There is a train of thought from Buffalo fans and media that Bills head coach Chan Gailey should bench starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick in the regular-season finale against the New York Jets. The idea is to get a good look at backup quarterbacks Tarvaris Jackson or Tyler Thigpen before the end of the season, similar to what New York is doing with Greg McElroy.
Although it's clear Fitzpatrick is not the long-term solution in Buffalo, here are a couple reasons why Gailey shot down the idea this week:
Gailey is on the hot seat and must win now. This game may be meaningless to Bills fans because the team is 5-10. However, Gailey must build his case to stay for another year, and a division win over the Jets to end the season would assist his cause. Gailey doesn't have time to experiment with backup quarterbacks when his job is on the line. Gailey could be coaching in his last game, and Jackson and Thigpen are both unknowns. Gailey is more comfortable knowing Fitzpatrick's strengths and weaknesses. Buffalo’s coaching staff thinks Fitzpatrick provides the Bills the best chance to win.
What if the Bills keep Fitzpatrick next season? The AFC East blog reported last week that the Bills can save $4.45 million in cap room and $7.45 million in actual cash by cutting Fitzpatrick this offseason. I expect Buffalo to release Fitzpatrick. However, if the Bills cannot find a starting-caliber quarterback in the draft or free agency, Fitzpatrick may have to stick around as a short-term option. Benching him in a meaningless game would set a bad tone.
The Bills and Jets are in different spots. New York coach Rex Ryan isn't coaching for his job and can afford to think about next year. That is why the Jets are taking a look at McElroy. Gailey might be coaching in his final game and can't leave anything to chance. Gailey needs to win this game a lot more than Ryan and is sticking with Fitzpatrick, his veteran starter.