The Kansas City Chiefs used to be Brodie Coryle’s team.
Ok. Perhaps saying the Chiefs were actually Croyle’s team may be stretching it a bit. He was never really the starter long enough to take ownership of the squad but there was a period, however briefly, where he was the man.
Though it seems like eons since Croyle was the Chiefs QB of the future, it was just 2 years ago that he started the season as the starter. In fact, Croyle opened the 2009 season as the starting QB as well, albeit due to an injury to Matt Cassel.
We all know the Croyle’s story. Chosen in the 3rd round of the draft by the Herman Edwards regime, he was to be the eventual replacement of Trent Green. Yet since being drafted in 2006, Croyle’s only significant playing time came in 2007 when he started 7 games and appeared in 2 others. He lost all of those starts and while he didn’t play horribly, he wasn’t spectacular either. He finished the 2007 season with 1,227 yards passing with a 56.7 completion percentage. He threw 6 touchdowns and 6 interceptions and only averaged 5.5 yards per pass.
Some would argue that Croyle’s 2007 numbers were due to a lack of experience, combined with terrible offensive line play. Some might also claim that Herm Edwards was too conservative in his offensive approach and that he didn’t allow Croyle to throw downfield enough. Excuses aside, the 2007 ended with there being more questions about Croyle’s future than answers.
2008 was to be Croyle’s defining season. The Croyle led Chiefs were hanging tough with the mighty New England Patriots when Croyle was slammed to the ground, injuring his shoulder. A few weeks later he returned only to be injured again, this time seriously. I’ll never forget Bob Gretz’s description of Croyle when he met his wife after his season was ended when the Tennessee Titans ripped his knee to shreds.
It was without a doubt, the saddest sight of a very sad day of football for the Chiefs. Just outside the team’s locker room are double-doors that lead down the tunnel at the 50-yard line and out to the field. Just before half-time, those double doors opened and Brodie Croyle limped through with a doctor and a trainer at his side. Tears were streaming down his face. That’s when he saw his wife Kelli waiting for him. Together they embraced and he sobbed on her shoulder for several minutes. All the hard work, all the rehabbing, all the blood, sweat and tears that have been so much a part of Croyle’s life for the last year ended in an athlete’s greatest disappointment on Sunday. Damage suffered to the medial-collateral ligament (MCL) in his left knee is so severe that his season is finished.
The team went on to finish 2-14. Tyler Thigpen became a fan favorite. Carle Peterson resigned. Herm Edwards got canned. His allies were gone. Brodie was damaged goods, scrap metal leftover from the last regimes failed attempt at a rebuild. His career in Kansas City was over.
Only it wasn’t.
Croyle somehow clawed his way back from his injury. He missed all of OTA’s but was ready to go for training camp. Matt Cassel and Tyler Thigpen were both ahead of him on the depth chart and new GM Scott Pioli brought in Matt Gutierrez who had recently been cut by the Patriots. It was only a matter of time before Croyle became a training camp casualty.
Only he didn’t.
One year later, Thigpen is in Miami, Gutierrez is on the waiver wire and Croyle is the Chiefs unquestioned backup. The Chiefs are one snap away from their past once again becoming their present.
Croyle’s last significant action came in the 2009 season opener when the Chiefs went to Baltimore to play the Ravens where the QB played perhaps the best game of his career. He no longer looked like an inexperienced rookie but a prepared and experienced backup, going 16 of 24 passing for 177 yards. He had 2 touchdown passes vs. no interceptions and added a 50-yard pass to boot. He finished the game with a 116.1 QB rating. Despite his solid performance, the Chiefs still lost the game 38-24, though the game was closer than the score indicates.
The 2010 preseason means a lot to the young players hoping to make a team. For some of these players, this will be their only chance to make it in the NFL. Others will be hoping to play well enough to get noticed by other teams once the Chiefs cut them. Though the games don’t count, for some, they are life or death.
For Croyle, the next 4 games could be the most important of his career. At 28, Croyle is at the prime age to begin peaking as a QB and unless Matt Cassel gets injured or plays atrociously in 2010, the preseason will likely be his last chance to make an impression on the rest of the NFL before he becomes a free agent next offseason.
Croyle may never be a starting caliber QB in the NFL. Injury concerns or even just a lack of talent could keep him in a backup role forever. Yet if Brodie Croyle has taught us anything, it is that it would be very foolish to count him out.
Chiefs coach Todd Haley has been seen sporting a new t-shirt in training camp this year. The back of the shirt has the words “Chiefs Will” printed on it. Since the shirt debuted, reporters have been asking Haley exactly what that phrase means.
Perhaps he should tell them to ask Brodie Croyle.