev up the K-Gun when jobs are at risk across the organization.
And that's how Edwards must start playing. Borderline reckless. Of course, he needs to "take what the defense gives," a phrase regurgitated into oblivion around One Bills Drive. But early and often tonight, Edwards needs to unleash some deep balls to Owens and Evans. Be it against single-team or double-team coverage. Go deep. Small ball must end. For all of its firepower on offense, New England's pass defense is average. Maybe Buffalo can find the sweet spots.
The oven is preheated to full blast before the Bills have even taken a snap this season. This is Edwards' final shot to prove that he is the answer. If he struggles at some point, Ryan Fitzpatrick will see the field. He's smart and decisive — two qualities built for the no-huddle, which he ran throughout college.
Of course, that'd simply lead to another spin on the quarterback merry-go-round where rebuilding is always just a hiccup away.
The time for Trent Edwards is now. Tonight.
Tyler Dunne is the Publisher of BuffaloFootballReport.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.