Eric Crouch: Fate or Futility?
Can he pick himself up again?
Can he pick himself up again?

Posted Jul 24, 2003


As news about Eric Crouch leaving the Green Bay Packers spread around the country, the replies came fast and furious back to any forum that would receive them. “He’s a quitter”. That’s not a new headline as that was what most were saying after St. Louis and this most recent event has only fueled the fire that initially ignited that argument. Did he quit? If so, why? Is this the last we hear of Crouch and if so, will this be the legacy he leaves behind?

I thought it to. Yes, a dyed in the wool Husker fan thought the same thing as I am sure most people thought when they heard Eric Crouch left the Packers for "personal" reasons. He knew he wasn’t going to be a QB and left.

Hard to argue that considering the circumstances behind his departure from the Rams not so very long ago. And considering the acquisition of Akili Smith to bolster the rather sparse depth chart at QB behind aging hero, Brett Favre, the writing was definitely one the wall.

Eric’s days were numbered.

Everyone knew and Eric made no bones about it that QB was what he wanted to be. However, while some were willing to admit that he might have had the arm to do it, nobody seemed to think that Crouch was anywhere close to being ready to even compete for a job under center at the top league in the sport.

I have to be honest in that I have never seen a rationale from anyone that could justify Eric Crouch being a QB, even at the collegiate level and yes, that’s despite the Heisman award he won at the position. But, come on. Everyone knows that Crouch didn’t win the Heisman for his arm. He won it for his running ability and yes, he won it because of his heart.

That’s why I have to say that this all sits with more than a bad taste in my mouth.

I remember watching Eric Crouch run down the sideline, a cornerback with the angle on him and a full head of steam, well he barrels into Eric, only to meet Crouch’s shoulder and being smacked off like he wasn’t even there. It was a classic if not instant confrontation that made ESPN and just about any other highlight film you can imagine. That was Eric Crouch. Fast, ferocious and fearless in the cross-hairs.

That impossibly quick burst of his, playing with pain, those became trademarks that led to his senior-season. A season where if not for him, NU might have realized their streak of losing their streaks a year earlier than what had actually transpired.

One thing though, as much as Crouch was known for, a QB isn’t one of them.

You see, Eric couldn’t run the option very well, certainly not to the extent that players like Frost and Frazier ran it. And yes, he couldn’t throw very well either and while you can find a variety of seasons where more heralded stars had equal or even less success in various years at the helm, it was clear from the outset that nobody was going to depend on Crouch’s arm to win NU many games, if any at all.

He could run and fast. He could move and all while running really fast. Yeah, it comes down to that speed and his physical style of playing being the difference between success and failure.

Back to the issue of writing on the wall though, Eric’s bout with conviction didn’t start at the NFL level as Husker fans well know.

Eric’s on-the-field presence was impossible to discount, but when one of the hotter QB controversies in a while came to NU in the form of Eric vs. Bobby, Crouch was thinking of taking the train out, only to be convinced to stay by Solich and company. A pre-cursor of things to come it would seem.

That was then though and after all that speculation of what was going on, Crouch came back, eventually won the position (amidst yet more controversy) and did eventually lead NU to a national title contest against the Canes.

While that didn’t bear fruit, Crouch wins the Heisman because of that running ability, that speed and the fact that he literally was the team, Dahrran Diedrick playing the obvious supporting role. It was Eric’s team and the gameplan was something similar as to what Doug Collins was calling as Michael Jordan was in his prime. Give Eric the ball and everyone else, get the "heck" out of the way.

It was that way at Millard North, Eric being as much THE team as John McCardle was to Millard North last year. Eric right, Eric left, Eric up the middle. When Eric was the focal point, that’s when he was at his best.

In the NFL, Eric was never going to be the focal point, Heisman or not. He was just another player and a player not expected by many to make it at any position, much less QB. Eric was fast and nimble of foot, but his focus was clearly under center, something nobody was eager to even let him try.

Why would you though? Crouch never once exhibited anything with the Huskers that said he could even sniff at a chance of being a QB in the NFL, so why would anyone give him a chance?

Probably the exact same reason why Green Bay chose to pick up Crouch off of waivers when St. Louis finally released him. Placate him, give him at least a look at QB just so you can say you did and then, move him where you can utilize that athleticism where it would be most good.

Marx out of St. Louis said Crouch could be a great receiver and this is a guy that knows great receivers. Nope, wasn’t happening. A pretty decent hit on Crouch over the middle during a game brought pain and reality to the forefront for Crouch, that seemingly the beginning of his demise with the Rams.

After that, it was Crouch leaving the team for "personal" reasons, but later, this was followed by a rather vanglorious comment from Crouch stating that he might take his wares to the CFL, because his own country wouldn’t let him play QB.

So, why did Green Bay pick Eric up in the first place? I actually do put some of the blame for this most recent PR fiasco for Crouch on the shoulder of the Packers and it was because they shouldn’t have picked him up at all.

What? Did they think they were going to change his mind? I mean, I seriously doubt that they were ever willing to actually consider Crouch as a legit contender for the QB position. Rather I think they wanted Crouch for the same reason the Rams did and that’s because of his pure-raw speed. Make him happy by giving him a shot, be confident that he wouldn’t even be able to realistically compete and then, move him to the position you had planned for him in the first place.

It didn’t work once, why would anyone think it would work this time around?

All Green Bay did was delay the inevitable, that being what you just saw in the last couple of days.

It wasn’t Crouch’s choice to get picked up by Green Bay, so you could hardly blame Crouch for sticking to his guns about QB, something he did to a great extent after leaving the Rams. Everyone knew he wanted to be a QB and NOTHING but a QB, but GB picked him up anyway.

I have to say that this whole thing has made me a little sick to my stomach and for a variety of reasons. One, because Eric’s a Husker and nobody wants to see any former Husker put in a bad light. Lord knows, we’ve seen enough of that over the last few years.

Another is that while Eric was with NU, maybe you could nit-pick here and there about him being too spoiled and of course, not being the most well-rounded QB, but nobody can question what he did for Nebraska and the way in which he did it once he was on the field.

This was a young man that while in the midst of playing, never said die, never quit once and playing with pain to boot. Not overly versatile as a QB, he was still good enough that he gave every team that faced him fits, something any Husker fan loves to see.

What happened with the Rams can probably be put on Crouch without much hesitation, but what happened at Green Bay, I would blame the Packers more than anything. They tried to make someone, something that he didn’t want to be even after he told everyone on God’s green earth that very fact.

Eric Crouch will be considered a quitter by most and I doubt that many would argue with him, but despite the way he went about it and some of the rather lame excuses he has given, there’s one thing Crouch has never quit at and that’s at trying to be a QB.

Maybe this is the end of that particular Saga, but my guess is that the CFL could be next. If only to take a little time, get yet another release from a team, Crouch looks only to lay low, pretend that football is behind him and when opportunity does again strike, go where someone says they want him as a QB and actually means it.

Who’s to say if that will happen, but as for Crouch, his legacy to the nation may not be flattering and even to a Husker nation, he’s still not the most popular guy around, but you have to admit, I don’t think I have ever seen someone go to the lengths he has to play one solitary position. He turned down a lot of money, gave up a lot of opportunities to contribute doing something else, but nope. Eric Crouch has been a QB in high school, was a Heisman-winning QB in college and regardless of what anyone said, did or continues to say, that’s still what he wants to be.

In that, Crouch has never quit and it would appear, never will.

Is that fate? Or is that futility?

You be the judge.

Steve Ryan can be reached at huskerconnection@neb.rr.com or 402-730-5619



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