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Count Alex's Losses
11-04-2006, 12:40 AM
Damon Huard is good. Really, really good. MVP candidate good.

Despite playing behind an offensive line that is a shell of its former self, Huard is better this year than the man he replaced as the Kansas City Chiefs' quarterback, Trent Green, was last year. After Sunday's 17-of-25, 312-yard performance in the Chiefs' 35-28 win over the Seahawks, Huard has completed 64.4 percent of his passes for 1,475 yards, with eight touchdowns and just one interception.

If you had known before the season that Green would miss six of the first seven games and Larry Johnson would average less than four yards a carry, you'd have said the Chiefs would have no chance at a winning record. But there they are at 4-3. The amazing thing about Huard's ability to take over for an injured Pro Bowl quarterback and improve on his production is that it really isn't so amazing -- in fact, he did it once before.

In 1999 Huard was the backup for the Miami Dolphins, and when Dan Marino got hurt, he stepped in and started five games in Marino's place. Miami lost only once with Huard under center, and he played so well that what would once have been unthinkable -- Miami fans wanting Marino to stay on the bench -- actually happened. Although coach Jimmy Johnson gave Marino the job back when he returned to health, many Dolphin fans chanted Huard's name.

The next year Marino retired and Huard seemed like his heir apparent, but new Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt gave Jay Fiedler the starting job. That move (which Marino publicly criticized) started in motion Huard's long journey through NFL backup-ville. From 2001 to 2005, Huard spent five seasons on NFL rosters. He threw one pass. If not for Green's Week 1 concussion, the 33-year-old Huard most likely would have faded into obscurity without ever getting a chance as an NFL starter.

Now that he's had his chance, no one who has watched him play could doubt that he's a legitimate NFL starter. So why did Huard languish on the sidelines, and only get to play when the player ahead of him got hurt? Huard's career shows that NFL teams, for all the resources they pour into scouting, still make an unbelievable number of mistakes analyzing quarterbacks.

Huard's professional journey started in 1996, after he completed his college career at Washington. The 1996 draft was universally recognized as a bad one for quarterbacks. None were selected in the first round, and only eight were selected at all, the fewest ever taken in any draft. The first quarterback selected was Michigan State's Tony Banks in the second round, and after Banks came Bobby Hoying, Jeff Lewis, Danny Kanell, Spence Fischer, Mike Cawley, Jon Stark and Kyle Wachholtz. None of those players became a good NFL quarterback, and yet all of them were drafted while Huard sat home and waited for his phone to ring. The Cincinnati Bengals invited Huard to camp, but Bengals coach Dave Shula released him before the season. After a year of unemployment, Huard caught on with the Dolphins as a backup.

Huard is far from alone in becoming a good NFL quarterback despite failing to garner the attention of pro scouts. Current NFL quarterbacks who were either late-round draft picks or undrafted free agents coming out of school include Tom Brady, Mark Brunell, Marc Bulger, Jake Delhomme, Matt Hasselbeck, Trent Green, Brad Johnson and Kurt Warner. Of those, only Brady became the starter for his first NFL team. All the others were traded or released by teams that never gave them the opportunity to start.

Although there are no hard and fast rules for what makes the scouts overlook players who later develop into good starting quarterbacks, I think at least one and usually more than one of the following four traits apply to most of the quarterbacks who have had NFL success after teams passed on them:

1. They're not great athletes: Scouts like things they can quantify -- height, weight, speed, strength. If a quarterback can run a 4.6-second 40-yard dash or vertical jump 36 inches, NFL scouts will find that out. The scouting combine and campus workouts make it easy for NFL teams to identify the best pure athletes. But players who lack those measurable skills are easily overlooked.

2. They don't have a cannon for an arm: It's a lot easier for scouts to quantify how far or how fast a quarterback can throw a ball than how good a feel he has for putting it exactly where his receiver's hands will be after running a 15-yard out route.

3. They're not from top programs: A quarterback who can pass like Delhomme or Warner will have a much easier time getting noticed if he goes to USC or Texas than if he goes to Louisiana-Lafayette or Northern Iowa. Neither Delhomme nor Warner was drafted, in large part because scouts questioned whether their college competition had adequately prepared them for the NFL.

4. They're not firmly established as starters: Many scouts have said they downgraded Brady because he had to split playing time at Michigan with Drew Henson. Brad Johnson shared time with Casey Weldon at Florida State. Brunell and Billy Joe Hobert split playing time at Washington. In all three of those cases, the scouts were wrong about which one was the better pro prospect: Hobert was selected four rounds before Brunell in 1993, Weldon was selected five rounds before Johnson in 1992, and Henson was selected slightly higher in the 2003 draft than Brady was in the 2000 draft even though at the time he was chosen, Henson still insisted that baseball was his top priority and he would never play professional football.

Huard did have a few things going for him when he left college. For one, he was coming out of a Washington program that had a solid recent history of sending quarterbacks to the NFL. At the time, six Washington alumni played quarterback in the NFL: Brunell, Hobart, Warren Moon, Hugh Millen, Chris Chandler and Cary Conklin. Huard was also widely considered a smart player, a high-character person, and a team leader. Most importantly, Huard was determined to work as hard as necessary to become an NFL starter.

"I just want a chance to play," Huard told the Seattle Times a few days before the 1996 draft. "Once I get into a camp where I can show my abilities, I'll be just fine."

It's taken him a decade to prove it, but he was right.

KurtCobain
11-04-2006, 12:47 AM
huard is an unbelievable backup. Because, that's what he is. A backup. He's a damn good one though. And maybe next year if Green retires he'll be a starter. But for now he backs the leader of the kansas city chiefs, and he does a great job.

Basileus777
11-04-2006, 01:11 AM
Huard is better this year than the man he replaced as the Kansas City Chiefs' quarterback, Trent Green, was last year.

Thats crazy talk. Huard is playing well, but he is not playing above the level Green has played the last few years.

Kerberos
11-04-2006, 06:10 AM
Thats crazy talk. Huard is playing well, but he is not playing above the level Green has played the last few years.

As I agree with you in a lot of ways, the Denver game this year makes me disagree to some extent. But the play of our defense made Huards job a little easier than what Trent had for a defense the last few years.

As I don't think Huard is playing "Above" Greens level I just think he is playing WELL ABOVE expectations and getting that confused with the level of Greens play is what is clouding this!

IMO

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