I get too worked up about this stuff. On the one hand I look at it and say to myself “in the grand scheme of things sports don’t really matter, why are you spending so much time on this?” But on the other hand I look at it and say “people go through their lives rarely getting to do anything they’re passionate about and you get to write on the internet about a topic you love (even if you still have to have another job to pay the bills), so who cares about the grand scheme, just dive right in.” This is when I get too deep and sometimes can’t see the forest for the trees (and yes, that’s the actual expression which my girlfriend will kindly remind me of, even though it makes MUCH more sense to say can’t see the forest THROUGH the trees—but I digress).
The longer I’ve done this—which makes me sound like a seasoned writer doesn’t it? —the more self-aware I have become of my opinions and it has granted me an opportunity to take a step back and look at the big picture. Now, I am not perfect—just as nobody is—and I don’t always do this, but I make a concerted effort to get better at it as I go along (it was even one of my 2013 New Year’s Resolutions).
It’s in this way that I think reading ‘Moneyball’ really helped me out in that regard. It’s not about statistics any more than ‘Slaughterhouse Five’ is about time travel and aliens. Yes, there is some of that in there, but the ultimate point gets lost when you bog yourself down in the details. What a book like ‘Moneyball’ was really about, at its core, was that you can take a step back and look at things differently. The narrative of “how things work” and how they’ve “always been” doesn’t have to be the code you live by. You can look a situation differently if you so choose and you might see things more clearly as a result.
The ‘Moneyball’ reference may seem like this is a lead-in to a baseball column, but it’s not. I’ve still got some thoughts on the Chiefs draft and with the possibility of trading for Alex Smith gaining momentum, I have to get them out. I’ve accepted my fate on this one, but that doesn’t mean I can’t espouse my opinion. Luke Joeckel will be the next Chief—after Smith, probably--and I’m sure everyone in the city just can’t wait to see that glorious #79 Joeckel jersey hanging up in your local Dick’s Sporting Goods.
But when it’s all said and done, the Chiefs will still presumably be without a QB and it will just be rinse and repeat for the next quarter century until we can FINALLY get somebody in here who is bold enough to draft a guy and turn the keys of the franchise over to him. Now, not everyone believes like I do that the Chiefs should draft a QB (hard to believe, I know). There are quite a few arguments against drafting a QB number one overall this year and I’d like to give my responses to them.
1) There is no Andrew Luck in this draft and no QB worth taking with the first overall pick.
It is true that Luck was drafted last year and is therefore unavailable in this year’s draft. There was also no Luck in 2009 or 2010 when a QB went first overall either. When people were saying “Andrew Luck is the best QB prospect to come out of college since Peyton Manning,” that wasn’t hyperbole. Since 1998, there hadn’t been a QB to come out with the skillset of Luck and the “sure-fire success” written all over him. I don’t disagree with that and most probably wouldn’t.
What I think most wouldn’t disagree with either, is that between Manning and Luck—believe it or not—there have been successful quarterbacks. Donovon McNabb, Eli Manning, Phillip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Jay Cutler, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III and that’s just off the top of my head. In that group of QBs, we have players who were picked as high as number one overall and as low as in the third round. In that group they’ve got nine Super Bowl appearances and six victories. And that number might be a little skewed because some of them played each other.
The point here is that if you’re waiting for the next Manning or Luck to come around, you’re probably going to be waiting for a long time. ^ Looking back at some of those QBs you had players with different grades who went where they were supposed to, above, or below it.
^Even before Manning the only other sure-fire bet might have been John Elway and that was 1983. So we’re looking at a 15 year clip for any “sure-fire, immediate impact” QB to come available on the market. Not only that, but if they do, they will surely go number one and…well we’ll get to that later.
The most prominent example has to be newly minted Super Bowl MVP Flacco. The battle cry we all heard after the Super Bowl was “FLACCO IS ELITE!” As if that even matters after winning a world championship. “Well everyone says you have to have an elite QB to win a Super Bowl, and the Ravens just won a Super Bowl, so Flacco must be elite.” I hate to break it to you, but the logic behind this phantom transitive property of elite QBs wouldn’t hold up on the SATs.
I bet if you asked just about any Chiefs fan right now, they would say that they would trade the #1 overall pick for Flacco and sign him up for $20M a year. Those same people would probably forget that Flacco had a second round grade when he came out of college and some thought the Ravens “reached” for him when they traded up to pick him at #18. They might also have forgotten that before the Super Bowl, and even during this season, some Ravens fans were calling for Flacco to be let go after the season. And yet, most balk at the idea of picking a QB #1 overall that has a second-half-of-the-first-round grade. Granted, Flacco has obviously proven himself, but all this shows is that these “rankings” aren’t exactly infallible.
