Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Tradition Tuesday: SEC/AFC West Quarterbacks To Face Pivotal Third Pro Year

The rough focus of this blog concerns the rivalry of the Denver Broncos Football Club -- cheered for by Cecil and Old No. 7 -- and the Kansas City Chiefs, for whom I root. Yes, it's two versus one, but somewhere, in the annals of the House of Georges foundation, we autographed a sun-faded document that suggested each team be represented by one author per championship. Insert a Martin Luther King, Jr. sort of sentence wherein a future Lombardi Trophy awards the HoG an even-kieled CyberNets legal pad.

Eight years ago, we started The Tradition. In a nutshell, we travel each year to the stadiums of one another's teams to, more often than not, watch our clubs lose on the road. We eat. We drink. We sometimes bring the wives. And we always be -- scoreboard aside -- merry. It is in the vein of this annual festivity that we bring you the weekly state-of-the-rivalry installment known as "Tradition Tuesday."

I don't care if there's "not much going on" in the way of football. Today I'm amped to talk gunslingage. Both of these teams expect nothing less than super-competence from their quarterbacks this season, we the fans no exception. By virtue of a single click, jump aboard with this idea.

Jay Cutler

It stands without reason that Denver's Jay Cutler, in his already-peaks-and-valleys career, has much less to prove than his Kansas City counterpart Brodie Croyle. Cutler has done nothing but improve since 10 days after Thanksgiving in 2006, his NFL debut. In fact, I'm sure he was improving all the while leading up to his first start. He was a first-round steal coming out of college, and has, to a degree, proven his talent, leadership, and smarts on the professional playing field. That year, his club missed the playoffs by the goofiest of scenarios, and, as many critics said, it was a good move to get those starts under his belt, post-season appearance or not.

Since then, Cutler, along with his Bronco teammates, have dealt with (a considerable amount of) changes in player personnel, coaching staff shifts, the routine rookie learning curve, the loss of a teammate, media scrutiny, and most recently, personal health issues. And his performance to date would suggest that he has a promising and productive career still ahead of him. Courtesy of our pals over at Bronco Talk, we have access to this story from USA Today. The piece discusses Cutler's unwaivering poise and dedication in light of his off-season diagnosis of diabetes. Before citing the story, allow me to go on record and predict the over/under on (national television broadcast) Jay Cutler/diabetes mentionings: 67. And, yes, I'll take the over.

"Guys look at Jay and the way he's handled things and their problems don't seem half as bad," (teammate Champ) Bailey says. "I'm amazed at the way he's handled it. I thought he'd be freaking out right now. But he hasn't shown one sign of emotion.

"He hasn't missed a workout. Jay's a natural leader. He gets it."

The piece goes on to illustrate that Cutler has regained his lost weight, suggest that his arm strength is (worst case) on par for where it should be, and that third-year quarterbacks under (Head Coach) Mike Shanahan show resounding results in the way of personal improvement and league-wide success. Via free agency and the draft, the Broncos couldn't in all possible circumstances have made this team worse. They addressed the offensive line, brought in some running backs and some pass catchers, and significantly added to their defense, the latter a near-mimic of last year's preparations.

They will most certainly be better. It would seem, knowing but a sliver of Shanahan's strategical tendencies, that the majority of these moves were done to build a team around a guy that's ready to take it to the next level. And Jay Cutler, in my estimation, is certainly geared to be that guy. I made some pretty ridiculously optimistic pigskin predictions last year, and, through great pain and suffering, I learned from them. I'm confident that my analysis of Cutler -- barring injury -- won't be too far off the mark.

Brodie Croyle

Most of my life as a sports fan, if a player has, say, not murdered anyone, or been caught up in ridiculous legal issues, but been a part of a really bad team, I've felt bad for them. Chiefs quarterbacks, Steve DeBerg and Joe Montana aside, are the perfect example. I really began to grasp the game, and a feel for just who my team was, when the organization was waffling between Bill Kenney and Todd Blackledge. It's virtually impossible to say who those guys would've been career-wise on any football team that was not outright terrible. But that's just what the Chiefs were, and I remember being a grade-school kid and feeling bad for both of those cats, as everywhere I went, fans were calling for their heads.

In just under three weeks, my best friend will be married. I've known the guy for over 20 years, and since we were kids, he's always done the best play-by-play impersonation of the Chiefs with the football from that era:

"Kenney. From the shotgun, looks to his right. Points left. It's third and 23. The Chiefs are down by 17. Here's the sna-- he's sacked! Loss of 15 on the play, and the Chiefs will have to punt."

