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For Jauron, the long and short of it

As you've probably gathered, Dick Jauron can be a tough man to pin down. I'm not sure if it's the Yale man in him, or the football coach, but Jauron has an almost pathological inability to give a clear, unequivocal answer to any question.

You learn to read between the lines and reach your own conclusions. On Wednesday, I asked the Bills coach if he had changed his position from a week earlier -- that is, if he still considered Trent Edwards the team's long-term quarterback.

"I think we answered that question last week," Jauron said. "But no, we have no idea what's going to happen a week from now, or even tomorrow for that matter. So I think it's an interesting question."

"So Trent is your long-term guy?" I asked.

"Well," Jauron said, "how long is long term?"

Long term is next year, I said. Short term is next week and the rest of the games for a young team that feels it might be on the verge of a playoff run. Those are two distinct considerations, and I asked Jauron if he had to balance them in his mind.

"I think I understand what you're saying," Jauron said. "No, all we're looking at is right now. This week. This game. That's really it for us. That's all we can look at. I'm a big believer that the long term will take care of itself, because we are a performance-oriented business. If you perform, you'll play."

Translation: Edwards is the future. One week and a sprained wrist didn't change that. But J.P. Losman could win back his starting job -- short term -- if he has a big game Sunday against Cincinnati. The door is open. Perform at a high level and you might start again, same as Edwards did when Losman hurt his knee.

Jauron can deny it, but he is balancing the short and long term here. He says the NFL is a performance-based business, played out over time. That might be his way of suggesting that Losman's body of work won't be good enough to warrant a huge contract extension after the season.

But Jauron also has to worry about his locker room. Some of his players, most notably Lee Evans, feel Losman has not been treated fairly. Evans believes Losman gives the Bills the best chance to win.

So things could become even more complicated if the Bills improve to 4-4 on Sunday and Losman lights up a Bengals pass defense that has allowed a league-high 18 touchdown passes. Let's say Losman throws for 300 yards and three TDs, something he's done once in his career. Our simmering quarterback controversy will be an inferno.

If it were my call, I'd go back to Edwards. For one thing, I'm not sure Losman is any better right now. The Bills aren't a legitimate playoff contender. They're a couple of years away from serious contention. They'd be better served by letting Edwards play out the season and gain more valuable experience.

Still, Losman couldn't have asked for a better setup. Last summer, when people anticipated a season of high-scoring shootouts, this was a game they circled. It's a chance for Losman to hook up against Carson Palmer, one of the NFL's elite quarterbacks, and make some big throws against a Bengals pass defense that is ranked 28th.

"The situation changes," Losman said. "I did tell you guys that we had a lot of football left. A lot can happen in the next couple of weeks. A lot can happen for the rest of the season."

Sure, there's always a chance he'll string together nine great performances and convince Ralph Wilson to open up the vault. But long term, all Losman is likely to get is a final opportunity to fail.


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