In the preseason, it was clear the Chiefs had a quarterback quandary on their hands. After a lackluster 2009 season, Matt Cassel came into camp and looked out of sync from the start. However, his back-up Brodie Croyle showed signs that he wasn't going to concede the starting job to anyone.
The fifth year player from Alabama looked fluid in the pocket. He had zip on his ball and for the most part was (in my eyes) ahead of Cassel in regards to grasping the new offense of mastermind, Charlie Weis.
In fact, there wasn't a throw he didn't or couldn't make. However, as has been his Achilles heals in nine NFL career starts from 2006 to 2009, he tends to try to squeeze footballs in places that just don't fit. In other words, he threw senseless interceptions.
And that's led to some average statistics. For his career, Croyle has thrown eight touchdowns and an equal number of interceptions. Thus to say he's been anything but average since the Chiefs drafted him in 2006, is an understatement. He's winless in nine starts and should he start on Sunday against the Chargers, then all fans can hope for is that his record simply improves to 1-9.
That's not asking too much is it? So can Croyle really come off the bench and play hero?
Sure he can. But will he actually do it? I say, why not.
"You never know when it's coming," he said shortly after learning Cassel might not be able to play this weekend. "You always have to be mentally in it and mentally ready to go."
If you'd have told me at the beginning of the season that the Chiefs would be 8-4 through 12 games, have a two-game lead in the AFC West and are on the brink of the teams third home playoff game in the last 17 years, I'd have bet the house.
At Alabama, Brodie Croyle followed a trio of legends that defined the Crimson Tide football program.
Sure I thought they'd be better and have a chance to win the division. But if you had convinced me that Cassel would be the driving force leading this football team, I'd have said your crazy.
But with his appendectomy surgery on Wednesday, Cassel appears destined to miss the Chiefs biggest game of the season.
With Cassel out that means Croyle has to come in and do what back-up quarterbacks do when called upon - they have to play to their abilities not the quarterback they're replacing.
And that's the key to Croyle's success on Sunday. If Croyle can manage the offense, execute a few play action passes and hand the ball off some 45 times to Jamaal Charles, Thomas Jones and Dexter McCluster, he'll guide the Chiefs to victory.
If he tries to do more than he's capable of – or even worse tries to be Matt Cassel – it's going to be a very long afternoon for Croyle and the Chiefs.
"I just have to prepare the same way that I always do and if my number is called I have to be ready to go," Croyle said. "It's no different than any other week. You've got to be ready to go in on any play."
I'm pulling for Croyle. No one quarterback in the history of the Chiefs has had to overcome so much adversity. Three times he was given the starting job in Kansas City (once in 2007 and twice in 2008). At each turn, a serious injury derailed his season.
The former Alabama quarterback has the reputation of being brittle and one could argue that after three knee surgeries, two in college and one with the Chiefs, plus a severe shoulder separation, like the one he had in 2008, it's hard to refute that statement.
But Croyle is a tough-minded kid who has never guided an offense in Kansas City that possess this much talent. In the past, we've all asked ourselves earlier this season, when Cassel was struggling after the team started 3-1, if Croyle might be able to have success in KC's high-powered offense.
Though we could speculate that topic all day long, there was no way (outside of an injury to Cassel or Todd Haley pulling his starter) that we were ever going to find out. On Sunday, he's likely going to get that opportunity. And for those that doubt he can get it done, I'll offer this undeniable tidbit.
You don't go to the University of Alabama as a starting quarterback and follow in the footsteps of Bart Starr, Joe Namath and Ken Stabler, if you don't have an impressive skill set.
On Sunday, we're about to find out those skills have improved enough to lead the Chiefs to victory – one that will all but insure a home playoff game in January.
WARPAINT ILLUSTRATED MESSAGE BOARDS:
So Can Brodie win at San Diego?