2) Well, Andy Reid is good with QBs and Matt Cassel did well with Charlie Weis so let Reid fix Cassel, he’ll be better, and we can wait for “our guy” next year or the year after.
This is such an interesting thought to me. We’ve seen Cassel’s ceiling. We know what he is at his absolute best, as we saw in 2010. When he’s playing out-of-his-mind he is a competent QB who beats up on lesser defenses but still has flaws. Even at such a level he isn’t the QB who can win games and can actually lose them for you. All you need to do is look at the final Raiders game and the Ravens playoff game of 2010 to see how all of that shakes out. Even if Reid is the Gandalf of QB gurus, that’s all he’s gonna get out of Cassel.
Not to mention, people seem to enjoy using this logic except when it comes to something that doesn’t push their point. It’s convenient to think that Reid can “fix” a QB who has already reached his ceiling and regressed, but not as much when it comes to Reid using those same powers on what is perceived as a more risky scenario—choosing a QB number one overall.
It’s curious why everybody thinks that the Chiefs only get the player they’re drafting. What I mean by that is, when the Packers selected Rodgers, they didn’t get 2010 Super Bowl MVP Rodgers. When the Ravens selected Flacco, they didn’t get 2012 Super Bowl MVP Flacco. Both those players improved each season and got better at their craft. Whether its Matt Barkley, Tyler Wilson, or Geno Smith, is there any reason to believe that under Reid’s tutelage they wouldn’t improve at all?
The answer is no. There is no reason to believe they wouldn’t improve. There’s not a single draft pick ever made based on the idea that he won’t ever improve. Luck had a 76.5 QB rating last year. If he has that in five years, he will be a bust. He won’t because he will improve. Any QB taken will be better tomorrow than they were yesterday or they aren’t even in the discussion.
3) QB isn’t the best player and we should pick best player available so the Chiefs should pick whoever the best player is.
I’m going to tell you right now, and I hope this doesn’t come as a shock to anybody, but the BPA philosophy is a fallacy. The idea that you go into each draft blind and pick players as if you are starting from scratch and only want “good players” isn’t taking the “big picture” into account. Fact is, you have players on your team, you have areas of need, and that has to factor in.
Let’s throw out a scenario here. Say Chiefs GM John Dorsey selects Joeckel #1 overall. Then say the Chiefs trot out Cassel again and have another 2-14 season with another top five pick waiting in the wings. Then let’s say that the best player available at their spot in the draft next year is another left tackle. Then maybe the best player available in the second round is another left tackle. You see what I’m getting at? The other factors can’t be ignored.^^
^^I understand it’s not quite this simplistic because the odds of the same position being the best available every time you pick is slim. But then again, that’s just a convenient excuse/loophole that allows you to use that method.
It’s also easy to say that BPA was the direction you went because nobody looks at your board. Take the Patriots for example, they drafted Ryan Mallet in 2011 in the third round. They said he was the #1 QB on their board. Yet, they have Tom Brady so they decided not to pick Mallet with the previous four picks. QBs are a little different in that area, but the fact remains, Mallet was certainly better than players he was selected after on the Patriots board, but their needs factored in.
4) The Chiefs should take the best player at #1 overall and then take a QB in the second round with the 34th overall pick.
Another interesting argument. I suppose I’d hear this one more clearly if it made much sense. If you could guarantee that the #1 QB in the class would be available at #34, it would be much easier to stomach. In an ideal world, this would be the case. But there is no way this happens.
Even if the Chiefs were to wait till the second round, why would you want them to? If the Chiefs are going to draft a QB in the second round—and we all know that most likely three will be taken in the first 33 picks with the New York Jets, Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Oakland Raiders all in the mix for a QB—then the likelihood is that they get the third or fourth best quarterback in the class, at best.
So people aren’t comfortable with QB number one overall because it’s a weak class, but are comfortable hitching their wagon to the fourth best QB in this supposedly weak class? Something about that logic doesn’t pass the sniff test. If you’re going to draft a QB, pick the best player you can. You’re probably never going to be in this place again, so make it count.
5) The QB crop will be better next year, the Chiefs should wait.
Well this has two parts of it that don’t exactly make sense. First of all, how do we know the QB crop next year will be that much better? At this time last year Matt Barkley was the sure-fire number one overall pick and Tyler Wilson was looking like he might not be too far behind. Now some are saying both might last into the second round. If you’re going to believe that the QBs this year regressed that much, then you certainly have to realize that there is no certainty for next year.
