Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

29 Jul 2005

Losman Enters A Solid Situation

I agree with Phil Simms when he says that the Bills did the right thing by releasing Drew Bledsoe and naming second-year QB J.P. Losman the starter. After that, Simms is on his own. He goes on to say that he believes Losman will be better than Roethlisberger. And while this seems like a stretch, it's not totally implausible -- until you hear Simms' reasoning:

"I don't study him like a general manager, I don't know about his ability to call plays or how he interacts with his teammates, that's out of my fingertips," Simms said. "But what I saw on tape and on TV (while Losman played at Tulane), he absolutely has the physical skills. He's faster, more athletic and he has a more powerful throwing arm than Ben Roethlisberger."

Well, I'm not a GM either, but I suspect things like the ability to call plays, and interacting with teammates are also pretty important. And if he's a more athletic, stronger-armed version of Roethlisberger, why wasn't he rated higher heading into the 2004 draft?

Posted by: P. Ryan Wilson on 29 Jul 2005

35 comments, Last at 01 Aug 2005, 12:18pm by Mike B.


by James, London (not verified) :: Fri, 07/29/2005 - 12:24pm

This is why:

A: Phil Simms isn't a GM
B: Phil Simms doesn't write for FO

by Ray (not verified) :: Fri, 07/29/2005 - 12:31pm

I think I remember watching when he was picked by the Bills, and Keiper was saying that while Losman was definitely very athletic, his mechanics really weren't all that good (I remember footwork being specifically mentioned). Maybe he's improved in that area since then?

by Sophandros (not verified) :: Fri, 07/29/2005 - 12:36pm

From the article linked below from USA Today and from talking to people who played with him, I don't think that the team chemistry thing is an issue. Also, Tulane ran a fairly complex system that operated sans huddle in most situations.

I also think that working with Sam Wyche for the past year-plus has improved any mechanical issues.

by Playit (not verified) :: Fri, 07/29/2005 - 12:49pm

I heard a rumor from one of those friends of friends grapevines that Patrick Ramsey, when asked about Losman, couldn't help but talk about what a head case he was and even took more than one dig with regards to his lack of intelligence.

Ramsey was on a golf course talking to some of his old college friends at the time.

This was the secret knock on Losman coming out when he at first scored a 14 on the Wonderlic only to follow it up the next year with a 31. 14 Would be below the suggested score range for Garbage men and Supermarket Baggers, while 31 would be around Mid Level Management and Computer Programers. You be the judge if that seems fishy...

by some dude in carolina (not verified) :: Fri, 07/29/2005 - 1:36pm

“But what I saw on tape and on TV (while Losman played at Tulane), he absolutely has the physical skills. He’s faster, more athletic and he has a more powerful throwing arm than Ben Roethlisberger.�

You know who else does? Ryan Leaf.

by zip (not verified) :: Fri, 07/29/2005 - 1:42pm

"while 31 would be around Mid Level Management and Computer Programers."

As a programmer who interacts with mid-level management a lot, I find that pretty insulting :)

by Sophandros (not verified) :: Fri, 07/29/2005 - 1:54pm

On the Wonderlic thing, a guy who has a 3.1 in Classical Studies at Tulane is smarter than a 14. I know the professors in that department (I have a minor in Classical Studies), and they don't hand out easy grades.

Patrick was in a tough competition with JP while both were at Tulane, and even though he is a class guy, that may have had an effect on what your friend of a friend said, if it is in fact true.

by OMO (not verified) :: Fri, 07/29/2005 - 2:15pm

I think comparing Roethlisberger and Losman is almost an apples and oranges comparison.

Ben is asked by Pittsburgh to "not lose games" for his team and be a distraction to the defense.

Losman will be asked by Buffalo to "win games" and make teams play the pass with some dedication of resources and philosophy.

I think given this situation, Losman or any QB in this situation will have a tougher time in their 1st playing year vs. Ben's situation.

Additionally...I hope for his sake, Losman has fixed his throwing fundamentals...throwing in Buffalo in the middle of Winter with a 15 mile swirling wind will test even the best arm with good mechanics, much less his wide-open, "wing/whip-it" motion I saw at Tulane.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 07/29/2005 - 2:17pm

I've heard Simms speak about evaluating college QBs before, and he completely discounts the mental aspects to the position, and looks solely at the physical tools. I enjoy some of his work as an analysyt, but I think he is in error here.

by Liam (not verified) :: Fri, 07/29/2005 - 2:35pm

Re # 8

What are you talking about?

Both teams have really tough defenses - the Bills is better if anything.

Both teams have a power rushing game (although while the Bills have a better running back the Steelers have a better line).

Losman could (and should) be put in an almost identical situation to Big Ben's last year.

