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Aug 26, 2011; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Ricky Stanzi (13) throws a pass against the St Louis Rams in the second half at Arrowhead Stadium. The Rams won the game 14-10. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-US PRESSWIRE

What's With All the Excitement for Ricky Stanzi?

Contrary to how the above post title appears, I do like Ricky Stanzi. Who couldn’t? He’s an America-loving (by the way, watch this video if you haven’t already), long-hair growing, mid-west guy that you can’t help but root for. But rooting for and being excited about are two different things.

For some reason, Ricky Stanzi getting snaps with the second team during the Chiefs-Rams preseason game is cause for celebration; as if the depth chart was the only thing standing in the way of the Chiefs’ 2011 fifth round pick from stardom and that playing with the second stringers on Saturday is the next step to his all-but-certain takeover of the ‘Stanzi City Chiefs.’

Maybe it is. After all, we haven’t been able to see much of Stanzi play, and nothing outside of a few passes in meaningless preseason games. For lack of significant evidence, it’s hard to say how good or how bad Stanzi would be as an NFL starter, either right now or in the future. What we can do is look at some college stats and read a few words from somebody much smarter than myself.

It can’t be denied Stanzi improved during his three years as a starting quarterback with the Iowa Hawkeyes. In 2008, he went 150/254 (59.1%) for 1,956 yards, 14 TDs and 9 INTs. In 2009, 171/304 (56.3%), 2,417 yards, 17 TDs, 15 INTs. In his senior campaign of 2010, he capped of graduation with an impressive 221/345 (64.1%), for 3,004 yards, 25 TDs and 6 INTs. While the total numbers aren’t as impressive as higher drafted quarterbacks, you have to like how it seemed he ‘got it’ the longer he was with the team.

In the book, War Room, Jim Nagy, a national scout for the Chiefs, is quoted as saying: “If I could pick a quarterback who we’ll all look back in five years and say, ‘Can you believe he lasted that long?’ it would be Ricky Stanzi of Iowa.

“No one is talking about him as a high draft pick. He was the most improved player I saw all year. There’s something about the guy. And I’ll tell you something else: When I was watching tape [at the Senior Bowl] of practice, he was there, too. Watching Senior Bowl practice tape on his own.”

Seeing the stats and reading those words, I can understand why people would get a little bit excited about the notion of watching Stanzi operate with the second group. But all those stats and all those praises pre-date his NFL career; and I’ll be honest, I haven’t garnered any excitement watching Stanzi in his limited exposure over the last two preseasons (by the way, Stanzi’s numbers in all preseason games combined are 20/41 (49%) for 255 yards, 1TD, 1 INT and 9 sacks).

I know what you are going to say: “knee-jerk reaction”, “not enough opportunities”, “small sample size”, “developmental player”, “you’re an idiot”, “come up to Iowa and I’ll give you something not to be excited about.” And I’ll admit, those are all fair (except the last one). There is just simply not a big enough body of work to really think anything of Stanzi. This, however, is not a good sign.

Remember last season, after Matt Cassel got hurt, when the Chiefs started that Calabaloo, Falko, Tyler Palko guy. During that time which can only be described as [insert joke of ineptude here], the Chiefs went 1-3, helped by Palko’s 796 yards, 2 TDs and 7 INTs. Before being replaced by Kyle Orton with three games left on the season, Chiefs fans far and wide were screaming for Ricky Stanzi. Why not start the rookie to get him some experience, it couldn’t be worse than the travesty fans were forced to watch over the course of a month.

But I’m not one of those fans that think former head coach Todd Haley was bat $#!+ crazy, nor am I going to consider the conspiracy theory that he was trying to get fired by playing Palko. I honestly believe Haley was playing the guy he felt gave them the best chance to win. And while we can argue all day about how ready Orton was after arriving from Denver or how odd it was to just bring Orton in for a single, dislocated-finger-resulting pass in Chicago, the fact still remains that both those options were implemented before Stanzi was considered.

While many think of this as an indictment towards Haley, what always came to my mind was: “how bad must Stanzi look in practice?” I think it was clear last season Stanzi wasn’t ready, and not even in Haley’s last game as head coach did he see the field, although it was at least considered.

Stanzi is, like most fifth round picks, a work in progress. That’s not a bad thing. Some first round picks are works in progress, such as Jake Locker spending a year behind Matt Hasselbeck in Tennessee. The talent can be there, and once Matt Cassel’s time in KC is done, Stanzi could be the guy having learned the NFL at a pace that doesn’t overwhelm him. For all I, or anyone else, knows, Stanzi could be the next Tom Brady.

Or he could be the next fifth round pick that never made an impact in the NFL.

Either way, I doubt the Chiefs expect to find out this year. So is he really worth getting excited about?

Ask me again in 2013.

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