- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 24, 2010

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) - Ralph Wilson might have been premature when the Buffalo Bills owner stated the team’s top priority was finding a starting quarterback this offseason.

A little more than a month later, the Bills just might already have one in Ryan Fitzpatrick.

The journeyman backup is playing so well that coach Chan Gailey on Wednesday said Fitzpatrick has earned the chance to be considered the team’s starter beyond this season.

“Oh sure. To be honest with you, that’d be kind of dumb to not think that the way the guy has played,” Gailey said. “He’s played extremely well. How would you not think that?”

Gailey stressed that he wasn’t merely providing Fitzpatrick a mere vote of confidence.

“Hey, I don’t give anything away,” he said. “The guy’s earned it.”

Gailey then cautioned reporters not to read anything into his comments, saying he’s not focusing on anything beyond preparing the Bills (2-8) to host the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3) on Sunday.

And yet, his initial responses were a departure from the past, when Gailey previously sidestepped questions about Fitzpatrick’s future and the status of the team’s quarterback position.

What’s not up for debate is how far more productive the Bills‘ offense has been since Fitzpatrick took over the starting job three weeks into the season. That’s when he replaced Trent Edwards, who was released a week later and is now a backup in Jacksonville.

The Bills are 2-6 under Fitzpatrick, and their offense has been clicking since the team came out of its bye week _ shortly after Wilson’s expressed frustration over his team’s 0-5 start and called drafting a quarterback a priority.

Since then, Fitzpatrick has a 2-3 record while going 117 of 200 for 1,366 yards with 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions. It’s a stretch in which he’s had two 300-yard passing games to become the first Bills player to have two in one season since J.P. Losman did it in 2006.

Receiver Lee Evans supports Fitzpatrick.

“His play speaks for itself. And it’s hard to just discount that,” Evans said. “If (Gailey) was to say, ‘We’ll be going in a different direction next year quarterback-wise,’ that would be surprising. I think he’s earned the right.”

Fitzpatrick is coming off a solid outing in which he shook off a terrible first half in rallying the Bills to overcome a 21-point deficit in a 49-31 win at Cincinnati last weekend.

Fitzpatrick, not unexpectedly, had a deadpan response when relayed Gailey’s comments.

Story Continues →