The only difference was that he got to face the Browns and Bengals D's four times, whilst Losman won't be afforded that luxury.

by Stiller Fan in Cle (not verified) :: Fri, 07/29/2005 - 3:30pm

Wouldn't you kinda hope Losman is as 'good' as Roethlisberger considering that he's had a year to prepare? It might not neccessarily show up in stats, but you would think that with a year to prepare, one would play better than an unprepared college senior...

by Richie (not verified) :: Fri, 07/29/2005 - 3:43pm

If I am not mistaken, Losman first went to UCLA and then transferred to Tulane.

I don't recall what the issues were in his transfer. But considering the QB play at UCLA the past few years, Losman should have stayed at UCLA. Was he afraid of not being handed the starters job? Was he afraid of playing in a big conference?

by OMO (not verified) :: Fri, 07/29/2005 - 3:46pm

Liam, your points are a little too "broad brush" for my FO stat-based tastes...for example, look at last year's play calling stats.

Pittsburgh had a 61/39 run to pass play calling ratio.

Buffalo had a 48/52.

If you go by the assumption that given similar core personnel and coaching staffs; team's past tendencies will predict future tendencies...I think this is compelling data.

However, some qualitative points for the 2005 season to consider.

1. I think Ben will throw more given another year of QB maturity.
1a. I think Losman will throw less than Bledsoe unless he blossoms sooner than expected.
2. However, I've read nothing from either team about significant changes to their offensive mindsets.
3. But, with Henry gone and McGahee's injury history...if McGahee goes down I don't see Buffalo running Reshard Lee 30 times a game like he probably would have done with Travis Henry, thus more passing game.

All in all...I think you are somewhat right...my apples and oranges comment is too strong. Good call...but I still think that Losman will be asked to provide more offensive output than Ben was last year/this year.

by Trogdor (not verified) :: Fri, 07/29/2005 - 4:03pm

How much of the disparity in run/pass ratio is based on Pittsburgh running out the clock to win games though? I think a more useful comparison would be playcalling in the first half, when they're still trying to build the lead, to see how important Ben's passing was to the offense. If they have a 14-point lead in the fourth every week (which Pitt pretty much did), they're probably going to run it 25 straight times to kill clock, which tends to skew that stat (similarly, teams that fall way behind tend to have way more passes, which leads to the 'they lost because they didn't establish the run' myth). Even then Pitt probably ran more than average, but I doubt it was *that* much different.

Anyway, back to the main point, I don't think Losman is as good as Roethlisberger. Granted, I saw Ben in person in college and not JP, who I only saw several times on TV, and I tend to rate people I see live more highly. But whenever I saw them I was always much more impressed with Ben than Losman.

by Sophandros (not verified) :: Fri, 07/29/2005 - 4:20pm

Re: #12

JP was initially pushed toward UCLA by his family, didn't like it there and wanted to get away and grow up on his own. He chose Tulane over Miami because he had a good relationship with Chris Scelfo and liked NOLA. He knew that he would sit out one year and then sit behind Ramsey, so PT wasn't the reason.

by MDS (not verified) :: Fri, 07/29/2005 - 4:46pm

Anyway, the time Losman spent at UCLA was just the spring of his senior year in high school -- he graduated high school a semester early and went to UCLA for spring practice before deciding to switch to Tulane.

by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 07/29/2005 - 4:47pm

How much of the disparity in run/pass ratio is based on Pittsburgh running out the clock to win games though?

Trogdor, I think you're trying to compensate a stat that shouldn't be compensated. :)

It doesn't really matter why Pitt ran last year - just that they did. So Roethlisberger looked good because they ran a lot because they were winning a lot. In other words, Pittsburgh could win without Roethlisberger needing to pass.

Buffalo, however, did need to pass to win. Why? Maybe their running game is more anemic? Maybe their special teams defense (KICK+PUNT) was weaker? Maybe they just had a worse schedule? Who cares? Those reasons don't matter (*) - the point is that they did need to pass to win, because they continued passing, probably because they were behind.

So will Losman have as much success as Roethlisberger? If you believe that Roethlisberger had success because Pitt didn't need him to do much and could still win, then that's a little hard to say. If Losman had played on the Bills last year, I don't believe he would've had more success than Roethlisberger.

(*): The big star here is because there's one possibility. If the reason for the disparity is because Pitt was winning because Roethlisberger was a better passer than Bledsoe, then it's reasonable that Losman could have as successful a year as Big Ben. This is certainly possible. But then again, if this is true, then Losman would deserve the praise anyway.

by RowdyRoddyPiper (not verified) :: Fri, 07/29/2005 - 5:19pm

I notice Phil didn't care to measure Losman's freshman campaign against that of his son...who actually had a year off to study before he started.

