Chan Gailey needed to see Ryan Fitzpatrick put some life into Buffalo's anemic offense just once before deciding Trent Edwards was expendable.
"After the way that Fitz played yesterday, I feel very confident about the direction we're going," Buffalo's first-year coach said Monday, a day after the Bills (0-3) were beaten 38-30 by the New England Patriots. "Trent did the best he could, and he's a great young man and I wish him the best."
The Bills waived Edwards in a surprising move Monday, a few weeks after Gailey said he saw "light at the end of the tunnel" with Edwards as his starter.
With Fitzpatrick the starter, Brian Brohm moves into the backup role.
Although the Bills lost Sunday, Fitzpatrick picked up the offense with 247 yards passing and 374 total yards — producing more offense in one game than Edwards managed in his two starts to open the season.
Edwards was in his fourth season after being selected by the team in the third round of the 2007 draft and eventually replaced J.P. Losman midway through his rookie season. He went 14-18 as a starter.
Edwards was benched the day after going 11 of 18 for 102 yards and two interceptions in a 34-7 loss at Green Bay on Sept. 19. He showed little improvement a week after going 18 of 34 for 139 yards and a touchdown in a 15-10 loss to Miami.
It marked the second time he lost the starting job to Fitzpatrick in consecutive seasons.
Gailey wouldn't place all the credit for the offensive improvement on the quarterback change, but noted the unit was more effective under Fitzpatrick.
"It wasn't just one thing, but I think that Fitz did go in and play fairly well," Gailey said even though Fitzpatrick threw two interceptions.
Players were caught by surprise, many learning of Edwards' release as it was broadcast in the locker room on a TV sportscast before team meetings.
"He was our starting quarterback two weeks ago, and something like this happens, it's got to be a shock to everybody," receiver Roscoe Parrish said. "We have to move on. We can't dwell on that."
Fitzpatrick was informed of the decision by Gailey, but that didn't make it any less surprising.
"I think it caught everybody off-guard. Trent's a well-respected and well-liked guy in the locker room," Fitzpatrick said. "Personally for me, this one's tough because we spent so much time together. He'll rebound and move on from this. And we've got to move forward."
Edwards was spotted briefly outside the locker room shaking hands with several players. Edwards then went into the nearby equipment room and did not comment on his release.
Edwards' release marks a sudden reversal for a player who earned Gailey's confidence by beating out Fitzpatrick and Brohm in an offseason competition. Edwards failed to build on that trust by reverting to his familiar hesitant form which, a year ago, led Bills fans to label him as "Trent-ative" and "Captain Checkdown."
Gailey acknowledged he is open to second-guessing after how quickly Edwards went from starter to being cut.
"I can see where people would look at that and wonder what's going on," he said. "I felt that as we looked and evaluated everything that we had seen up to this point that this was the direction for the future of our football team."
The Bills plays the New York Jets (2-1) on Sunday.