Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

03 Nov 2006

Huard Making Most of Starting Chance

Anyone who has watched Damon Huard quarterback the Kansas City Chiefs this year would have to agree that he's a legitimate NFL starter. So why did it take so long for him to get an opportunity? And what does he have in common with other quarterbacks who took a long time to get their chance, like Kurt Warner, Jake Delhomme and Brad Johnson? I explore that in this week's column.

Posted by: Michael David Smith on 03 Nov 2006

23 comments, Last at 06 Nov 2006, 6:15pm by SlantNGo


by Carlos (not verified) :: Fri, 11/03/2006 - 7:00pm

Nice example of what's blaringly obvious to those of us outside the tent: teams just continually look at the wrong things going into the NFL draft (ditto the NBA draft).

Just because you can quantify vertical leap and 40 times in a way that you can't work ethic and both the willingness and ability to learn doesn't mean you should be making selections on the first category vs. the second.

by B (not verified) :: Fri, 11/03/2006 - 7:12pm

Fascinating article. What was Huard's completion percentage in college? Also, I hate to nitpick, but shouldn't we look at something other than Huard's Won/Loss record as a starter? I'd like to see his DVOA during those games in 99, and compare it to what Marino was producing before he went down.

by Becephalus (not verified) :: Fri, 11/03/2006 - 7:26pm

Well my suspicion is with conventional stats like that his DVOA will be pretty solid. Maybe a bit better or worse than one might expect, but good nevertheless.

by Michael David Smith :: Fri, 11/03/2006 - 7:28pm

B, you're not nitpicking at all. You're absolutely right, won-loss record is not the way to determine whether Huard was better than Marino in 1999. I wasn't trying to suggest that it was, I was just trying to point out the mindset of Miami fans at the time.

I don't have DVOA, but conventional stats in 1999 were:
Huard: 125-of-216 (57.9%) for 1,288 yards, 8 TD, 4 INT
Marino: 204-of-369 (55.3%) for 2,448 yards, 12 TD, 17 INT

Not bad to see a guy who'd never played before putting up comparable numbers to a Hall of Famer (though admittedly a past-his-prime Hall of Famer).

by MDD (not verified) :: Fri, 11/03/2006 - 7:49pm

Damon Huard (1992-95)
• Set UW career records in passing and total offense
• Member of Washington’s 1991 National Championship team
Year G-S Att. Comp. Yds. TD Int. Pct. LG
1992 4-0 5 5 108 1 0 1.000 68
1993 10-8 197 116 1282 9 10 .589 66
1994 11-11 275 153 1887 13 12 .556 75
1995 12-12 313 198 2609 13 6 .633 79
Totals 37-31 790 472 5886 36 28 .597 79

by ABW (not verified) :: Fri, 11/03/2006 - 8:01pm

You really have to wonder what would have happened had gone to some team(one that would have given him a shot at a starting job) other than the Patriots in 2001. At that point he probably figured that wasn't a bad place to be going to - Bledsoe was clearly not a long term solution there, so Huard could easily have figured that he would have had a shot at a starting job pretty soon. Little did he know that some schmoe named Brady was about to become one of the top 2 QBs in the league. At least he'll always have a couple of rings from his time there.

by solarjetman (not verified) :: Fri, 11/03/2006 - 9:01pm

I wonder why Matt Schaub gets so much attention based on a small sample of good performances, and Damon Huard never did.

by B (not verified) :: Fri, 11/03/2006 - 9:02pm

4: Fascinating. I think it's a pretty good case that Hurad should have been given the starting job when Marino retired. Does anybody know what Wanny was thinking? Was Fiedler a high-round rookie that he wanted to start? I've never been under the impression that he had very good "measurables" that would give him the edge over Huard. I know Huard had bad feelings about Miami after he left the team. When he got his Superbowl ring, he posed with a couple other Ex-Miami players flipping the bird with their Superbowl ring on the finger. I know that infuriated Bellichick, and i always though it was a dumb move, but this gives me some idea why he might have been so upset with the team.

by Vince (not verified) :: Fri, 11/03/2006 - 9:52pm

1. "For one, he was coming out of a Washington program that had a solid recent history of sending quarterbacks to the NFL."

