Chiefs Need To Be Like Mike... I Mean The Steelers

Last week, for most Chiefs fans, was a week of high emotions. At least it was for this Chiefs fan. The post last week, Manti’ Te’o: KC Chiefs Future Bust, hit a tender chord for many when I suggested the Chiefs would be better served taking the ILB from Notre Dame instead of the QB from West Virginia.

The more we bantered about the issue of who to take at #1 next year, the more I realized the framework and context for my position has not been entirely unearthed.

One unregurgitatable axiom of the past four years is the all too chummy chant: the Patriot Way… the Patriot Way… the Patriot Way.

However, I came to the realization a long time ago, and have written several pieces on the topic (The Patriot Waste, The Patriot Waste II, The Chiefs Arrested Development) that New England is not who the Chiefs should be attempting to emulate.

That would be the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Even Mr. Clark “Going on a Bear” Hunt, thinks the Chiefs should pattern themselves more like the Steelers. So, let’s first do some comparison shopping and see if there’s really something there worth emulating.

While the Steelers current record is somewhat unexpected their opponents passing yards ranking of 32nd in the league is even less imaginable. I’m sure it’s not these Steelers that Clark had in mind.

The chart above reveals that the Steelers have done very well in the first round at drafting Pro Bowl quality players no matter where they were positioned in the round. It also shows that the Chiefs did well too in almost every year prior to Scott Pioli coming to town.

If you add all the draft positions together for the last four years for each of the Chiefs and the Steelers you can get a better mathematical representation of just how well the Steelers have done, even though they drafted much lower than the Chiefs. Chiefs =  45 (11 + 26 + 5 + 3) or an average drafting position of 11.25 for the past four seasons. Steelers =  105 (24 + 31 +18 + 32) or an average drafting position of 26.25.

Obviously, success in the league is not only dependent on how well you draft in the first round but, from there and beyond.

How well teams draft “after” the first round is probably more key to their success. This graph confirms the success that Mr. Hunt is probably referring to. When you can select Pro Bowl players even off the street (UDFAs) you’re likely to consistently have a better than 500 record.

The presupposition this third graph is based upon is that the Steelers success is partly based upon drafting well in the first 4 rounds every year. Looking back over the past four years doesn’t immediately bare that out. Although the past two years is still likely too early to properly evaluate, in 2009, Ziggy Hood  > Tyson Jackson and I’d clearly take  Mike Wallace + Craig Ubik + Keenan Lewis + “no one” over Alex Magee + Matt Cassel + Mike Vrabel + Donald Washington. Hope you picked up on that one. ;)   In 2010 Eric Berry vs. Maurkice Pouncey is a toss up because they’re both Pro Bowl quality (and I’m giving the benefit of the doubt to Berry). Jason Worilds and Jon Asamoah are a wash as well because both are solid starters and Thaddeus Gibson now plays for the Tennessee Titans.

This last graph also indirectly points to the superior coaching that the Pittsburgh Steelers have maintained over the years. Why? Because, if the Chiefs and the Steelers have both drafted (nearly) evenly over the past four seasons (rounds 1-4) then the difference must be found in the support they provide their players once they come on board.

Need vs. BPA Definitions Expanded
When drafting, you may think there’s a bit of a guessing game going on. However, to assume that’s true, you have to be somewhat of a cynic or maybe you’re just somehow associated with a franchise that is traditionally losing. When a team traditionally strong up and down the roster comes to pick in the mid-20s on a regular basis, they can afford to go for the best player available, which only serves to make that franchise stronger in the long run.

So, what do you rely upon to make this decision? Your greatest position of “need” or the BPA?

Maybe neither.

If you’re a millionaire who owns a professional football team in the NFL (or a GM working for one of these millionaires) you have to look at prospects as “commodities of value” and not just people who you like or dislike or players who could “fill holes” in the lineup.

If a player has a widespread and widely accepted value that is verifiable across the league then that player is simply worth more money. And more importantly, worth more on the field of play. To go forward with a draft, and not take the highest valued player possible, is to waste, in many cases, millions of dollars. And once again and more importantly, waste their years of greater contribution on the field of play.

When a team selects a player of less value, it creates a void of talent. A black hole that last for years on the practice field, in the clubhouse, in game situations and in the community as well as the minds of the teammates who suffer the loss of — what could have been.

Last week when I suggested the Chiefs should be taking Manti’ Te’o first at the top of round one, that was based on this idea of taking the player with the greatest long term value to the whole organization and not just what is commonly called the BPA.

Some AA fans argued that there may be better defensive players than Te’o and I would agree that if there are players, and I believe there are about a dozen, who are better than Geno Smith, then we should take one of those players. However, my suggestion to go for Manti’ was also based upon what has become public knowledge about his strong character and leadership. Traits that would be valuable to the Chiefs considering recent events.

Now, some will argue that a QB is going to have the greatest long term value. In many cases this may be true. However, taking Te’o over Matt Barkley or Tyler Wilson is easier for fans to accept than comparing him to Geno Smith who has now become a ‘tweener in the sense that he’s no longer rated at the top of the draft board but, somewhere near ten and the teens, depending who you talk to.

Some have already speculated that Smith will rise again, once the off season begins and all of the QBs rise as they traditionally have. I’m hoping though, as Lyle Graversen pointed out Monday in his piece called,”Mike Glennon: A Possible “Plan B” For Chiefs QB”, that there is still great QB value to had at the top of the 2nd round.

If the Chiefs take a top rated talent “like” Manti’ Te’o at the top of the first and a top rated QB at the top of the second they may be able to pull of a coup like the Bengals did last year with top rated  WR AJ Green in the first and QB Andy Dalton in the second or even like the Browns earlier this year taking the top rated RB Trent Richardson in the first and then using their 22nd pick to take QB Brandon Weeden.

If the Chiefs are going to achieve the long term success of an organization like the Pittsburgh Steelers they’re simply going to have to evaluate better and draft better. You can’t do that by continuing to take less than the best — meaning, the most valued — players when those players become available.

To do anything less would be to deliberately diminish the Kansas City Chiefs future and legacy. Even if by just a little.

Now, do I really think the Chiefs will do what I’m hoping for? No. If a new GM and new head coach come in after this season, one of the most predictable of events of all is that a new QB would be sure to follow. So, there you have it. You’ll likely have Geno Smith wearing red and gold next summer.

I only hope that makes the Chiefs more like the Steelers than well, the Chiefs. Go Chiefs!

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  • