Brodie Croyle: Does He Have IT?

Now that Trent Green has found a new home in Miami, the Chiefs are attempting to do something the franchise has yet to achieve - develop a franchise quarterback.

Oh, they have tried, but from Pete Beathard, Steve Fuller and Todd Blackledge in the pre-Carl Peterson era to Mike Elkins, Matt Blundin and Pat Barnes, Kansas City's high-round investments in quarterbacks have been wasted picks. The most successful quarterbacks in team history have been retreads: Len Dawson, Joe Montana and Trent Green.

Given this history, how can Herm Edwards toss the keys to second-year quarterback Brodie Croyle?

He has a safety net. Eleven-year veteran Damon Huard can pick up the pieces in the event Croyle crashes and burns. Even so, the question remains: just what has Croyle done to make Edwards believe he has a budding franchise quarterback?

If I asked Edwards, I'm sure I would get a homily on character, hard work and young talent. Rah rah, sis-boom-bah! Edwards has admitted, however, that no one will really know if Croyle can play until he steps on the field.

For you stat-heads out there, David Lewin of footballoutsiders.com claims he can predict the NFL success of high-round quarterbacks by focusing on two key stats: number of college starts and completion percentage. His projection system evaluated first and second-round quarterbacks taken in the 10 years before the 2006 draft. Lewin predicted success for Matt Leinart, Vince Young and Jay Cutler. Croyle, with 29 college starts and a 56 percent completion rate, was projected as a bust.

But Lewin freely admits his system does not account for injury. In Croyle's case, he would have started over 35 games had he not torn his ACL in 2004. To get a read on Croyle, we need to look at WHY completion percentage and starts are so predictive of NFL success.

The first seems pretty simple. Accuracy has long been undervalued by scouts who drool over cannon-armed throwers such as Ryan Leaf and Kyle Boller. Some coaches think they can significantly improve completion percentage by improving a prospect's mechanics, but by the time a player is in the NFL, he's already thrown thousands of passes since childhood. If a guy struggles with accuracy after all that time, he's unlikely to improve by leaps and bounds against the best players in the world.

Croyle's college completion percentage was brought down by his freshman year (48 percent). He improved each of the following two seasons (53 percent his sophomore year and an outstanding 66 percent before he tore his ACL his junior year). He completed 59 percent of his passes behind a porous offensive line as a senior. I believe this upward trend shows Croyle has the accuracy to be an NFL quarterback.

Collegiate starts are important because quarterbacks must make decisions in fractions of a second. Experience is critical in such a situation, especially for a high-round quarterback whose large contract is likely to force him onto the field early in his career. Yet we have cases like Kurt Warner and Brad Johnson, former collegiate backups who became successful NFL starters. If starts are so important, how could these college bench-warmers make the grade?

In the case of Warner and Johnson, the answer was the opportunity to hone their skills in lower-level leagues (Arena and NFL Europe for Warner, Europe for Johnson). Late bloomers like Tony Romo and Trent Green spent long apprenticeships before seeing the field. Croyle, however, has had no "extra" game experience or a long apprenticeship. These facts do not bode well for his future.

Given the track record for recent high-round quarterbacks with less than 30 collegiate starts (Ryan Leaf, Tim Couch, Akili Smith, Michael Vick, David Carr, Joey Harrington and Alex Smith), it is unfortunate that the European season begins before the NFL draft. Otherwise, teams could give these high-dollar investments the experience they need to thrive in the NFL.

Of course, high dollar contracts and fan expectations for early-round picks make such a patient approach unlikely. But for Croyle, these pressures do not exist. He doesn't need to start this season. I believe Croyle would have been better served playing in Europe this summer instead of competing for the starting job in Kansas City.

As Chiefs fans, all we can do is hope Herm and Brodie prove me wrong.

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