While some players often jump to comment on a negative season in the heated moments immediately after its completion, Bills quarterback Trent Edwards has taken a different approach.
The Bills' leading passer, at the completion of his second season in the league, has said he won't comment on the season as a whole, nor individual or team progress, until he has time to fully evaluate the negatives and positives.
"This is very difficult for me to evaluate the entire season," Edwards said. "I haven't really had time to settle in, look it over and tell you guys my honest opinion of the entire season. Obviously, we started off the way we wanted to and we didn't finish the way we wanted."
The week-to-week mental and physical demands of being an NFL quarterback often require complete attention, and Edwards said the main thought ringing in his mind is Sunday's 13-0 home loss to the New England Patriots that capped a 7-9 season in which the Bills went on a 2-8 slide to finish the season after winning a promising five out of their first six games.
"I really am just looking at this past week's game and just trying to wind down a little bit," Edwards said.
Looking back at the season as a whole, Edwards will find some obvious positives. His four fourth quarter comebacks in one season is a new Bills record. Edwards shined in the most crucial period, finishing third in the league with a fourth quarter passing rating of 106.3. He also became the most accurate passer (61.59%) in Bills history and completed 16 consecutive passes, also a record, in the Bills' season-opening 34-10 win over Seattle.
As Edwards succeeded, so did the Bills' passing game. The unit averaged 165 yards per game in 2007. Edwards and company increased that mark by 25 yards per game this year to 190.
Edwards had his best game in the Bills' 24-13 win over eventual AFC West champion San Diego. With questions about his health looming after getting knocked out two weeks earlier at Arizona, Edwards responded resoundingly with a QB rating of 114, completing 25 of his 30 passes (club record 83 percent) for one touchdown and zero interceptions.
But early successes gave way to costly errors for both Edwards and the entire team. Edwards threw eight interceptions and fumbled five times in the next five games as the Bills started their four-game skid with three straight losses to division opponents Miami, New York and New England.
"I mean, we started off so well," Edwards said. "Things were going in the right direction, things were clicking and I really don't know why it went the way it did."
"He missed some things," offensive coordinator Turk Schonert said. "I think as an offense we missed some things and it might have rattled him a little bit. We played some styles of defense that were a little different than what we had played earlier and he has just got to see those things."
Still, Schonert didn't see Edwards' slide as a regression so much as the natural progression for a young quarterback still grasping the ins and outs of an offense while facing increasingly complicated defensive schemes.
"Regress isn't a word I would use," Schonert said. "It is learning. He is young. We
played well, he played well early and then we hit a slump. He didn't make some of the throws he made earlier in the season, he didn't make some of the reads that he had earlier in the season. He saw some different types of defenses and that is just part of learning, part of playing the game, playing the whole season. "
What made Edwards' progression even more difficult was missing more time due to a groin injury suffered in the 10-3 home loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
Edwards' groin kept him out the next two games, both Bills losses, before he got a chance to shake off any perception of being injury-prone.
He stepped back into the lineup to complete 17 of 25 passes for 193 yards and a touchdown in the Bills' 30-23 upset win over then-AFC West leading Denver.
With the Bills' passing game all but eliminated due to last week's strong wins in the Patriots finale, Edwards was faced to finish the season wondering what might have been. But the quarterback, entering what is considered a crucial year in judging a quarterback's development, said his work ethic and outlook for next year will be as strong as ever.
"Sometimes the season goes the way you want it to, sometimes it doesn't go the way you want it to and I'm going to put in just as much work as I did last season, if not more, and that's the way I approach every offseason. I just hope at the end of next season, we're sitting here answering questions about going to the playoffs and more positive questions…" Edwards said.
Teams have a tendency to follow their quarterback, and if Edwards' attitude is any indication, there won't be much rest for him or the team this offseason.
"We have fighters in this locker room," Edwards said, "and we're going to go out there this offseason and get better."