Sal Maiorana
Democrat and Chronicle columnist

(November 16, 2004) FOXBORO, Mass. I know I've seen enough. I'm pretty sure every clear-thinking Bills fan has seen enough. I wish Mike Mularkey would admit that he has seen enough.

The Drew Bledsoe Era in Buffalo should be over. After about two years' worth of mostly sub-standard and sometimes hard to watch performances, it needs to be over.

Unfortunately, the coach said Monday that it's not over. At least not yet.

Mularkey said Bledsoe will be the starter Sunday when the Bills host St. Louis, his reason being that he's not ready to give up on the season with seven games remaining.

With a 3-6 record it's going to be over very soon whether he sticks with Bledsoe or turns to J.P. Losman. So if Losman was healthy enough to make that cameo appearance in New England, it makes all the sense in the world to start him for the rest of the year and begin his developmental process now.

Tom Coughlin's Giants are 5-4 and very much alive in the NFC playoff picture. But Coughlin has grown tired of the bumbling Kurt Warner so he announced Monday he's turning the reins over to rookie Eli Manning. I don't hear too many Giants fans grumbling.

Sunday night at Gillette Stadium Bledsoe dipped to an almost unfathomable level of incompetence and an ESPN national television audience had the misfortune of sharing in the misery of Joe Average Bills fan.

It should have been the proverbial last straw. Rarely has Bledsoe ever looked worse and his cartoonish 14.3 passer rating, the lowest of his career, only tells part of the story.

The computer-nerd quarterback rating formula hinges largely on touchdown passes and interceptions and at times does not fairly portray how a quarterback played in a game.

Make no mistake: This time it painted a picture Picasso would have been proud of, accurately capturing the essence of Bledsoe's ineptitude.

He had no touchdowns and three interceptions while completing just 8 of 19 passes for 76 yards. Just as troublesome as the balls he threw to the Patriots were some of the balls he threw to his teammates: Too high, too low, too far in front, too far behind.

"There were some errant throws," Mularkey offered, almost in a whisper, during his post-game news conference.

Added wide receiver Eric Moulds: "I think he was pressing a lot. Anytime you have a ball skip or things like that happen, a quarterback is pressing trying to make a play. He's had some bad games here, so it could be one of those things where he wants to beat this team really bad and go out there and play well, and he's rushing his throws and not relaxing."

Bledsoe looked lost. He looked completely incapable of playing at a level necessary to win, not only against the dynastic Patriots, but anybody.

There was never a sense in that game where I felt he was going to produce a score and those suspicions were warranted. He directed 10 possessions and the Bills gained a total of 115 yards and scored zero points.

Line him up against the Arizona Cardinals in the comfortable surroundings of Ralph Wilson Stadium and Bledsoe is adequate. Send him on the road in those silly-looking road jerseys and he's AWOL.

And by the way, since when is adequate good enough? Doesn't the ticket-buying public deserve more than an adequate quarterback? At the very least Bills fans deserve a quarterback with a future, which brings me back to Losman.

Losman looked like the raw rookie that he is when Mularkey threw him to the wolves late Sunday night.

In five snaps Buffalo's first-round pick was sacked once, lost a fumble and threw a Bledsoe-like interception. Ben Roethlisberger he was not, but then again, he was completely shocked when he heard the coach yell for him to get into the game.

He hadn't played in three months due to a broken leg, had never taken a snap in a regular-season game, and based on his comments after the game he apparently had been given no indication that there was even a slight possibility he would play. After all, he was designated as the emergency quarterback behind Shane Matthews.

"We just wanted to get him some game exposure when the time was right," said Mularkey. "Just to see what happens."

Good idea, Mike. Now, apply it to this week.

Change your mind Wednesday, name him the starter for the Rams game, give him a fighting chance with a full week of practice with the first-string offense and let's see what the kid can do because we've all seen enough of what Bledsoe can or more appropriately, can't do.

Losman is going to be this team's quarterback in 2005. Why not follow Coughlin's lead and make Losman the quarterback for the rest of 2004?

"He is the future of the New York Giants," Coughlin said of Manning. "It just starts now."

Don't make the same mistake Cincinnati's Marvin Lewis made last year. He played Jon Kitna every snap while No. 1 overall draft pick Carson Palmer rotted on the bench. When Lewis announced that Palmer was going to be his quarterback this season, the veritable rookie struggled mightily at the start. Now, with a half season under his belt, he's starting to play better.

Mularkey has a little less than half a season left in 2004. Playing Losman now would serve two purposes. He can't play any worse than Bledsoe, so making the move might give the Bills a chance to win some games down the stretch. More importantly, this can serve as Losman's initiation into the NFL and will give him a developmental head start on 2005.