This is an understatement. Every regular starting QB at UW since Warren Moon has gone on to throw at least one NFL pass. (That streak is now in serious jeopardy, but I'm not writing off Isiah Stanback yet.)

2. Huard was actually out of football for a while, and worked on the campaign to get the Seahawks' new stadium built.

by Jay (not verified) :: Fri, 11/03/2006 - 9:52pm

in response to comment 6-

Bledsoe had just signed a 10 year contract in 2001. I'm guessing that Huard did not sign there thinking that he was going to get a good chance to start...

by Becephalus (not verified) :: Fri, 11/03/2006 - 11:15pm

Yeah Bledsoe was highest paid player in NFL, he was not going to sit.

Also, I love the banner at the top of the site. It should always be there.

by admin :: Fri, 11/03/2006 - 11:42pm

Marino 1999: -2.8% DVOA (26), 16.2 DPAR (26)
Huard 1999: 5.4% DVOA (18), 17.8 DPAR (24)

Same VOA, but Huard faced the harder opposing defenses.

by Ilanin (not verified) :: Sat, 11/04/2006 - 11:46am

5 - I'm not David Levin, but based on the little tables in his article in PFP 2006 and the stats you give, I think his system would project Huard out at around Eli Manning level (slightly below, but then Manning is currently underperforming his projection so it probably evens out).

Like everybody else, I do wonder what the 'tache was thinking when he started Fiedler.

by Michael David Smith :: Sat, 11/04/2006 - 11:58am

Just thought I'd mention two more things that I didn't fit into the column:

1. On the nine-play, 77-yard touchdown drive at the end of the first half against Seattle, Huard looked like a 10-year veteran who's been starting for 10 years, not a 10-year veteran who's started the equivalent of half a season. The guy can run an offense.

2. In researching this I read a lot of articles from the 1990s, and I was really impressed with the class Dan Marino showed in talking about Huard. He complimented Huard, sounded like a team-first guy, and never gave any indication that he felt the least bit bitter that a younger guy was challenging his long-held starting job.

by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Sat, 11/04/2006 - 3:01pm

Just a thought on QBs. There are probably more vets out there that can play than we realize. I think teams fall in love with their higher $$$ starters or their early round "QBs of the future".

Maybe in 3 years someone like Patrick Ramsey, Josh McCown, or even AJ Feeley or Doug Johnson could come in and start well in the spot for their team.

I agree the key is this: Most importantly, Huard was determined to work as hard as necessary to become an NFL starter. and sometimes the 2nd/3rd stringers could get discouraged sitting on the bench.

I'm really surprised at how well C. Batch has played this season to spell Roethelisberger. Being in the same offensive system for a few years doesn't hurt either.

by Independent George (not verified) :: Sat, 11/04/2006 - 5:08pm

#6 - Just think - if things had turned out just a little bit differently, we might be having irrational Peyton Manning-Damon Huard debates.

by paytonrules (not verified) :: Sat, 11/04/2006 - 6:38pm

This article is why I was a bit disappointed in the PFP quarterback projection system. It's pretty clear that teams are screwing up all the time when they pick QBs, yet the system relies on their "judgement" to determine which players should be rated. Players only qualify for it if they were drafted in the 1st or 2nd round. I'd like to see a system that starts to project guys like Huard and Warner.

by NF (not verified) :: Sat, 11/04/2006 - 8:56pm

17: The reason that it was limited to 1st- and 2nd-round QBs is that it is hard to account for with statistics many of the factors that keep QBs from being drafted in the first and second round, such as system offense, inadequate arm strength, bad throwing motion, too short, poor quality of competition, poor football pereption, etc., all of which can result in a QB doing worse in the NFL but are not obvious in a QBs college stats. The assumption with just analyzing the 1st and 2nd round was that NFL scouts do a good job of identifying and not selecting people with these flaws early in the draft. However, Lewin did note that Tim Couch and Shaun King likely failed to meet their (good) projection by Lewin's system because the scouts failed to note that Tim Couch's numbers were inflated, and Shaun King was drafted in the second round despite having flaws identified by scouts because the team needed to draft a QB and many QBs were already drafted.

