On the sportstalk radio shows, and on a few blogs and online articles today, I've seen some consternation that JP Losman didn't do better with his 75-second fourth-quarter comeback bid in the Bills' 28-20 loss to the Jets yesterday. Frankly, I think that's a bit unfair -- he put his body on the line in scoring the first of the two touchdowns the team would need to tie the game, the weather suddenly turned very nasty for the game's final minute, and Losman is still very inexperienced.
I'm not making excuses for Losman yesterday; he looked great for a lot of the game but looked terrible on three key plays that resulted in the points for the Jets that sank the Bills. And, yes, the decision by the Bills on that 75-minute drive to start with short-yardage pass plays didn't make a whole lot of sense on a day when Losman had been throwing the ball very well (again, two or three passes excepted) all along. But it's not like Losman was calling his own plays in that situation, so I have difficulty blaming him for not really being familiar with that game situation in the first place.
One radio person said that Losman looked like he didn't want the win at that point, which made absolutely no sense to me. He sure looked like he wanted to score when he ran it in himself moments before, and he sure looked disappointed when his last fourth-down pass fell incomplete to the ground.
Here's my position on Losman: right now, he is neither a good quarterback nor a bad quarterback. He is a physically gifted quarterback who I think is showing signs of growth over last year, but I think that many peoples' expectations at this point are not well-considered.
As of today, JP Losman has started a grand total of eleven NFL games. Yes, he's in his third year in the league, but so what? Watching on the sideline doesn't mean a whole lot -- in fact, it doesn't mean much of anything at all. Guys who aren't going to be starting don't get reps in practice time, and if merely watching NFL action was somehow equivalent in some degree with a certain amount of actual game play, then my two decades of football watching means that I'm ready for at least a spot on an NFL practice roster, right?
Eleven starts. That's all Losman's had. An NFL season is sixteen games, which means that Losman has actually played less than three quarters of an NFL season. I'm forever pointing this out: The first two full seasons of Troy Aikman's Hall of Fame career yielded a record of eight wins and twenty-four losses.
Many football fans seem to have been blinded by the lights of Tom Brady's amazing success from the first time he was named the starter for the StuPats, and by Ben Roethlisberger's stunning success since he went 15-1 in his first season in the NFL and won the Super Bowl in his second. Those guys are freakish exceptions to the rule, and Bills fans really need to remember that. Developing a quarterback usually takes two or more seasons worth of actual play. Losman hasn't even played the equivalent of one season yet. Let's quit the handwringing for now, OK? I've seen nothing as of yet to make me think that if the Bills had a really top-tier defense, and if they had an offensive line that could really dominate the line of scrimmage consistently, Losman would be fine.
(On the subject of comebacks, I'd note that the King of Comebacks, John Elway, didn't lead his first one until almost the very end of his first season, and perusing the list, it appears that's what are always termed as Elway's "comebacks" include quite a few garden-variety drives for game-winning FGs with the score tied. I'd also note that while every Buffalo Bills fan knows that Frank Reich led the greatest comeback in NFL history, the third-greatest comeback in NFL history -- from a deficit of 26 points -- was led by Buffalo's own Todd Collins in 1997.)