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Chiefs Pantalones
10-08-2006, 03:13 AM
Still the same old Huard
Veteran quarterback’s job description may be different, but his work ethic isn’t.

By ADAM TEICHER
The Kansas City Star


All this fuss genuinely caught him by surprise. Damon Huard knows the ways of the NFL from knocking around for 10 seasons now, but really, this insistence that he’s suddenly a different guy because he sparked the Chiefs as their fill-in quarterback?

No way. He’s still the same meticulous worker he was when he had to work his way to the top.

“Nothing’s really changed,” he said simply.

But it has. Huard, replacing the injured Trent Green, is in some good company in his first extended playing time in seven years. Heading into today’s game against the Cardinals in Glendale, Ariz., Huard is the NFL’s second-rated passer.

The other leaders are David Carr, Donovan McNabb, Chad Pennington, Rex Grossman, Philip Rivers, the Manning brothers. All were top draft picks. They were supposed to be here.

Huard was never invited. He wasn’t drafted and wandered from team to team looking for a home.

Along the way, he’s backed up everybody from a Hall of Famer (Dan Marino in Miami) to a future Hall of Famer (Tom Brady in New England) to a solid player (Green).

Huard is the definition of a journeyman. Suddenly, given the chance to play, he’s a star? Not supposed to happen.

So how is it happening? Was this inside Huard all these years, just waiting to come out? Or have Herm Edwards and his offensive coaches cleverly crafted a game plan to accentuate the positives and eliminate the negatives?

“It’s probably a case of both the guy really knowing the system and then the coaches really knowing what he does well,” Edwards said.

“… He knew what we wanted: Don’t turn the ball over, manage the game, make the throws you’ve got to make.”

•••

Huard’s game last week against the 49ers was one of the best performances by a Chiefs quarterback in a long time — if measured by efficiency in limited chances as opposed to big numbers and volume.

He managed that with qualities that can’t be coached. Huard showed a major-league arm by throwing several passes — including, but not limited to, touchdowns to Dante Hall and Eddie Kennison, and one that was called for pass interference in the end zone — that were perfectly placed.

Any of the big-time quarterbacks on the list of top passers would have been proud to call those throws their own.

“I believe this more than anything: He’s got very good passing skills,” quarterbacks coach Terry Shea said. “It shows up with his touch and his accuracy.”

Huard also showed a knack for making big passes in the clutch against San Francisco. He completed eight of 10 third-down passes.

Again, that’s not a quality that can be coached.

“To me, that’s when a quarterback shows what he really is,” Edwards said. “Doing it on first or second down is great, but doing it on third down is generally what it comes down to. Those are the plays that keep a drive alive.”

Huard’s season got off to a rotten start when he replaced Green in the second half of the opener against Cincinnati. It was a tough situation for a debut.

The Chiefs were hopelessly behind and had to throw. Huard, meanwhile, was concerned for the well-being of his friend Green.

Huard looked rattled. He was careless with the ball, fumbling twice.

But he has looked to be in control ever since.

“He has surpassed expectations with his ability to remain so poised in the pocket,” Shea said. “He doesn’t get rattled. He’s protecting the ball the way he should, compared to the way he did in the Cincinnati game. He’s not throwing high-risk passes.”

Huard took the Chiefs on a long fourth-quarter touchdown drive, but by that point the Bengals didn’t much care. All they were trying to do was prevent the big play.

All in all, an uninspiring debut. In the locker room afterward, there was plenty of brave talk from the Chiefs about their chances of winning with Huard, but there seemed to be little conviction behind the words.

Tight end Tony Gonzalez was one who spoke that day. He was asked this week whether he talked with true belief in Huard or because he felt he needed to publicly support his new quarterback.

“It was both,” Gonzalez said. “You’ve got to let your teammate know you’re behind him. But I honestly thought he would come in and do a good job because he’s not a rookie. He knows what he’s doing, and he’s got a good record as a starter.”

•••

This is where coaching comes in. With nobody’s confidence high, Huard’s included, the Chiefs built a protective cocoon around their quarterback for the next game in Denver.

They scrapped their downfield passes in favor of shorter, quicker ones designed to improve Huard’s confidence. The Chiefs got few big plays, scored only two field goals and lost in overtime.

But they maybe won a bigger prize: Huard emerged a different player.

“Before the San Francisco game, a lot of the guys weren’t quite sure about him,” Edwards said. “It was kind of like, ‘What are we going to ask this guy to do?’ The San Francisco game was critical for getting that respect of his teammates because we asked him to do a lot more. We thought they would crowd the line of scrimmage and we would have to hit some big throws.

“He matured. He helped himself with this football team. They gained more confidence in what he can do.”

Huard’s outlook for this season didn’t always look so rosy. He climbed to the No. 2 quarterback spot, but ahead of him was Green, who hadn’t missed a game in five years. Behind him was Brodie Croyle, a rookie and a favorite of Edwards.

But Huard pressed on, perhaps because he knew some things about himself that others didn’t.

“You always believe in yourself,” Huard said. “I’ve played behind some really good quarterbacks over the years, so the opportunity hasn’t always been there. I’ve been behind Dan Marino, Tom Brady, Trent Green. That kind of says it all.

“There have been other guys who excelled later in their careers. Look at someone like (Minnesota’s) Brad Johnson. You never know. All you can do is keep working hard and keep that belief in yourself.”


This article is one that should be written after prolonged success, not after one game.

DenverDanChiefsFan
10-08-2006, 07:49 AM
Let's hope he can keep it up until Trent gets back.:)

Otter
10-08-2006, 07:58 AM
I wonderer if Todd Collins is kicking himself in the ass right now?

Logical
10-08-2006, 08:26 AM
A star? That is a little strong.

milkman
10-08-2006, 08:29 AM
I wonderer if Todd Collins is kicking himself in the ass right now?

I don't believe Collins has any real desire to actually play.

He wouldn't have stayed in KC for as long as he did if he did.

Easy 6
10-08-2006, 08:55 AM
If he was some 2-3 year journeyman i'd worry, but he's been around the NFL for a decade, he's not gonna fall apart. The "Loose Gannon's" of the world floundered and flopped around the league before finding their Shangri-La and i believe "Downfield Damon" is about to join that list.

Count Alex's Losses
10-08-2006, 09:34 AM
I love the common man QB.

GO HUARD!

YOUR MADDEN RATINGS ARE LOW BUT YOUR MOXIE IS HIGH!

Wile_E_Coyote
10-08-2006, 09:43 AM
Teicher wrote this?

runnercyclist
10-08-2006, 10:38 AM
Let's hope he reinforces that "star" comment today.

FAX
10-08-2006, 11:32 AM
I watched that game about 10 times since I got my tape.

"Downfield Damon" was high on almost every out, slant, and curl. Very high. It seemed as if our receivers, including Parker, were bailing him out on a lot of plays.

If he keeps that up against a good defense, he's going to send our receivers to the hospital for a midsection transplant.

Just sayin'

FAX