Pete Metzelaars is no longer the Bills' tight end coach (he was relieved of his duties along with the rest of the staff earlier this year), but he's quite familiar with the offense, the players and their strengths and weaknesses. And, as such, he feels qualified in saying that if he was tasked with improving the Bills, one of his first moves would be to dump quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick .
"I don't want to throw Fitz under the bus, but you've got to get an answer at quarterback," Metzelaars told the Buffalo News' Tim Graham while throwing Fitz under the bus. "That's got to be the No. 1 priority."
Metzelaars isn't wrong -- or alone -- in that assessment. In November, Bills general manager Buddy Nix -- the same man responsible for giving Fitzpatrick a six-year, $59 million contract the season before -- told WGR550.com, "Listen, we have said from Day 1 that we want to draft a good young quarterback. I don't want to leave here without a franchise guy for the future in place. I have not said that before, but I'm saying it now because it's fact."
The implication: Fitzpatrick ain't that franchise guy. It's a reasonable opinion supported by the new regime's decision to let Fitzpatrick and NFL journeyman Tarvaris Jackson duke it out for the starting job in 2013.
"If you have a dominating defense, you can get by with an average to below-average quarterback," Metzelaars continued. "If you don't have a dominating defense, you need a winning quarterback in the NFL.
"Fitz is an average to below-average kind of guy, and unfortunately he made some bad decisions at the end of games and then didn't make plays at the ends of other games we had chances to win. So it's got to start there."
Turns out, the Bills' defense was atrocious. Despite signing Mario Williams to a $100 million deal last offseason, things went south from jump street in 2012.
In Week 1, the Bills were thoroughly embarrassed by the Jets, giving up 48 points to a Mark Sanchez-led offense. Buffalo allowed 52 points to the Pats in Week 4, 45 points to the 49ers in Week 5 and 50 to the Seahawks in Week 15. And, on six occasions, they watched as opponents scored at least 35 points. In fact, the Bills allowed more than 400 points in each of the last three seasons, including 435 in 2012.
Which is all the more reason why, according to Metzelaars, Fitzpatrick wasn't a good fit in Buffalo.
"I thought we needed to dominate on defense to let the offense work," he said. "Because when you don't have a great signal caller, there's going to be times when you can't be explosive on offense, when you'll have to go three plays and punt. Too many games we had to score every time we had the ball because of how the defense was."
The Bills have the No. 8 pick in April's NFL Draft and plenty of needs. In the latest mock draft, NFLDraftScout.com's Rob Rang has Buffalo taking West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, while Dane Brugler likes Tennessee wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson.