I couldn’t believe the news when I heard it Saturday afternoon. Everything the Chiefs had done with Brodie Croyle this offseason led me to believe he would be taking the first snap of the season in Houston. Huard hadn’t done anything to win the job. I was livid.
I was ready to call the Chiefs a bunch of scared, gutless cowards for going with the safe, 34-year-old, play-not-to-lose, nine-and-seven-season option.
But then it hit me. There’s one incredibly good reason why Huard should be Kansas City’s starter in 2007.
He’s the MVP.
No, I haven’t gone off the deep end. Huard’s not a real, 30-touchdown, Hawaii-bound, Saturday-night-live-appearing NFL MVP candidate. He’s not even a 1,700-yard, Rockawear-promoting, $19-million Team MVP candidate. But what he is, at least for the Chiefs in 2007, is the Most Valuable Piñata.
Consider the state of Kansas City’s offensive line. There’s absolutely no blindside protection at the moment, and converted defensive end Will Svitek looks like a failed project. Who knows when Damion McIntosh will return to the lineup, and the degree to which he’ll be effective – despite a good training camp – is questionable.
Center Casey Wiegmann looks primed for another season of being shoved eight yards into the backfield by large defensive tackles. Guard John Welbourn appears to be a huge dropoff from Will Shields, regardless of how much the future Hall of Famer’s play declined last year.
And the right tackle situation? Yikes. The Chris Terry reclamation project looks like a complete waste of time, and who knows how long Kyle Turley’s back will hold up.
Where’s Jordan Black when you need him? Yes, Chiefs fans, the situation is that bad.
Surely KC’s coaching staff and front office noticed all of this transpiring against the Saints last Thursday. One can only imagine they watched in horror as Brodie Croyle ran for his life from New Orleans’ defensive linemen and linebackers, and came to the same conclusion I did once my rage subsided Sunday afternoon.
The Chiefs can’t subject Croyle to this offensive line. It would be career suicide to throw him behind such awful protection. His knees, both of them already surgically repaired after ACL injuries, would be at incredible risk.
Throw in the fact that KC’s wide receivers have put in a pedestrian show this preseason (Samie Parker, I’m looking at you), and there’s just no good reason to shove Croyle into the spotlight this year. It’d be like asking someone other than Rambo to go into Afghanistan alone and find Osama Bin Laden. Croyle certainly isn’t Rambo, but the Chiefs’ current offensive line is his worst nightmare.
When head coach Herm Edwards explained why Croyle has been relegated to the bench Sunday afternoon, it reinforced my thinking.
“Nobody helped him,” said Edwards. “Nobody helped the guy. Nobody made a big play when they had an opportunity, so it kind of gets laid on the quarterback. The problem is that when you are in a situation like this, you need some stability. You don’t need a guy that’s a young player who feels like he needs to make all of the big plays. That’s not fair to a position player.”
Herm’s right. It’s absolutely unfair to subject Croyle to this offensive line, especially when he hasn’t experienced the likes of Shawne Merriman breathing down his neck. And not only will the Chiefs see Merriman twice this season, they also get Aaron Kampman (15.5 sacks in 2006), Mark Anderson (12), Derrick Burgess (11), and Dwight Freeney this year. Throw in Denver’s promising rookie defensive end, Jarvis Moss, and there’ll be no shortage of heat on KC quarterbacks in 2007.
Anointing Damon Huard the sacrificial lamb makes sense. Throwing Croyle to the wolves now could end in catastrophe - a serious injury, or permanent scars to his mental game.
There’s history here. Ryan Leaf, hailed as San Diego’s savior in 1998, struggled immensely behind a poor offensive line while throwing to prolific receivers such as Charlie Jones and Bryan Still. Rick Mirer took a beating with the Seahawks early in his career and never recovered. Most recently, David Carr’s NFL future took a nosedive due to Houston’s expansion-level offensive line.
Let Huard get rocked this year. The Chiefs have no serious money invested in him, and his time is almost up anyway. Kansas City will have a mediocre-to-bad season, and might have a shot at a premier left tackle in next year’s draft. Maybe Michigan’s Jake Long, or if things go better than expected, Clemson’s Barry Richardson.
The Chiefs can then move McIntosh to right tackle, and find a guard to complement Brian Waters in free agency. With the development of Dwayne Bowe – and possibly one of KC’s other young receivers – Croyle will have a much stronger supporting cast around him in 2008. Edwards can then protect him in the same manner Marty Schottenheimer protected Philip Rivers last season.
In the meantime, let the Most Valuable Piñata do his job this year. There might even be some delicious candy inside him – a playoff berth. That’s more fun than seeing your quarterback of the future get ripped apart, anyway.