Scouts Inc.: Huard might be the only choice for KC
Sunday was a dangerous day to be a high-profile NFL quarterback, as New England's Tom Brady and Tennessee's Vince Young both went down with injuries. But that doesn't mean all of the lesser-knowns were spared. The Kansas City Chiefs lost QB Brodie Croyle in the Patriots game, and they're in a quandary about where to go from here.
Chiefs coach Herm Edwards and his staff would have loved to develop strong-armed, athletic rookie QB Tyler Thigpen while bringing along Croyle in his third NFL season. But Croyle's shoulder injury (throwing arm) in the opener forced a move to 12-year veteran QB Damon Huard, who at least stepped in and performed admirably.
Kansas City obviously has formidable skill, talent and enough quality targets for a competent passer to exploit. RB Larry Johnson is one of the league's better runners. TE Tony Gonzalez is a future Hall of Famer who still is quite productive. Second-year WR Dwayne Bowe is a physical receiver who has the deceptive speed and excellent strength to get separation against nearly any defensive back. The threat of Johnson and a deliberate effort to move Gonzalez around (flexed out, split out, etc.) creates one-on-one matchups for Bowe. Doubling Bowe would open up the field for Gonzalez or Johnson. A capable passer who makes good decisions and who can stretch a defense could bring it all together.
In these situations, the coaching staff's next move often hinges on its standing with ownership. Edwards is likely on a short leash, so throwing an unready Thigpen into the fray could doom his staff. Is Huard the best option for the Chiefs to make a run now? Are other options available?
Kansas City might consider bringing in Chris Simms, Daunte Culpepper or Joey Harrington for a look. Every quarterback available at this point will come with inherent flaws, but each of those three brings something to the table. Simms and Harrington are the most cerebral of the bunch, and may be able to pick up the offense quickly. Culpepper still has the strong arm to deliver the ball vertically.
In any case, it will be important for the offense to stay balanced, because most opponents will stack the line of scrimmage to contain Johnson and force the Chiefs to move the ball through the air. Turning the controls over to Huard, a career backup who had a nice run as the team's emergency starter in 2006, could make for the smoothest transition for the entire offense. He has limited mobility but can bootleg and deliver accurate passes on the run, and he's also comfortable throwing from the pocket if the protection is firm.
Strangely, the quarterback situation is more of a dilemma for the Chiefs than it is for the Patriots or Titans, given the fallback options -- and what's at stake for their respective coaching staffs. Kansas City's front office likely will consider its outside options, but it won't find any game-changers available. Doing what they can to maintain continuity while Croyle is out may be the best chance the Chiefs have to move forward in 2008.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.