And actually Phil is looking at JP Losman like a good bit of the GMs in the league, focusing on the raw physical skills rather than genuine football ability (not that I think Losman is lacking in that category).

by Basilicus (not verified) :: Fri, 07/29/2005 - 5:19pm

Releasing Bledsoe for Losman, in the Bills' situation, was the right thing to do, but effectively spending two first round picks to get Losman in the first place was not the right thing to do. From the limited film I've seen of Losman, both in college and especially in the pros, it looks like Losman has some sort of reverse-Matrix effect on the field. Everything else speeds up while he slows down. Not so much in foot or arm speed, but too often he looks like he's just not able to control in any manner the chaos of running an offense. Maybe this has been addressed working under Sam Wyche, but it still worries me. I think Losman has a lot of potential, but it will take a lot of work and patience to unlock it. That said, while I do expect the Bills to put him in as many situations where he simply needs to not lose (just like the Steelers with Roethlisberger last year), I don't expect him to come anywhere close to approaching Roethlisberger. Even if, as I suspect, Roethlisberger takes a step back this year.

by somebody (not verified) :: Fri, 07/29/2005 - 5:41pm

Losman can run pretty fast for a quarterback. Mularkey is a pretty smart offensive coach so that means hello bootleg passes with the option to run on probably 75% of losman's pass attempts.

by Kibbles (not verified) :: Fri, 07/29/2005 - 6:57pm

Saying that Losman is as good or better than Roethlesberger without any NFL experience to compare is inane. I don't know if Phil Simms has forgotten, but the strong consensus was that Ben Roethlesberger was the best QB prospect in the draft last year, but he fell because he was more of a project. In fact, I remember read *several* sources who called Roethlesberger the best QB prospect coming out of the draft since John Elway.

Losman, however, was the guy the Bills traded up to get, who everyone proceeded to label a "reach". Most bobbleheads didn't even have him going in the first round.

by RowdyRoddyPiper (not verified) :: Fri, 07/29/2005 - 7:00pm

"Losman can run pretty fast for a quarterback. Mularkey is a pretty smart offensive coach so that means hello bootleg passes with the option to run on probably 75% of losman’s pass attempts"

You've gotta be able to sell the hand off and the threat of a pass while moving in order to make a bootleg work (cf. Mike Vick).
I can't imagine that any coordinator wants to have his rookie QB out there trying to throw on the run with no protection. I think he'll use his wheels to get out of trouble when protection breaks down, hopefully that doesn't happen 75% of the time.

by Soulless Merchant of Fear (not verified) :: Sat, 07/30/2005 - 9:38am

Last year, when the Bills traded up to get Losman, I freaked out. Two things calmed me down since then.

--Apparently the Rams had their eyes on Losman and would have taken him before the Bills would have had a chance to get him. If they wanted him, they had to make the trade.

--The QB Class of 2005 didn't look impressive back in '04, and it still doesn't. Had they not taken Losman last year, they would have had to take Aaron Rogers this year. (Though nobody expected Rogers to fall that far--at the time, they probably figured they'd have to get the third QB in the draft.) I'd rather have Losman, plus a year of prep time, than Rogers, especially Rogers starting cold.

So I'm tentatively happy with the kid.

Everything coming out of Buffalo sounds great. He's physically amazing, he works damn hard, he says all the right things. The team around him is built to win without a killer QB: strong defense, great RB, excellent special teams. Widely-admired QB tutor Sam Wyche has been working on Losman for over a year.

If he sucks up the field, man, that's gonna sting. Especially if the QBs they passed up (Rogers, Drew Henson) prove to be better.

by sippican (not verified) :: Sat, 07/30/2005 - 4:54pm

When they say:

"Losman Enters A Solid Situation," are they referring to the statue he replaced? Just wunnering.

by TMK (not verified) :: Sat, 07/30/2005 - 6:59pm

RE: #23

If you replace every "Bills" in your statement with "Ravens" and every "Losman" with "Boller", I swear you are getting exactly the same vibe that was coming out of Billick and Co. 2 years ago.

Couple of differences are that the 2003 Ravens didn't have the defending Super Bowl champs in their division, along with a Jets team that has been a steady playoff participant. As it was, it took a near-record rushing year by Jamal Lewis and a career-reviving stretch run by Marcus Robinson to get that team into the playoffs.

Just don't see it happenign for Buffalo this year -- maybe 2007 or 2008, if Mularkey's still around.

by Stiller Fan in Cle (not verified) :: Sun, 07/31/2005 - 4:31am

Everybody keeps trying to compare Losman to R-berger, but I think it'd be a lot fairer to compare him to Carson Palmer. Palmer had a 2897-18-18 year in which he sucked at times but showed progress and some exceptional flashes. Losman should probably have a better TD-int ratio just because of what he'll be asked to do (and he won't be playing from behind as much), but the offensive situation is fairly similar.