by NF (not verified) :: Sat, 11/04/2006 - 9:41pm

Damon Huard is a free agent after this year. If he continues to play well, I don't think he will stay with the Chiefs. Huard will not be a franchise QB because he is 33 and is only [to the day] 3 years younger than Trent Green. Most QB's don't play at a high level at age 35, and a lot of recent QBs with a similar late-career breakout had a steep decline less than 5 years afterwards, so unless Huard has the longevity of Doug Flutie or Warren Moon he will probably decline steeply within 5 years. (If you look at Trent Green's career path, it is pretty similar to Huard's, with the exception that he started 15 games for the Washington Redskins before going to St. Louis where he was supposed to be the starter, then not starting again for only 1 year instead of 5.)

If he keeps playing like he is now, I think he'll end up the starter next year for whatever team drafts Brady Quinn or another highly-drafted QB. If that quarterback goes on to be a HoF'er, then Damon Huard will have begun his career backing up one HoF QB and could end it with another HoF QB as his backup.

by NF (not verified) :: Sat, 11/04/2006 - 11:16pm

I'm guessing that had Huard been drafted in the first or second round in '97, his Lewin Projection would be around 4.6 age-adjusted DPAR/game, as his college games started is the same as Drew Brees and Eli Manning, and his completion percentage is about the same. Based on the 7 games played in extensively in '99, the one game started in 2000, and the 7 games played in extensively this year, Damon Huard has a career age-adjusted DPAR/game of 4.76. If you were to calculate it before this year it would be 3.43, on the basis of 8 games.

by Jake (not verified) :: Sun, 11/05/2006 - 12:37am

If the Chiefs were to call me up and ask for my relatively uninformed, non-expert opinion on what to do with Trent, I'd say:

- Make sure Trent's head is fully recovered. I hear concussions can affect your interception totals against the Raiders.

- Play Huard until he falters. Veteran or not, the NFL is a fast game and Trent won't be as accustomed to the game as Huard is until he gets a start or two underneath his belt. The Chiefs are still in the playoff hunt and risking a game just to get our marginally better starter up to speed is a waste.

by FJ (not verified) :: Mon, 11/06/2006 - 12:31am

Not sure if this question should go here, but I thought it apt, since the subject is Huard.

Would you take the chance on Huard in a FFL for the rest of the year?

+He's been playing great this year.
-If Green comes back, it's likely, Huard goes back to a backup.
-The schedule for Huard was relatively easy, while the upcoming schedule will be harder: best games were vs. SF (29 DVOA vs. pass), @ARI (14), SD (8), SEA (24), STL (20), upcoming vs. @MIA (28), OAK (9), DEN (16), CLE (15).....

Ok, looking at it in DVOA, it doesn't look that bad. Looking at just passing yards we have SF (31), @ARI (24), SD (6), SEA (28), STL (21) as previous good games, and upcoming games @MIA (4), OAK (1), DEN (15), CLE (5)


by SlantNGo (not verified) :: Mon, 11/06/2006 - 6:15pm

As a Dolphin fan back in the late 90s, here is my take on the Huard situation. Fans were split on sticking with Huard or putting Marino back in when he got healthy. The main criticism of the pro-Marino crowd (including me) was that Huard took a lot of sacks comparative to Marino. Also, Huard broke his nose that season and has to miss a few games I believe, because Jim Druckenmiller was the backup at some point during the season.

In Marino's final game where the Phins got beat 62-7, Fiedler played most of the second half and played very well. Huard worked with the first team offense in the 2000 preseason but in 2 or 3 games failed to lead them to a TD. Wannstedt named Fiedler the starter, and Huard was history after that.

As a Bengal fan now, I must say I'm surprised at how well Huard is playing. He looked like ass in relief of Trent Green, but I guess that's what not taking a hit in that many years does to you. I think he fumbled 3 times in the game after taking over for Green.