Let the Kid Play

The Indianapolis Colts were beat up. Peyton Manning was enduring arguably the roughest 10-quarter stretch of his career. Brodie Croyle, for the most part, looked every bit like the quarterback of the future the Chiefs tab him to be.

But the stars were slightly out of alignment and the defending Super Bowl champions escaped with a win.

Have you considered, however, that the stars were indeed aligned but were scattered in haste by an omnipotent hand? Perhaps, the hand of Herm Edwards?

Edwards, however, is less than omnipotent and closer resembles an overprotective babysitter. The one that's not hot, not cool, and doesn't let you see the goods.

"I thought Brodie [Croyle], for the most part, did a pretty good job in a tough environment," said Edwards. "But we've got to grow from here. We've got to be more productive offensively. We've got to try and score some points."

In other words, Brodie was an angel. He was an absolute delight, causing no trouble at all.

Well, his parents sure must have been happy he was taken care of so well. Considering Croyle didn't even get to go outside and play, it's not shocking he was returned to Mr. and Mrs. Croyle physically and emotionally intact.

"I felt comfortable," Croyle said after the ordeal in Indianapolis. "I never really got nervous. I felt comfortable pretty much the whole time."

What he meant to say was he felt as comfortable as a fat kid working at Krispy Kreme. To top it off, no one ever found out it was he who snuck outside and lit the M-80, or as the rest of the world saw it, the beautiful touchdown strike to Dwayne Bowe. For the sake of this argument, Bowe is the new kid down the street who could potentially get Brodie into trouble.

The babysitter still let the two play together, however, but only under immediate supervision. This was the four or five one-step drop, quick passes everyone nearly overdosed on Sunday. Bowe and Croyle had fun together doing that, but nowhere near the fun they could have enjoyed without the supervision of the babysitter.

The notion that first and second-year quarterbacks need to be coddled along can be dismissed as nothing more than an urban legend. The success rate of young quarterbacks wading in the shallow end versus those tossed in by their fathers off the high dive shows no conclusive patterns.

Peyton Manning, taken first overall in 1998, started from day one and led his Colts to a 3-13 record while throwing 28 interceptions. The next season he would make the first of many trips to Hawaii and tailors began fitting him for a yellow jacket to be worn in Canton, Ohio someday.

Tom Brady, taken in the sixth round of the 2000 draft, found Super Bowl success in his first year as a starter in 2001. The same goes for Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh.

Those three were all seen as quarterbacks of the future for their respective franchises. Designated as such, they were told, "Sink or swim."

Drafted in the third round, Croyle also was designated as "the guy." The third round of the NFL draft has been anything but a hotbed for legendary - or even great – quarterbacks, with Joe Montana being the only Hall of Famer taken over the past 30 years. Montana alone easily enjoyed more Pro Bowl appearances than all of the other quarterbacks taken in the third round over that time span combined.

But the Houston Texans gave up a second-round pick for a former third-rounder in Matt Schaub. Immediately he was named the starter. Opening weekend he led the Texans to victory over the Chiefs and more recently compiled a 112.3 passer rating in a victory over the Saints.

That success had nothing to do with his babysitter in Atlanta or his knowledge of the game absorbed under the expert tutelage of a dog killer. It's called talent.

Edwards would be quick to say that it could damage a young quarterback's confidence by throwing him into the fire on the road against a team like the Colts. In actuality, Edwards may have hurt Croyle's healthy ego even more by handcuffing him along with the offense. Croyle proved himself when he lit that firecracker to Bowe. Unfortunately Herm's head must have been turned away.

Regardless, make no mistakes as to the justification for the conservative offense.

"You try to play to the strengths of your players," said Edwards. "There are certain things you can do and there are certain things you don't want to try to do because you don't want to put people in harm's way."

Spoken like the world's greatest (or is it worst?) babysitter.

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