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Critics jumping the gun on Losman

A Armed with the evidence of his performances in the Bills' last two exhibition games, which were less than glitzy, the word from the street on J.P Losman is "off with his head!"

Armed with the evidence of the reaction to Losman after judging him from his play in two meaningless public scrimmages, the rating of the patience of those who issued the word on the streets, on a scale of one to 10, is somewhere around minus 112.

J.P., head still attached, starts his first actual NFL game this afternoon against the Houston Texans. My guess is that he'll do some good things, some not-so-good things and a lot of routine things. The outcome of the game is more likely to depend upon the Buffalo defense, running attack and special teams -- the Bills' acknowledged strengths.

Let's give Mike Mularkey and his coaching staff the benefit of the doubt on the designation of Losman as the Bills' starting quarterback in this case. Drew Bledsoe had taken the Bills as far as he could take them at this stage of his career. Mularkey and his offensive deep thinkers like Tom Clements and Sam Wyche had a conviction on J.P., which was cemented last January.

Convictions, if they have worth, do not come unglued as the result of shaky play in two exhibitions. The Buffalo coaches deserve the benefit of the doubt because this team began the 2004 season by losing its first four games, then picked itself up and won nine, narrowly missing the playoffs.

Few successful NFL quarterbacks come gift-wrapped and dropped on the franchise doorstep. Ron Wolf was the Packers' newly hired general manager in 1992 when he traded for Brett Favre, a third-stringer for the extremely mediocre Atlanta Falcons. Favre had thrown just five passes for the Falcons in his rookie season, two of which were intercepted and none completed. Wolf gave the Falcons a first-round draft choice for this unknown who had been a second-round pick himself just a year previously.

The word on the street in Green Bay was "Wolf is nuts." It took about a year for the fans to learn how to pronounce his name but Favre has turned out all right.

That's the way it goes with quarterbacks, not just sometime but most of the time. Way back when the American Football League began, there were just 12 teams in the existing NFL, which allowed mere 33-man rosters at the time. Consequently there was a lot of cast-off talent available. Jack Kemp was the guy with the strongest arm on the New York Giants' roster, but he came into the pros from little Occidental College and needed playing time -- which he couldn't get until the Los Angeles Chargers of the AFL signed him. Babe Parilli and Lenny Dawson were great quarterbacks at big-time colleges but they still needed playing experience. They were released by two great coaches, Vince Lombardi and Paul Brown, but with experience they turned out to be winning quarterbacks.

Am I saying that Losman is going to turn into Favre? Of course not. But who would be shocked if he turned out to be a winning quarterback for Buffalo?

Meanwhile, maybe those voices rising in favor of the departed Bledsoe, especially the ones who couldn't get him out of town fast enough, might think about pushing the mute button. Now that they're belatedly seeing great things in Bledsoe's twilight seasons maybe they can work on rehabilitating Gregg Williams' reputation as a head coach instead.

Larry Felser, former News columnist, appears in Sunday's editions.

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