Jeff Herr, a finalist in the 2011 Big Gig Contest on 610 Sports Radio, was born and raised in Kansas City. Following the Chiefs, Royals, and Jayhawks all his life has led him to blog about all three extensively at the-jeff-report.blogspot.com. He has also spent time covering the Royals for the blog site kingsofkauffman.com as well as serving for a period as the lead editor of throughthephog.com a blog covering the Kansas Jayhawks. When not writing about the local sports scene, he pays the bills by serving as an accountant.
Jeff Herr: Is Russell Wilson More Fool?s Gold for the Chiefs?
by Jeff Herr,posted Jan 15 2013 8:26AM
Everyone saw it. It was probably the game of the weekend. Down 27-7 to the Atlanta Falcons, the Seattle Seahawks were in dire straights. Then, rookie third round draft pick Russell Wilson sprang into action. By the time there was less than a minute left in the game the Seahawks had taken a 28-27 lead. Wilson lead the charge with his arms and legs, showing composure unusual for someone of such limited experience.
Unfortunately, Wilson's defense couldn’t hold on and the Seahawks lost (giving Chiefs great Tony Gonzalez his first ever playoff win in the process). The box score was good enough for Wilson, 24/36, 385 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT and a 109.1 QB rating is about as good of a playoff performance as you could ask for. But when you couple that with the fact that he led his team to 12 previous wins, was one of only four quarterbacks to have a QB rating over 100 for the season, and did it all as an undersized rookie who had to fend off a high-priced free agent for the job, it becomes all the more impressive.
Wilson represents so many things that can go right in the NFL. When you pair a talented QB with a good head coach and offensive coordinator who can make him successful, anything can happen. But he also shows us things that can go wrong. Wrong like all 32 teams passing on him at least twice, and some of them three times before he finally got selected number 75 overall.
Wilson fell victim to the NFL combine “measurables” that can create millionaires or stifle them. Tom Brady slipped to the sixth round because he didn’t “look” like your typical QB. Nobody thought Joe Montana had what was needed to be a first round pick either. But they will go down as two of the best ever. While Wilson’s fate in that regard remains to be seen, and he’s no Montana or Brady yet, he fell victim to the same prejudices that forced Montana and Brady to fight their way to greatness in the early part of their careers.
But this has also led to one of the greatest myths in the history of the NFL: the late-round quarterback “find.”
It’s no secret around these parts that the Chiefs were one of those unlucky teams that passed on Wilson a total of three times. The Chiefs decided to take Dontari Poe (1st round), Jeff Allen (2nd round) and Donald Stephenson (3rd round - the pick right before Wilson at #74 overall) instead. None of these were bad picks, and from how they all played this year look to be pretty solid. But anybody that saw what the Seahawks did this year and what they nearly pulled off yesterday will say the Chiefs season could have taken an entirely different turn if they had Wilson instead of Stephenson or any of the Chiefs first three picks.
The fact that such a talented and proven player lasted that long is surprising, only with an incomplete understanding of how the NFL works. “Measurables” that can be put on paper and pointed to as defense for a pick are king in the most successful sports league in America. What a player has done isn’t weighted as heavily as what his profile tells you he COULD do. Projection is an important part of evaluation, but ignoring past indicators and what they see on the field only leads teams to do a facepalm when they see Wilson shredding defenses and think to themselves “that could have been us” (three times!). Making matters worse is that he will be seen as the exception and no NFL team will change how they do anything because of Wilson.
Teams will go on ignoring players that don’t “measure up.” Then they will go right along and point to the success of those players as reason’s to not take the risk on a QB with a high pick. There has been no greater offender of such a failed notion than the Kansas City Chiefs.
While Wilson was setting rookie records and winning 12 games for his team, the Chiefs remained a franchise that hasn’t had a win from a quarterback they’ve drafted since the Regan Administration.^
^Interestingly, this makes two things the current “milennial” generation has never seen: a Royals playoff run and a win from a Chiefs-drafted quarterback. How sad is this fact? According to this website (http://kansascitymo.areaconnect.com/statistics.htm) roughly 51.5% of the city is between the ages of 0-34. If we extrapolate that to the roughly two million people in the greater metro area, that means there’s about 1,200,000 people who have never seen either event! People on tail end of that range might vaguely remember the Royals winning or Todd Blackledge willing his team to victory when they were seven or so, but not anything clearly. Even Cleveland has seen a win from a QB they’ve drafted AND had a playoff run in baseball...within the last five years. CLEVELAND!