Anyway, I think everyone's been using R-berger as the rookie benchmark when there's a ton of other rookies to use for comparison (especially columnists looking to make a story).

by Jake (not verified) :: Sun, 07/31/2005 - 12:42pm

Does anyone else think of the game that Losman came into against the NE Patriots everytime his name is mentioned?(Play by play link)

1st down Couldn't find an open man, broken play scramble for 5
2nd down No gain handoff
3rd down 2 yard sack
4th down Fumble recovered by Phifer

1st down Pass left side 5 yards
2nd down Intercepted by Tully Banta-Cain, returned for 4 yards.

Considering the Bills RB is also overrated - his 100 yard games were against poor rushing Ds - I think the AFC East has a new punching bag.

by Basilicus (not verified) :: Sun, 07/31/2005 - 5:44pm

I just did my uber-scientific 2005 season predictions (I go through every game and choose the winner, completely non-biased!) and I have the Bills finishing worst in the league at 2-14. I don't think they'll do that badly, but I think they're going to have a lot of trouble.

by Jets Fan (not verified) :: Mon, 08/01/2005 - 9:14am

Hey Basilicus-
Did the Jets make the playoffs? The suspense is killin' me... how'd we do?

by KL (not verified) :: Mon, 08/01/2005 - 9:27am

Releasing Bledsoe for Losman, in the Bills’ situation, was the right thing to do, but effectively spending two first round picks to get Losman in the first place was not the right thing to do.

The Bills traded their #1 this year and their #2 and #5 last year to get Losman.

by Basilicus (not verified) :: Mon, 08/01/2005 - 9:41am

Jets go 9-7 and get the fifth seed, for what it's worth, Jets Fan. As soon as they do some sort of season prediction post I'm sure we'll all put our dorky predictions up and argue why they're true (Carolina over Indy is my SB prediction right now.)

Thanks for the correction, KL. I suppose that's not nearly as bad a trade...that actually seems to make some sense...can't really complain about it as much now.

by Mike B. (not verified) :: Mon, 08/01/2005 - 9:47am

I think the Palmer comparison is probably fair - the Big Ben comparision is ridiculous, as he's already a winning NFL QB.

Buffalo's line is still a bit of an issue, but as someone who's watched Bledsoe for the last few years - and Rob "Why Throw When You Can Get Sacked?" Johnson before that - Losman can't be any worse. Other than the 1st half of Bledsoe's 1st season - which Peerless Price has been living off of for a couple of years now - Buffalo's QB situation has been, well, horrific for quite some time.

The running game will be good. Not great, but good. The D/ST will most likely be outstanding yet again. 9-7 again, probably, but that probably won't get it done in the AFC East, given the competition.

Losman has certainly done one thing the Ramsey hasn't, though - he's stepped up and not only taken a leadership role with the team, but with the media in Buffalo. I'm not sold on him yet, but I think he's better than anyone they would have got in the draft this year - and Bledsoe had to go.

by Ryan Mc (not verified) :: Mon, 08/01/2005 - 11:01am

I know that this is about Losman and not the Bills in general, but one problem I have in prediciting the Bills this year is I'm really not sure how good they were last year.

Their impressive late-season run came against teams that were either not very good (Browns, 49ers, Dolphins) or struggling with confidence/injuries when the Bills played them (Rams and Seahawks, Cardinals had benched their starting QB for Shaun King, Bengals had Carson Palmer injured and John Kitna looked rusty in his first start of the year.)

In the second half of the season the Bills really only played two teams that were both good and playing well at the time: the Pats and Steelers. The Pats anihilated the Bills 29-6 and the Steelers beat them in Buffalo with their second and third-stringers playing (when Buffalo's suppposedly great defense gave up 109 yards rushing to Willie Parker, including a 4th quarter FG drive of 9 minutes on which Parker carried 11 times and the Steelers didn't attempt a single pass)

So, cut a long story short (too late!): how good was Buffalo really last year? I heard Marty Schottenheimer say recently that the most important thing in the NFL is WHEN you play teams, and it seemes to me that the Bills may have gotten a little lucky down the stretch.

by Jets Fan (not verified) :: Mon, 08/01/2005 - 11:07am

So Mike, is it safe to say that you don't think Bledsoe is going to turn the Cowboys around this year?

(I guess Parcells couldn't convince Hostettler to sign)

by Mike B. (not verified) :: Mon, 08/01/2005 - 12:18pm

Re: #34:

Well, he's no Rob Johnson - if Dallas max protects and runs well, he might be all right, if he can stop throwing to the wrong color jersey. Buffalo's offense isn't really designed for max protection, and, apparently, their jerseies look just like the other teams....