Bills open quarterback position to public

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The Spectrum

Jack Kemp, Joe Ferguson, Jim Kelly and Drew Bledsoe – all great quarterbacks in Buffalo Bills history.
You could be next.
New head coach Chan Gailey announced late Tuesday afternoon that the Bills will hold open quarterback tryouts to the public over a two-week period leading up to the NFL Draft.
"This is a unique opportunity to add some raw talent to our depth chart for training camp," Gailey said during a press conference at One Bills Drive. "Mr. Wilson, Buddy [Nix] and myself debated back and forth over the idea of an open tryout. But ultimately, we decided it would be in the best interest of the franchise to open our doors to some quarterbacks out there who haven't been given a shot under center in the NFL."
The Bills have had a glaring hole at the quarterback position since Bledsoe left via free agency after the 2004 season. Since then, the franchise has experimented with five different signal callers: Kelly Holcomb, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Trent Edwards, Brian Brohm and former first round pick J.P. Losman.
During that time, Buffalo has gone 32-48 and has failed to qualify for the postseason for 10-straight seasons. Last season, both Edwards and Fitzpatrick struggled to take the reins under center while Brohm fluttered in his only outing of the year.
"It's no surprise that this team is in need of a franchise quarterback," said first-year general manager Buddy Nix. "A team will go as far as your quarterback takes it. Look at the greats of today's game, like Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Brett Favre. What do they all have in common? Playoffs and championships. That's where we want to be."
Beginning April 3 at 8 a.m., Gailey will open the field house doors to anyone interested in landing a professional football contract. The nationwide quarterback search is open to anyone ages 18-28. While no previous football experience is necessary, Gailey did admit that those without experience could struggle to adapt to an NFL tryout.
This isn't the first time an NFL team has held open tryouts. First-year head coach Dick Vermeil held an open tryout for the Philadelphia Eagles in 1978. With the no first-round draft pick, Vermeil opted to find players who may not have been talented, but knew the meaning of work ethic and sacrifice.
The Eagles were rewarded with wide receiver and special teams ace Vince Papale. The 30-year-old played two seasons with the team in which he was voted Special Teams Captain by his teammates and earned "Man of the Year" for his charitable contributions.
"I've had extensive talks with Dick about this process. He's been through it before and knows how successful it can be," Gailey said. "Knowing that Dick found a leader in Vince gives me some encouragement that we can do the same. There's somebody out there for us and it's just the matter of finding him."
With the NFL Draft just three weeks away, many around the league are questioning the peculiar move by Bills management to hold an open quarterback tryout.
With the 9th overall pick, Buffalo is in line to potentially land former Notre Dame star Jimmy Clausen in the first round. Should Clausen be off the board, other potential prospects will be available for the taking in the second round, including Colt McCoy, Dan LeFevour and Tim Tebow.
The Bills have already been linked to Clausen and Tebow as draft day approaches. Buffalo held a private workout with Clausen while Hall of Famer Jim Kelly recently treated Tebow to a steak dinner at the Buffalo Chophouse.
As Kelly praised the young quarterback, he stated that an open tryout could do nothing but hurt the organization.
"Tim [Tebow] is a proven leader and a natural born winner. He has everything you'd want in a franchise quarterback," Kelly told The Spectrum. "There's no reason Buffalo should pass on him. The fact that Coach Gailey has decided to hold an open tryout leads me to believe they aren't looking to add a quarterback in the draft. It's an embarrassment, if you ask me."
Opening tryout days will include rigorous strength and conditioning drills. Following first cuts on day three, contenders will hit the field for a technique and mechanics test in throwing and pocket presence.
The field will be narrowed down to ten finalists on day eight, who will then be required to learn a standard NFL playbook and be thrown into live 7-on-7 action in full pads with the rest of the team. By the end of week two, Buffalo's coaching staff and management will offer a two-year entry-level contract to the most impressive quarterback.
"By the end of this thing, we're going to have our man," Nix said. "Whether he is a former high school star, college dropout, CFL bust or Thanksgiving Day legend, we'll be heading into the season confident in our quarterbacks."
With just 400 available spots, stadium organizers recommend arriving at the field house four days prior to the tryout to ensure your opportunity.
"This is an exciting time in Buffalo Bills football," Gailey said. "I feel we've made significant strides since Buddy [Nix] and I have come on board. We've addressed holes on the defensive unit and offensive line and we are confident we'll have our quarterback of the future in the coming weeks. This is going to be fun, I'll tell you that."

E-mail: sports@ubspectrum.com

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