ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Buffalo Bills coach Chan Gailey maintains his confidence in Ryan Fitzpatrick despite the quarterback's latest dud. And with two games left, this isn't time to start questioning whether changes need to be made to his coaching staff.
In the face of growing criticism, Gailey said Tuesday there's enough blame to go around rather than have him single out anyone on a freefalling team that's lost seven straight since a 5-2 start.
"You lose this many games in a row, we all get criticism," Gailey said. "There's nobody that escapes criticism when you're doing what we're doing right now."
Gailey's comments came as the Bills (5-9) returned to practice for the first time since a 30-23 loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.
It was a game in which Fitzpatrick was booed off the field after he threw three interceptions — two on consecutive possessions in the third quarter. It was another spotty performance by a player who's now gone 1-7 and thrown 10 touchdowns versus 13 interceptions since signing a six-year, $59 million contract extension.
Questions are also being raised about the status of defensive coordinator George Edwards, who's overseen a patchwork defense that's allowing 32 points a game during the team's skid. During the game Sunday, Buffalo's WGRF-Radio — the team's broadcaster — reported assistant head coach Dave Wannstedt had become more involved in defensive play-calling duties.
Gailey denied the report after the game. On Tuesday, Gailey sidestepped questions about Edwards by saying his sole focus is beating Denver (8-6) on Saturday in Buffalo's home finale.
"This is not the time to discuss all of that," Gailey said, when asked if he was satisfied with the job Edwards has done. "We're all doing the very best we can."
Like the snow that blows in off Lake Erie come December, the criticism of the Bills hasn't been far behind for much of the past decade. Buffalo will miss the playoffs for a 12th straight year and is ensured its seventh consecutive losing season.
In two months, the Bills have gone from AFC East upstarts to reclaiming their familiar role as division doormats.
Gailey defended his quarterback, by saying, "Zero: I've lost zero confidence."
Fitzpatrick is not hiding from his struggles, and is certainly aware of fans' discontent.
"Oh, I heard them. And I think they were deserved," Fitzpatrick said. "I'm human. I listen to it. I heard it. But it's not something that bothers me that much. As a quarterback, I've certainly been booed before and I will be booed again. But you work through it."
Fitzpatrick's numbers have dropped at an alarming rate since the Bills got off to the fast start.
After throwing 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions in his first seven games, Fitzpatrick's thrown eight TDs and 12 interceptions in his past seven. The entire offense is sputtering over that span, averaging 16 fewer points and 65 fewer yards over its past seven games.
Injuries have been a factor for a unit that's missing its top threat, running back Fred Jackson (broken leg), and top lineman, center Eric Wood (right knee).
It's no better on a defense which ranks 26th in the NFL in yards allowed and is giving up an average of 26.5 points a game.
Edwards is in his second year in Buffalo, and his defense continues to struggle in making the switch to playing a three-linemen, four-linebacker system.
Injuries have also played a factor on a unit which is without four key regulars, including tackle Kyle Williams (left foot).
Edwards was not available for comment because the Bills make their assistant coaches available to the media only after the team's final practice each week.
Questions regarding Edwards' job security first surfaced in January, when Gailey hired Wannstedt, shortly after he was fired by the University of Pittsburgh. Wannstedt is a defensive specialist, and he and Gailey have been close friends since working together on the Dolphins staff in 2000-01.
Veteran linebacker Chris Kelsay defended Edwards.
"I take it personal when I hear criticism about George," Kelsay said. "I think his scheme and his defense works. But it takes us players to execute it. And we haven't executed real well at times and it's shown. Unfortunately, he's taken the brunt of most of the criticism. I don't think it's fair."
NOTES: WR Stevie Johnson (groin) was held out of practice, but is expected to return Wednesday. ... TE Lee Smith was placed on injured reserve after hurting his left ankle on Sunday. The Bills have 16 players — including nine regulars — on the season-ending list. ... TE Kevin Brock was promoted from Buffalo's practice squad to replace Smith.