Stop me if you've heard this one before. Summer is about to give way to fall. Pre-season football will thankfully give way to regular season football and we're talking about the struggles of the Bills starting quarterback. I was kidding with that "stop me" reference. I would like you to read the rest of the column.
We know pre-season games don't count but players and coaches alike will tell you they do matter. Which is why we should be concerned with the performance of Ryan Fitzpatrick and the number one offense to this point.
There are no excuses to explain away their ineffectiveness. Its the same offense and the third year for Fitzpatrick in that offense. The same play caller(Chan Gailey) who has a great working relationship with his quarterback. The same receivers are back so lack of chemistry can't be an issue.
The same running backs are out there and would probably have made the offense more productive if they received more carries through the three dress rehearsals.
You can't use injuries as an excuse either. The only starter who has missed time is right tackle Erik Pears although the Bills have limited the game snaps for center Eric Wood.
The starting offense has had 15 possessions through the first three games. I'm throwing out the one play, kneel down at the end of the first half last Saturday against Pittsburgh. In those 15 possessions, Fitzpatrick and company have produced 2 touchdowns and 1 field goal. There was 1 turnover(CJ Spiller fumble) and 11 punts.
The Bills have managed a grand total of 14 first downs. There were no first downs on 7 of those 15 drives and 5 of the 15 have been 3 and out.
One of their touchdowns came after a drive start at the Steelers 49 yard line. The field goal was the result of a drive that began at the Washington 21 yard line and went backwards for a net loss of 4 yards.
In a summer where we spent quite a bit of time talking about the potential impact new quarterbacks coach David Lee could have on Fitzpatrick, the star pupil looks like the same inconsistent signal caller he's been through his NFL career.
There have been too many times where Fitzpatrick has flat out missed guys or been off target. Even on one of his completions in the game with Pittsburgh, Stevie Johnson had to lay out to make the catch and left himself vulnerable to a potentially dangerous hit.
I know its pre season and the players and coaches will talk about how they aren't showing anything until the games count but it shouldn't be too much to ask your offense to look competent at the very least. Fitzpatrick has completed 48% of his passes thus far. In case you were wondering, he completed 61% during the 2011 pre season.
I'm not panicking and I'm not calling for Fitzpatrick to be benched. This is his offense and I don't think the Bills would consider making a change unless the season turns into a five alarm fire. I don't believe Fitzpatrick has a short leash.
Even if you thought that, you probably changed your thinking after the release of Vince Young and the trade for Tarvaris Jackson. Who knows how long it will take for Jackson to get a handle on the Bills complicated offense and develop that critical chemistry with the receivers when getting very limited reps as the likely second string quarterback.
The Bills are going all in with Fitzpatrick and if I was Gailey, I would look to my running game to help out my struggling quarterback. The Bills haven't run the ball much in the pre-season but when they have its been effective. Fred Jackson looks like the guy who made the offense go during the first half of last season.
I know its a passing league but Fitzpatrick isn't a "put it all on his shoulders and he'll get the job done" guy. He can win with help around him. He should have additional aid this season with an improved defense but Gailey can help him out even more by leaning on the running game.
I still think the Bills can win with Ryan Fitzpatrick as their starting quarterback but after the last three games, I'm starting to wonder if I'm just trying to convince myself like I did with JP Losman and Trent Edwards.