Croyle Or Bust
Jamie Squire - Getty
By C.E. Wendler
Warpaint Illustrated Columnist
Posted Aug 17, 2007
Everyone was talking about the quarterback competition in Kansas City Thursday night. Trent Green, ESPN, Carl Peterson, Joe Fan in the stands, Herm Edwards – no one would shut up about it. I’m going to be the first one – as soon as I finish this column (hopefully the last one with the words ‘Croyle’ and ‘Bust’ in the headline).
The Chiefs have played this thing close to the vest for months now. In OTAs, Brodie Croyle, Damon Huard, and Casey Printers split reps evenly. In training camp, depending on the day of the week, the temperature in River Falls, the color of sweatshirt Herm was wearing that morning and what Dick Curl had for breakfast, it was either Croyle or Huard working with the first team. In scrimmages against the Vikings, Croyle worked with the starters in Mankato, while the opposite was true in Wisconsin.
On HBO’s Hard Knocks, when Curl expressed confidence in his young passer, Chiefs GM Carl Peterson wisely interrupted with comments in favor of the veteran. And as if all this wasn’t enough, the official depth chart on KcChiefs.com is conveniently unsullied by quarterbacks.
But Thursday night, watching Kansas City and Miami, it all became clear to me. The quarterback job in Kansas City belongs to the kid from Alabama.
There is no competition.
You didn’t even have to watch KC’s game against the Dolphins to figure it out – or the game in Cleveland. Just look at a box score.
Croyle: Nineteen attempts.
Huard: Nine attempts.
If there is a competition, it’s weighted heavily in Croyle’s favor (maybe Trent Green was right). My best guess - there were only a few people at Arrowhead Thursday night who really want Huard to be the starting quarterback – Huard himself, his immediate family, and Carl Peterson.
But Peterson doesn’t call the plays. The Chiefs have stressed this is supposed to be a “fair” competition. And they held to that until the preseason.
Not anymore. While Huard is given a few token series, Croyle’s getting a baptism by NFL fire. Against the Browns, the Chiefs broke him in slowly with short, quick passes, but dropped the young quarterback back on nine of the 13 plays he was in the game. Last night, out of 19 snaps, the Chiefs called 12 passes for Croyle – and let him off the leash. He was slinging it down the field all evening.
There’s more to this than mere numbers, too. When Huard relieved Croyle in Cleveland, the Chiefs inserted the backup offensive line. Last night, the veterans (Brian Waters, Casey Wiegmann, John Welbourn and Kyle Turley) stayed in when Croyle relieved Huard – and for more than one series. The Chiefs aren’t going to put Brodie’s battered knees at risk behind the second string.
The disparity in attempts between the two quarterbacks will grow even larger following next week’s game against the New Orleans Saints. Croyle is scheduled to start, will play at least the first half and probably into the third quarter. The coaching staff will get a good, long look at him as he runs the closest thing to a real NFL gameplan for the first time in his career. Huard will throw a meaningless pass or two before giving way to Printers.
Is it mere coincidence that everything worked out this way, or did the Chiefs really intend to put Huard at an enormous disadvantage in this “competition?”
Maybe I’m shooting in the dark here. Maybe there aren’t a bunch of black helicopters circling Arrowhead Stadium, and when the regular season begins Herm Edwards will be holding up a newspaper with the headline "CROYLE DEFEATS HUARD" as he smiles like Harry S. Truman while declaring Damon his starter.
But it sure seems like the Chiefs have made absolutely sure to let Brodie experience every major hotspot along the preseason journey as the starter – the scrimmage in Mankato, the first road game in Cleveland and (next week) the all-important third exhibition game.
Can you really blame them? If you were in River Falls, you saw the difference between the two quarterbacks. Against the Dolphins, it was clear as day to anyone in the stadium or tuned into ESPN.
The most exciting thing Damon Huard did in three series was float a ball to Tony Gonzalez for a first down. You kind of got the feeling he was looking around for Larry Johnson – who was probably smiling to himself in Manhattan every time Michael Bennett and Kolby Smith got stuffed behind the line of scrimmage.
And then Croyle took the Chiefs down for their first offensive touchdown of 2007, and 80,000 people at Arrowhead (OK, 50,000) reacted as if they’d found Gates barbecue under their seats. Suddenly, no one cared about Trent Green (who looked old). All they cared about was the skinny kid with the howitzer on his right shoulder. The one who had fired a pass between two defenders 20 yards downfield to rookie tight end Michael Allan, just before he calmly flipped the ball into the hands of wide receiver Chris Hannon for six.
The simple truth of the situation is that kid can make throws Huard wouldn’t dream of attempting.
And yeah, maybe that kid came right back on the next series, threw an awful pass off his back foot – the kind that gives you bad dreams - and cost the Chiefs some points. That happens with young quarterbacks. It probably won’t be the last time it happens with Croyle. But let’s be honest here. The only other option is a guy who fumbled nine times last year and once hit Jason Taylor right in the hands with a pass.
That isn’t to say I don’t like Damon Huard. It wasn’t so long ago I was one of the few people who believed in him. But the evidence is overwhelming at this point - it appears to me the Chiefs have already chosen to believe in Croyle.
Why not join them?
Get behind the kid.
(about seven yards, Larry)