With Scott Pioli in charge over the last four years we heard Tom Brady’s name quite a bit. The Patriots were given credit for “finding” him in the sixth round and turning him into the first ballot hall of famer he is today.
What you rarely hear people point out is that the Patriots were like most other teams and passed on Brady five times. They didn’t think he was the next Montana, they just thought he could back up Drew Bledsoe. If not for a bad injury to Bledsoe, we might not even know Brady’s name. Point being, the Patriots didn’t so much “unearth” Brady, as they did luck out with him the sixth round. Just as the 49ers weren’t “genius” by picking Montana, the Patriots were just extremely fortunate.
Revisionist history would lead us to believe that those teams saw something in those players just like people will one day say the Seahawks saw something in Wilson. Fact is, these teams were all hoping to get lucky and they just happened to be the ones that did. If the Seahawks truly believed in Wilson, they wouldn’t have let him get to the third round. Same goes for Brady and Montana. Part of being “genius” is being bold and none of these picks fit that bill.
The Chiefs have a golden opportunity to be bold and find their guy this year. With the number one overall pick they don’t have to depend on anybody else to make or not make a pick and they have the entire field of eligible players to choose from. Hoping to get lucky with a late round pick just doesn’t work.
The Chiefs have been playing it safe with late round QBs and free agent pickups for the last quarter century and its gotten them absolutely nowhere. The recent quotes from Dick Vermeil only give fuel to the fire that the Chiefs don’t need to draft a quarterback. “I’d rather have a great owner and no quarterback, than a great quarterback and not a good owner,” Vermeil stated in a recent article in the Kansas City Star. Nevermind the fact that when he won his Super Bowl, it was with a great quarterback and not a good owner. Conventional “wisdom” and pointless idioms are not what the Chiefs need to be basing their decisions on. This is not a mutually exclusive relationship and no choice has to be made. It’s not elite QB or elite owner, you can have both. This is what the Chiefs should strive for.
Currently, 21 teams in the NFL have starting quarterbacks drafted in the first round (and that’s not counting Blaine Gabbert as starter in Jacksonville and not counting Drew Brees as a first round pick even though he was #1 pick of the 2nd round, when there were only 31 teams, making him the number 32 overall pick). The Chiefs have sat and watched long enough, its time to step and take a swing.
Now, the argument against taking a QB number one overall is somewhat justified, but not as concrete as most seem to think. The crop is reportedly weak this year, but we’re also coming off a year where three rookies took their teams to the playoffs. The inflated skill level of last year's class is diluting this years. If you put these players against the ‘09 or ‘10 QB crop, things would probably look quite a bit different. And while you can’t fail if you don’t try, you also can’t fail if you don’t try. The Chiefs haven’t tried for decades and they’ve still failed. It hasn’t worked. They’ve tried the re-treads, they’ve tried to strike gold in the late rounds, and none of it has helped them get over the hump.
With their first #1 overall pick since the 60’s the Chiefs have to find a way to get their guy. I hear the argument to not take a QB number one overall, and I’ve always been a “best player available” kind of guy, but I will say that the pick is only worth what it means to your team. If their biggest need is QB (and it absolutely is for this team), and they have somebody they think will be successful, the value of that position over any other dictates they need to make that pick.
The core of this team is strong. The new coach and GM are great evaluators and developers of talent, especially quarterbacks. This is the time to change this franchise forever. Clark Hunt has changed the organizational structure and shed the format that has held them back for years. It’s time they put their greatest draft misstep of a 1st round quarterback failure (Todd Blackledge - 1983) behind them as well. The entire organization is on the clock.
Jeff Herr: Is Russell Wilson More Fool’s Gold for the Chiefs?
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John Schneider is a genius...
John Schneider and Pete Carroll looks for players with special talent and see how they can incorporate those in their team, while most coaches and general managers look for players to fit their schemes. It is also believed up here in Seattle, that John Schneider has added another criteria to their player draft evaluations that other teams have not. That is heart or desire. They say you can't measure that, but if you look at the makeup of our team, that is truly evident here.