QB evaluation will take time

With assistant coach interviews likely to dominate Chan Gailey's time over the next week or so, making determinations about the talent on hand at the quarterback position is going to wait a while. But it's clear that Buffalo's head coach has it relatively high on his 'to do' list.

"Buddy and I have talked about it somewhat, but until I get in there and watch film and evaluate, it's unfair for me to sit here and say what's going to happen," Gailey said. "That's not fair. I would be talking off the cuff and that's the quickest way to get in trouble."

In trouble is what Buffalo's quarterbacks were for most of 2009. Three different signal callers started games for the Bills this past season and the results among all three were substandard. As a group they gave Buffalo a ranking of 23rd in touchdowns (17), 24th in passer rating (71.7), 30th in net passing yards (2,515) and 31st in first downs (126). They also combined to throw 19 interceptions, the seventh highest team total in the league this past season.

It has Bills Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly convinced that Buffalo's decision makers will be exploring ways in which to improve performance at the position.

"The NFL is a quarterback-driven league now more than ever," said Kelly. "That's how you build a franchise with a quarterback and a good, solid offensive line. And the offensive line has to improve too. When their performance suffers the first person that's affected by that in turn is the quarterback and we saw that happen."

The offensive line did struggle mightily to find any measure of consistency due to five new starters from the season before and a bounty of injuries. That led to penalties and protection breakdowns, which is why Buffalo's signal callers were also the fourth most sacked group in football (46).

That's why Gailey intends to form his own opinions on the capabilities of Brian Brohm, Trent Edwards and Ryan Fitzpatrick.

"I want to make sure that we do a thorough evaluation, a thorough study, do a great job of deciding and then talk about what needs to go on in the future," Gailey said. "I can't tell you what's going to happen right now - what the plans are. I know both guys have had some success playing in the NFL, but they have not done it for a length of time with consistency. So, can they? We're going to decide that."

Brohm, Edwards and Fitzpatrick are all under contract through next season. Fitzpatrick is the only one signed beyond 2010. But GM Buddy Nix is not going to let contract status impact his coach's decision making.

"I don't like the idea of handicapping a coach by saying he's got to keep this guy or you've got this player we've already signed and you have to keep him whether he fits or not," said Nix. "As a general manager I'm not going to go out and coach. My job is to be able to recognize talent and get them in here and put them in the right place."

Nix will however, have final say with respect to the 53-man roster though Gailey will have significant input.

"He will (have final say)," said Gailey of Nix. "But we are going to talk. It starts at the top and he and I are on the same page."

No one can predict what the Bills brass will ultimately decide to do with respect to the most important position on the field, but what is certain is they will have a definitive direction in less than two months.

"I don't know that I can answer how long that will take, but it will be before the draft and free agency," said Gailey. "It has to be. You've got to make decision by then so you better have it evaluated and a course of action planned."

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