Chiefs hoping Croyle becomes first homegrown star QB

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Trent Green played for three teams before arriving in Kansas City. Elvis Grbac was a castoff from San Francisco.

Joe Montana? He ensured his spot in the Hall of Fame long before arriving at Arrowhead Stadium. Even Kansas City icon Len Dawson spent five seasons as a backup in Pittsburgh and Cleveland before leading the Chiefs to their only Super Bowl, and himself to Canton.

Throughout Chiefs history, back to the day Lamar Hunt founded the Dallas Texans in 1960, one common thread runs through: The team's best quarterbacks have come from somewhere else.

The Chiefs hope that trend will finally end with Brodie Croyle, who will make his first career start Sunday at Indianapolis.

"He's a guy we drafted, a guy we said at the end of the day we need to find out if he can play quarterback," Chiefs coach Herm Edwards said Tuesday, a day after announcing Croyle will start in place of Damon Huard. "Well, now it's his turn. We're going to find out the next seven weeks."

Drafting a great quarterback -- or even a solid one -- has never been easy.

Too often, teams become enamored of physical attributes of a quarterback and don't pay attention to the intangibles separating greatness from mediocrity. It's one thing to have size, speed and a strong arm, but if a quarterback can't read NFL defenses or doesn't have that mental edge to push himself and his teammates, chances are he'll never live up to the potential his body provides.

That's why the list of first-round busts -- Tim Couch, Akili Smith, Ryan Leaf -- seems so much longer than the list of first-round stars.

"It's very hard in this league and that's why teams are always searching for a quarterback," Edwards said. "If you look at the teams that have been successful over the years and have been on top, they've got a good quarterback now, that triggerman's a pretty good player."

The Chiefs have yet to get this drafting-a-quarterback thing right, rarely using high draft picks on quarterbacks, ending up with players such as Mike Elkins and Dave Jaynes when they did.

Kansas City's most glaring error came during the great quarterback draft of 1983, when the team passed on Dan Marino and Jim Kelly, using the seventh overall pick instead on career underachiever Todd Blackledge.

So instead of utilizing the draft, the Chiefs have tried for that quick fix, plugging in veteran quarterbacks who already know the nuances of the NFL and won't make the mistakes of inexperience.

The plan has worked at times, with Green, Montana and Dawson having their share of success in a Chiefs uniform. But it's come at the expense of developing young quarterbacks.

"There's always been somewhat of a void there and consequently the quick fix takes care of that; there's been a lot of patchwork that's been done," said Lynn Stiles, Kansas City's vice president of football operations. "It's nobody's fault, it's just a situation that's existed. It takes time to get your own guy."

The Chiefs would like to think they finally have that guy in Croyle.

Kansas City used a third-round draft pick last year to get Croyle, Alabama's all-time passing leader, marking the first time since 1989 (when they took Elkins) the Chiefs picked a quarterback above the fourth round.

The change in strategy comes in large part from Edwards, who's turned to youth in his second year of rebuilding the Chiefs.

"We have to find out about these young players that you draft. That's why you draft them," Edwards said. "You can't keep baby-sitting them and say when he's a five-year player, he's going to play. We don't do that. They're going to play."

Croyle seemed poised for his chance at the start of training camp. But Croyle struggled through most of the preseason, so the Chiefs opened with Huard, a career backup who played well after Green was injured in the first game of last season.

Huard was a steadying influence on Kansas City's sputtering offense through the first eight games this year, but even as the starter he shared reps with Croyle in practice, a good indication the Chiefs would likely be making a switch.

The change officially came Monday, when Edwards turned to Croyle, hoping to spark an offense that's tied for 30th in scoring. Croyle certainly has the tools - a strong arm, mobility, quick release - but it'll take time to see if he has those slightly less evident traits needed to succeed.

The Chiefs will get a glimpse on Sunday, when Croyle becomes the first Chiefs draftee, not including replacement players, to start at quarterback since Blackledge.

"He's a guy that has a lot of confidence in himself and I don't think he's going to be too intimidated by what he's going to get into," Stiles said. "He's really a mentally tough quarterback and I think that's the No. 1 criteria for a quarterback, assuming he's got the ability. He's got the ability."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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