Chiefs Position Analysis: Quarterback
Over the next few weeks, we'll discuss the players who suited up at each position in 2007, the players likely to be back in 2008, and what the Chiefs may need to do during the draft and free agency in order to improve.
If any significant Chiefs-related news breaks, such as players being signed or released, those stories will analyzed here as well. But in the meantime, the position analysis begins with a look at Kansas City's quarterbacks.
A third-round pick in 2006, the Chiefs' young QB started six games last season and finished with six touchdowns, six interceptions, and a passer rating of 69.9. Not overwhelming numbers by any means, but his stats may be more impressive than they look considering the lack of pass protection he was afforded and the Chiefs' mostly ineffective running game.
Based on comments Edwards made in December, Croyle enters the offseason as the Chiefs' presumed starter in 2008. Both Edwards and owner Clark Hunt have made it clear that one of their primary goals is for the Chiefs to develop a franchise quarterback, and it appears Croyle will be given the opportunity to prove himself next season.
With a revamped offensive line and a healthy Larry Johnson, Croyle should have an excellent opportunity to grow from his 2007 campaign.
Arguably the biggest knock on Croyle, though, is his inability to stay healthy. His stock in the NFL draft dropped thanks to injury concerns, namely problems with his knees he suffered while at Alabama. And despite his relatively brief playing time in 2007, he still suffered two injuries that caused him to miss time.
After taking a knee to the back against the Oakland Raiders, Croyle sat out the team's next game with a bruised kidney. And after throwing an early second-quarter interception against the Detroit Lions, Croyle injured his hand trying to make a tackle and missed the rest of the contest.
It will obviously be difficult for Croyle to show what he's capable of if he can't stay on the field. But he appears to have the support of his teammates, such as tight end Tony Gonzalez, who has dismissed the idea that the Chiefs should draft a quarterback with their first pick in April's draft.
For at least the 2008 season, the Chiefs appear to be Croyle's team. How long that lasts may be entirely up to him.
A longtime backup in the league, Huard began the 2007 campaign as the Chiefs' starter after Croyle failed to win the job in the preseason.
Despite a strong showing in 2006 that was highlighted by his ability to avoid mistakes, Huard, surely hampered by the team's eroding offensive line, ended up throwing more interceptions in '07 than touchdowns.
After a particularly disastrous second-half showing against the Denver Broncos, Huard was benched for Croyle and likely lost the starting job for good in Kansas City.
The Chiefs signed Huard to a three-year deal last February, so he has the potential of offering a steady backup presence for an additional two seasons if Croyle were to miss more action.
The problem, though, is playing the 34-year-old Huard does nothing to help the Chiefs reach their goal of developing a franchise quarterback.
If Croyle were to go down, there are other young QBs on Kansas City's roster whom it could evaluate instead of sticking in the veteran. With that in mind, it has to raise the possibility that the team may look to part ways with Huard in the coming months.
A seventh-round pick of Minnesota last year, the former Coastal Carolina QB was cut by the Vikings after training camp. But before they could add him to their practice squad, the Chiefs claimed Thigpen off waivers.
Despite being the team's third QB, he actually saw game action against the San Diego Chargers in 2007 thanks to injuries to both Croyle and Huard.
Unfortunately, Thigpen himself was injured in practice the next week and was placed on injured reserve with a torn MCL. It seems unlikely that the Chiefs would make Thigpen their primary backup in 2008, but he remains a good development prospect with a solid upside.
In fact, recent articles covering the Vikings still lament the fact that the team let him slip away.
The former Georgia quarterback was a third-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks in 2005, but was cut by the team before last season. The New England Patriots quickly added him to their practice squad, but released him in November. And after Thigpen's injury opened the need for another QB, the Chiefs brought him to their roster.
Greene didn't see game action in 2007 and hasn't actually taken a regular season snap during his three-year NFL career. It remains to be seen whether he'll still be with the Chiefs once mini-camp and training camp get underway later this year.
It seems unlikely the Chiefs will use their top-five draft pick on a quarterback, but it's worth noting that new offensive coordinator Chan Gailey just came off a six-year head coaching stint in the ACC.
As such, Gailey should have a wealth of knowledge about Boston College's Matt Ryan, the top QB prospect in the 2008 draft class. If Gailey is convinced that Ryan is the real deal, might the Chiefs take him if he's still on the board when they pick?
If they do part ways with Huard, the team may also be in the market for another backup. Because of the relationship between Edwards and his former QB Chad Pennington, rumors of Pennington finding his way to Kansas City have been swarming for months.
But would Pennington be content in a backup role? If he's released by the New York Jets, it seems more likely that he'd look for a starting opportunity somewhere.
Regardless of whom they may add, the Chiefs belong to Croyle for the time being. His development will go along way toward pulling Kansas City up from the disappointments of 2007.
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