The beauty -- if one chooses to call it that -- about that remarkably accurate improv is that, at any given time between 1983-87, Kenney's and Blackledge's names could've been substituted for one another. And I felt awful for those guys. Just as I did for Elvis Grbac, even though he said and did some stupid shit. I also felt bad for Trent Green in his first 20 games as a Chief. Fans can be brutal, and I can be brutal right along with them. Doesn't mean I don't feel for a guy, though.

Now it's the Brodie Croyle era. Or the Brodie Croyle experiment, as I imagine most would choose to say. And I feel bad for him, too. Like Cutler, Croyle enters his third season in the NFL this fall. Unlike his Denver counterpart, he has not had a year as the starter, and I would argue he's had less to work with as well. Many of his critics say that he simply comes to the table with less, be it in the form of less God-given talent, less of a complete body of work at the college level, or perhaps even less in the form of guidance from his pro coaching staff.

In the May 21 issue of The Kansas City Star, Kent Babb wrote an article with the headline "Its up to Croyle this season." I have a problem with that, and the article for a number of reasons. Primarily, the article is generic. It points out little but the already-known negatives from last year's miserable season, i.e. "He lost all six of his starts last year," and "(He) was inconsistent and inexperienced." It also creates the mentality of the starting quarterback position being one for Croyle to lose, instead of one in which to prove himself.

There is one positive quote, and it comes from -- tight ends aside -- Croyle's one true/worthwhile target from a year ago.

"Brodie's looking good, man," wide receiver Dwayne Bowe said. "He threw a go route, back shoulder, against the wind. It was on the money. I was like, 'Dude, you're ready. It's on.'"

The only other positive from the piece is the statement that Croyle has been quick to catch on to (new offensive coordinator) Chan Gailey's system, but it is undermined by the allegation that the Chiefs have "simplified the offense for Croyle."

Look, I'm not suggesting that Croyle get any more time than any other NFL quarterback get in regard to the sink-or-swim litmus. If the guy can't hack it, the Chiefs front office and coaching staff will acknowledge that, and look in a different direction. My thesis -- since Trent Green went down -- has been that fans and the media have got to give the guy a chance, and last year wasn't it. The Chiefs played some pretty good defense in 2007. They used a picks-of-the-week crew on the O-line, and had the worst rushing game in the league. A gameplan can only focus on Dwayne Bowe and Tony Gonzalez to an extent; everything else either becomes predictable, or just plain bogged and inefficient.

Many fans, critics, and bloggers have proclaimed the Chiefs draft from last month to be a huge success. If it is, and the team can continue to be good on the defensive side of the ball, develop some pass protection, re-develop the ground game, then, and only then, will it be fair game to sequester the Brodie Croyle jury.

Jay Cutler inherited a different team, one who's frameworks begins on offense and with the position of quarterback. Croyle's hand has yet to be played, and I argue that he hasn't even been dealt in yet.

Here's to trumping diabetes, and making the most of Beowulf forearms.


Unknown said...

I agree, Croyle hasn't had his chance yet.

While football is obviously one of the most team-oriented sports on the planet, the quarterback DOES have to shoulder the lion's share of the offensive accountability. Just about every play starts with him. This is true when it comes to glory AND misery.

Croyle has not had his chance. I just question whehter or not it's even worth investing the time in giving him a chance. The Chiefs under Carl Peterson have had NO success in drafting the quarterback position. What makes you think it'll start now?

Croyle has never made it through a college or NFL season without missing games due to injury. Any good player in the NFL must be able to endure the bumps and bruises of the game. No one has much to offer from the bench or IR.

Croyle has a great arm. I'm guessin' he misses at least 5 games due to injury this year. Luckily, the Chiefs will likely suck ass anyway, so it doesn't much matter. Ignoring the QB position in this year's draft was inexcusable. Herm and Carl CANNOT handle this repsonsibility. Until the Hunts wise-up, the Chiefs are destined to fail at the QB position.

Croyle, while a nice guy I'm sure, is not the answer for the Chiefs. Don't feel too bad for him, Banky. He's makin' a good livin' playing a game, man.

I'm pullin' for him, because I'd love to see a franchise QB in a Chiefs uniform ... but c'mon, he ain' it.



P.S. Last year I was off by a game as I went for 5-12. Chiefs in 2008: 6-10.

old no. 7 said...

Over/under on Brodie Croyle starts for the rest of his career: 15 1/2.

Kyle said...

Taking the under. Would have taken the under at 8...

Cecil said...

Fuck, Kyle beat me to it.

blairjjohnson said...

Over/under on lame Brodie Croyle jokes from Donkey fans from here to eternity: 248. I'll take the over.

Cecil said...

That's a smart bet.