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Stewart: Bills must live or die with Edwards

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
More than most quarterbacks, Kordell Stewart has endured serious scrutiny.

"I sure could write the book on it," Stewart said.

Stewart estimates only three of his 11 NFL seasons weren't inflicted by some sort of quarterback controversy. That includes the season he spent with the Chicago Bears, playing under Dick Jauron.

Given Stewart's wisdom, I asked the ESPN analyst for insight into what Buffalo Bills quarterback Trent Edwards is going through and how Jauron should deal with it.

Jauron's Bills have lost four straight games and five of their past six. Their postseason hopes are in critical condition. Desperate for a victory, they will visit the abysmal Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.

But nothing can be taken for granted with Edwards lately. The second-year pro has been dreadful. In Buffalo's four-game slump he has a 52.5 passer rating. He has thrown three touchdowns and eight interceptions. He has lost two fumbles and been sacked nine times.

Even considering Sunday's make-or-break stakes, Stewart categorically recommended Edwards remain Buffalo's quarterback.

"Ride it out and let the man play," Stewart told me from his home in Atlanta. "The last thing you need to have happen to you as quarterback is the feeling you're going to get yanked.

"It has to be a true dying situation before you let that happen because if you do, then what happens next? You're playing musical chairs and you look foolish."

Edwards looked like a Pro Bowler through six games. He guided the Bills to a 5-1 record, the only loss occurring when he suffered a concussion on his third pass attempt against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 5.

"Trent Edwards this season came out like a cannon explosion," Stewart said. "Since he had the concussion against the Cardinals, he hasn't been the same. If you go back and watch the first few games, he was on fire, no turnovers. He was really on point.

"Now, everything's crumbling."

But Stewart sees no upside to letting backup J.P. Losman give Buffalo's misfiring offense a try.

"I'm not a big fan of sitting the starter and putting the backup in," Stewart said. "You sat J.P. Losman down for Trent Edwards, so you have to ride Trent Edwards out. You have to let him play.

"You have to ask 'If I make this change, will I really have a chance to succeed with the next guy?' I really don't think they have a chance with J.P. Losman to make the playoffs."

Stewart was the target of wicked criticism during his eight years with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Fans called for his ouster more times than he could count.

He went 18-14 in his first two seasons, then fended off challenges from Mike Tomczak and Kent Graham before taking the Steelers to the AFC title game and earning a Pro Bowl selection for 2001.

"There was a time when it seemed like in the first half of all my games I had a tendency of throwing an interception or two," Stewart said. "Bill Cowher would tell the team 'Just get ready. We might not start off easy. We might turn over the ball a couple times. But just be patient, and we'll win the game.'

"That allowed me to have confidence and made me responsible. It's not like every time you make a mistake you get ran to the bench."

Stewart said the Bills need to "finagle the game plan" to put Edwards in a position where he can find a rhythm without hurting the team.

Stewart noted that opening the game with three possessions that end in a punt would be fine, especially after Edwards threw interceptions on his first, third and sixth passes Monday night against the Cleveland Browns.

"They need to manage his psyche and put him in positions to not fail," Stewart said. "They need to reprogram his mind. The coaches need to make sure the game is as easy as possible.

"It's one of the most sensitive positions out there. At quarterback, you're on your own. Going to the bench won't help the situation at all."