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: No More Fear
by Jeff Herr,posted Jan 22 2013 7:03PM
The Chiefs are staring down the barrel of the most important decision in this franchise's history. With the number one overall pick, they can choose any player they would like from the college ranks. With that, they can choose their QB of the future, or they can choose a different player, try to find a QB on the scrap heap and tread the same water they’ve been treading for the last 25 years.
The Chiefs are an organization paralyzed by fear. Fear of becoming irrelevant and fear of failing publicly. This fear has ruled the Chiefs organization for the last two decades. After their top ten QB pick of Todd Blackledge busted out in the late 80’s the Chiefs have not drafted a QB in the first round since.
In that time this organization has paraded around multiple former San Francisco 49ers QBs in Steve DeBerg, Joe Montana, Steve Bono, and Elvis Grbac. They’ve also collected other teams’ former cast offs including Dave Kreig, Trent Green, Damon Huard, and most recently, Matt Cassel. In that time, only two of those QBs have won a playoff game for this franchise. Neither won a championship game or a Super Bowl.
The only quarterback the Chiefs drafted to start a game for them in the last 25 years is Brodie Croyle, who has a stellar 0-10 record as a starter. Croyle was taken in the third round and hyped up as the QB of the future.
What the Chiefs are left with is a battered franchise. With a new coach, front office, and direction often comes a new quarterback. New coach Andy Reid did as much when he took Donovan McNabb with his first pick as Eagles coach in 1999. Both Reid and GM John Dorsey have ties to Green Bay which saw Mike Holmgren trade for Brett Favre and then leave Green Bay to head to Seattle and immediately trade for Matt Hasselbeck.
Conventional wisdom says that a quarterback will be selected. But the narrative this year suggests that is not the right play, whether its the Chiefs or anybody in the first round. It’s a QB class that’s perceived as weak and therefore has nobody worth taking number one overall.
The alternative getting the most noise is Texas A&M left tackle Luke Joeckel. Joeckel gets this years moniker as “best left tackle in _____ years.” But even if he’s that good, does that make him the smarter play?
Looking back at recent high profile left tackles taken, the evidence would suggest that he wouldn’t be. Jake Long was taken #1 overall in 2008 and although his team made the playoffs in 2009, hasn’t won more than seven games since and might not even be back with the team next year. Oh by the way, the Dolphins passed up on Matt Ryan and ended up drafting a quarterback in the top 10 last year in Ryan Tannehill.
Joe Thomas was drafted by the Browns number three overall and has played at an all-pro level only to lead his team to zero playoff appearances. While a solid piece of the franchise, he has done little to reverse the moribund fortunes of Cleveland. Even with Thomas, the most optimistic the Browns have looked in years is with last year's first round pick Josh Weeden in place at quarterback.
The issue resides in value. Everyone agrees that the quarterback position is the most valuable position in all of professional sports. Even though football is the consummate team game, the quarterback has a disproportionately high effect on the win total.
All things being equal, a marginal improvement in quarterback play leads to more wins than a marginal improvement in left tackle play. It’s for this reason that, as long as the Chiefs are sure no player is worse than Matt Cassel, a quarterback should be taken.
The two major arguments against this are the aforementioned perceived weakness of the talent pool, and the idea that that marginal improvement could come from elsewhere besides the number one overall pick, whether that be in free agency or the first pick of the second round.
Now, the perceived weakness of this class is made that much worse by the success of the one that immediately precedes it. If so many highly touted rookie QBs hadn’t lived up to the hype, then things might look a lot better this year. But think about this, put Andrew Luck of last year and Robert Griffin III in 2009 or 2010 drafts, and do Matt Stafford and Sam Bradford still go number one? Even though they were the consensus best picks? Just because there is not Andrew Luck or RGIII doesn’t mean there is no good quarterback in this draft.
But with the success of later round picks like Russell Wilson (3rd round), Colin Kaepernick (2nd round) and Andy Dalton (2nd round), maybe the Chiefs would be better served to wait? The only problem here is that you’re taking all mitigating factors and putting them in the hands of other teams.
Every quarterback carries risk. In a crowded year like this one where no QB has firmly taken hold of the #1 spot that risk is even higher. The best way to mitigate this risk is to have player evaluation you trust, which we assume the Chiefs do at this point. The next best way is to be in a position where you can choose what risk you take. By that I mean for the Chiefs to be in a position to choose the quarterback with the least amount of risk or that they think they can manage best.
The Chiefs are in that position. If they wait till the second round, they lose that advantage and depend on other teams leaving them with the least risk. The NFL draft is the last place you want to depend on other teams to help you out. As we’ve all seen over the last few years, its nearly impossible to predict what other teams will do. That’s adding another layer of risk to a position and pick that already carries enough with it.
There are a lot of high upside possibilities out there for the Chiefs and its up to them to find the one they believe will be able to attain it. What they can’t do is pass up the opportunity they’ve been waiting on for the last 25 years, to correct the most prominent mistake in franchise history.
Big assumption that Geno Smith, Matt Barkley, or Tyler Wilson is better than Cassel or Quinn.
So...what if the "player evaluation that you trust" is telling you that none of the players in this draft are more than marginally better than Matt Cassel. What then?
That's a good point and a valid concern. I personally believe that there are multiple players in this draft that are much better than Matt Cassel. If they absolutely do not think it's that much of an improvement, and they turn out to be right, then we have the right people. BUT, if they turn out to be wrong, then it's an organizational issue.
Also, if not now, then when? They're (hopefully) never going to be in this position again and would have to do the same thing they've been doing for the last quarter century that has gotten us nowhere. Odds are that there is a franchise quarterback in this draft, the Chiefs just need to find him.
Yes, odds are that there is a starting QB in this draft. But a FRANCHISE player? A Peyton Manning or Andrew Luck or Matt Stafford or Eli Manning? There's no guarantee that you'll find anyone worth a 1/1 pick, not even a Sam Bradford or Carson Palmer. It happened in 1999, and 2002, and 2007. It is entirely possible that no QBs are worth the first pick. Reaching for Tim Couch or JaMarcus Russell simply because "it's time" would be even stupider than waiting 20 years to draft a QB in the 1st.
It's not about drafting A quarterback, it's about drafting THE RIGHT quarterback.