The second part is that maybe this is right. The leader in the clubhouse right now for the #1 QB is Murray, so let’s say he tears it up and he’s the guy. If that’s the case, he’s probably going #1 overall, and are we hoping that the Chiefs have an awful, miserable, terrible season again so they can make that pick? We want the Chiefs to go 2-14 in Reid’s first year, show no improvement, waste another year of Jamaal Charles, Tamba Hali, Justin Houston, Eric Berry, and Derrick Johnson in their prime all so we can pick up Aaron Murray? I’m starting to feel sick.
But we’re nobody’s expecting that to happen. We’re thinking that Reid can come in here and coach this team up to a 6-8 win team. If so, that means they are picking in the middle of the draft in 2014 and whoever that best QB is most likely won’t be available. Which brings me to the next and final argument…
6) The Chiefs should build an excellent team around the QB and then go get their guy. Look at the trades the Falcons made for Julio Jones, the Redskins made for RGIII, and the Browns made for Trent Richardson, and the Bears made for Jay Cutler. And look at how the Saints got Drew Brees. They should just trade and go get their guy when everything else is in place.
There’s a lot wrong with this argument. The most obvious is that these types of situations don’t happen all that often. Situations like the Rams giving up the number two pick for a huge bounty from the Redskins only takes place because they just drafted a QB with their number one overall pick two years earlier. The Browns traded away a pick to the Falcons in 2011 that could have been used on a QB, but they got a huge haul in return and that entire administration has been removed. It’s not as though incompetence of another team can be relied on for your team’s future success.
Not to mention, how often does a situation like the Rams in 2012 actually happen? Precisely. Nobody knows because it’s not that often. And let’s not forget the fact that if the Chiefs were banking on that they’d be banking on another team, with a good QB, to fail miserably and want to trade out of that pick. Like I said, these things don’t happen that often.
Further, free agent QBs like Drew Brees don’t come available very frequently either. Plus, when and if these players do become available, there’s usually a caveat emptor warning. Brees had his elbow issues that teams were wary of. Even last year Peyton Manning was an uncertainty after four neck surgeries in 12 months. And those are the only two high profile, elite or franchise QBs to come onto the market in recent memory. If you’re counting at home that makes two in the last eight years (assuming Flacco doesn’t make it to the market this year).
There’s this weird phenomenon that exists where if a team drafts and develops a top flight QB, they end up keeping him. And that’s the biggest part. It’s not draft a QB, its draft and develop a QB. Even the best had to be tutored and developed on some level. The Chiefs have grown accustomed to letting another team do that, then try to find a situation where somebody gets squeezed out and they are the beneficiary (see: Bono, Steve; Grbac, Elvis; Green, Trent). All that has done is gotten the Chiefs no playoff win and it’s stretching into one of the longest streaks in professional sports.
I’m not going to sit here and say that Matt Barkley or Tyler Wilson will become superstars and win multiple Super Bowls. I wouldn’t even say that about Andrew Luck last year, because until they arrive in the NFL we just don’t know what they will be.
What I do know is this, your odds of winning a championship significantly improve with the better QB play that you have. The better QB play usually comes from the players chosen at the top of their QB class. If the history of the Kansas City Chiefs and Andy Reid is any indicator, this franchise will never be in this position to draft the best QB in a class in the next half century. The Chiefs have had hall of fame linebackers, left tackles, tight ends, and running backs in the last twenty years and not a single playoff win to show for it.
The Chiefs have drafted QBs, but for seemingly no other reason than to say they drafted them. As an organization they have never put in the time or the effort to draft AND develop a guy who can be the cornerstone for the organization. I have no doubt that there is a guy like that out there in this draft, and it’s up to the Chiefs to go find him.
I have been beating the drum on this topic for months now and I will continue to do so. I don’t believe anyone can convince me that it is the smart decision not to draft a QB. If the Chiefs don’t, and they trade for somebody’s backup, or wait till the second or third round and get the fourth or fifth overall best QB, then it’s the same old Chiefs.
Andy Reid was brought in to bring in a new era. He and Dorsey arrived in Kansas City to finally get a QB and correct the most glaring flaw that has plagued this organization for the entirety of its existence. If they ignore that then the organizational paradigm remains the status quo. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
I’m not sure about any of you, but another decade or two of fairly competitive 8-10 win seasons with nothing to show for it doesn’t exactly seem appealing to me.