“Right now unless he has a setback he’s going to play and that’s good for us,” said Edwards. “That’s where it’s at.”
Oh, brother. Can’t you just hear the groans emanating from Kansas City and selected pockets of Chiefs Nation scattered all over the United States? The Brodie Croyle era will have to wait for another day, much to the chagrin of all the fans who jumped for joy when he entered the Jaguars game a few days ago.
Hey, I understand. In two games, Croyle has marched onto the field, led the Chiefs down the field, and left the field after orchestrating two long drives, one that ended in his first career touchdown pass. This is exciting stuff, especially when you see KC’s quarterback of the future roll out to his right under extreme pressure and throw an accurately placed bomb to Dwayne Bowe for a 35-yard gain. Everyone was positively giddy when Croyle launched another 32-yard rocket to Jeff Webb in Chicago, off his back foot no less.
But to quote Jeff Goldblum, “Oooh, ahhh, that's how it always starts. Then later there's running and screaming.”
Goldblum was referring to dinosaurs, of course, but to Croyle, the defensive linemen and linebackers who’ve been penetrating Kansas City’s offensive line as of late might as well be terrible creatures of the cretaceous period. Running and screaming, indeed. If the Chiefs can’t protect the quarterback, Croyle will be running and eventually screaming as he suffers another in the long line of injuries that have plagued his football career thus far (if you’re keeping score at home, that’s two busted knees and a popped shoulder).
Now you might say, “hey, at least Brodie can actually run away from that pressure, right?” That’s true, but I still say keeping Huard in the starting lineup is the right decision. As I said back in preseason, he’s the MVP – The Most Valuable Piñata.
While the offensive line has provided better pass protection than we saw in preseason, it hasn’t been great. Huard has been sacked 11 times this year already, an average of one sack every 13.5 dropbacks. That’s decent, but it's still not going to win any awards. Roughly, it would rank the Chiefs (when Huard drops back to pass) about 20th in the NFL in sacks per pass attempt.
And despite that improvement, The Piñata has already been knocked around pretty good. Obviously, he had to leave early in Chicago and against Jacksonville. He injured his hand. He got knocked senseless. And yes, he banged up that shoulder.
Left tackle Damion McIntosh has been a massive improvement over Jordan Black, but the right side of the line is a complete mess. Kyle Turley’s been average at best, and Chris Terry, once considered to be a solid offensive lineman, has been a complete disaster in his bid to return to the NFL. The Jaguars used him as a turnstile last Sunday.
And then, of course, there is the running game, or rather, the complete lack thereof. The Chiefs cannot run the football. Lately, they have been completely dependent on their passing game to move the offense and win football games. Why did they beat Minnesota? The passing game. San Diego? The passing game. Why did they move the football at all last Sunday? I rest my case (not that I really needed to form one).
Placing Croyle in this situation is just asking for trouble. Huard’s greatest strength, since he replaced Trent Green early last year, was his ability to get rid of the football in a timely manner, regardless of the pass protection. Croyle doesn’t have that clock in his head just yet, and asking him to carry an offense right now is simply too much to ask.
If the Chiefs were to throw Croyle into the fire now, he’d probably just melt. As we said, there’s no running game. Look at the quarterbacks who had no running game a year ago – for brevity’s sake we will sample only five – and you might begin to understand why Huard should remain the starter.
First, there is Jon Kitna, proud helmsman of 2006’s 32nd-ranked running game with the Detroit Lions. A year ago, he was sacked 63 times and threw 22 interceptions. Then there’s Charlie Frye, a man who’s team was so desperate to find a running game this offseason, they signed a washed-up running back like Jamal Lewis. Frye was sacked 44 times in just 393 dropbacks, and sent packing early this year in favor of Derek Anderson.
Then there’s poor Bruce Gradkowski, a sixth-round quarterback who was cruelly forced to run the offensive attack of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a year ago. Somehow, he managed to throw only nine touchdown passes in 328 attempts. I think the example of Oakland’s Andrew Walter needs no explanation.
There are, as always, exceptions to the rule – Matt Leinart managed to keep his head above water a year ago despite Arizona’s 30th ranked running game. Leinart took just 21 sacks and did about as well as a rookie could be expected to given the circumstances.
But Croyle is not Leinart, and the Chiefs do not have Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald. They do not have an experienced offensive coaching staff.
What they do have, is Damon Huard. A man who, for all his lack of God-given talent, has somehow managed to avoid losing games by turning the ball over a ridiculous amount of times, despite the fact that he’s been pretty much asked to carry the offense at this point.
The Chiefs are playing without a running game and without their most experienced receiver (Eddie Kennison). For now, they need to continue playing without Brodie Croyle, and hope the Most Valuable Piñata isn’t busted wide open at some point.