Tuesday, December 18, 2012

All I Want for Christmas is a QB

There’s a QB controversy brewing on a team with an offensive mascot name.  It’s not full blown yet, but during the off-season and throughout 2013 it will be one that will occupy the minds of players, coaches, management, and fans around the city and country.  It will be a decision that must be made with the knowledge that a division rival is led by a Manning; a decision on how to spend money, and on whom, and what the franchise’s goals should be; a decision on whether or not to promote a back-up, and perhaps which back-up should be given a starting role.

Nope, it isn’t the Washington Washingtons.

(I hereby refuse to call the NFL team in Washington, D.C., that actually no longer plays in a stadium inside the District, by their designated mascot.  I am surprised that the least politically correct mascot in all of sports has survived for this long in the most politically conscious city, but more importantly, it is a centuries-outdate and offensive term that I will not condone.  As I’ve said previously, I’d love to see RGIII and the Washingtons succeed, and they now control their own destiny in the NFC East.  But their name needs to go.)

(Was the real point of this article just to go on that rant? No comment.)

No, this article is about a team that has a much longer road ahead of them.

By any metric, the Kansas City Chiefs have had one of the toughest seasons in franchise history.  At the beginning of the season, they were mentioned as possible contenders for the AFC West title.  That was before it was revealed that Peyton Manning just pulled a fast one on everyone and instantly took up his place as one of the top two quarterbacks in the league.  It was before early season injuries hampered the Chiefs (cringe…not a huge fan of this either, but it’s better than the Washingtons).  It was before everyone realized that winning 11 games with Matt Cassel is probably Bill Belichek’s greatest achievement.  It was before tragedy struck Kansas City, the organization, the locker room, and many loved ones in the city.  It was before we learned one of the Chiefs’ safeties is afraid of horses.  It was before the Save Our Chiefs movement started.  It was before a friend of mine became famous all over ESPN with his musical parodies about the calamity that has been the 2012 Chiefs’ season.

The QB controversy should no longer be about which QB on our roster the Chiefs should start.  Matt Cassel is 33rd in the league in Total Quarterback Rating (QBR).  To give you some perspective on this stat, there are 32 teams in the national football league. That means at least one team has two qualified QBs above him in the ratings.  (In fact there are two teams – the only teams that only have one QB who has qualified for QBR that fall below Cassel are the Jets, Jags, and Browns…surprising absolutely no one.)  Kansas City’s back-up, Brady Quinn, has almost completed 60% of his passes, but has thrown 2 touchdowns to six interceptions in 160 passes.

(Are you shaking your head? I thought so.)

The QB controversy now is: What happens in 2013?

Let’s assume:

The Chiefs get the first overall pick.  (The Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars are both 2-12. The Chiefs have Indy and Denver left, both likely losses; the Jags have the Pats and Titans, which may also both be losses, but the Tennessee game will at least be close.)

Manti Te’o should be the first pick in this draft.  You could maybe talk me into Jarvis Jones (OLB/DE from Georgia), but Manti could be the kind of revolutionizing force and ferocious talent that Von Miller has been for the Broncos.

Let’s not assume:

The solution to the Chief’s quarterback situation is not going to be found in the 2013 draft.  Johnny Heisman won’t be available.  Matt Barkley underwhelmed this year.  Geno Smith you could maybe talk me into, and he had a blazing start to the year in the same way RGIII lit up the landscape in 2012.  But his team crumbled a bit, and it would be a whole lot of pressure to ask him to live up to those kinds of comparisons. (On the other hand, it would allow the Chiefs to adopt a creative run game like the Washingtons have this year that has been so effective.)


The Chiefs should use that #1 overall pick as a trade chip.  There are two teams in particular that will be in a tough situation over the off-season, either because they will be undergoing their own controversy, or because they know they’re sitting a quality QB on their bench.  Here’s three plausible scenarios the Chiefs could pursue.
  • Trade that #1 pick and Peyton Hillis to San Francisco for whomever they decide isn’t their starter, likely Alex Smith.  Offer to throw in Brady Quinn just for good measure.  There’s no way the 49ers say no to this, right?  A quality back-up back to spell a heavily used Frank Gore, a back-up quarterback, and the chance to wildly improve an already fearsome defense, or, get whatever they want. Or use that pick to extort someone else for something else.  Why do the Chiefs do this? Look, time and again it has been proven that the quarterback position is the most vital position on each team. Chiefs fans thought the answer was Matt Cassel. Everyone was wrong.  Alex Smith helped a team to 13-3 last year, and only lost his starting job because his back-up won two dynamic games.  He’s a high-quality, or at least quality, starting QB and leader that would maximize the offensive talents around him (Bowe, Baldwin, Moeaki, Charles…).
  • Trade that #1 pick (and maybe Quinn) to the Washingtons for Kirk Cousins.  This may be a hard sell for Washington given how Cousins has performed in RGIII’s absence.  Not to mention the number of hits RGIII takes and the constant fear of injury.  But Washington doesn’t have a first round pick this year (due to their trade last year to get RGIII) and should be overjoyed about the opportunity to pull in a player like Te’o.  Cousins, as a rookie QB, comes a little cheaper as well.
  • Bite the bullet and use the pick (or shop it around the rest of the league).
    • Take Geno Smith and hope for the best (bold).
    • Take Manti Te’o, pair him with Derrick Johnson, and focus on defense while hoping we get a productive offensive coordinator and pull in a player like Collin Klein or Landry Jones later in the draft.
Of these, my favorite option is 2.  It’s also the riskiest.  Cousins has shown remarkable poise and led the Washingtons to two important, pressure-filled, quality wins.  But he’s a rookie, and that’s still tough to gauge (though obviously Mike Shanahan really wanted him – otherwise they wouldn’t have taken a second QB in last year’s draft).  It also costs the least, and Cousins has learned two different offenses in Washington.  It’s tough to pass on Te’o, but it would be even worse to take an underwhelming QB just because KC is determined to continue failing at adequately filling that role.

Smith? Cousins? Draft?  Let the QB controversy begin.  All I want is one...

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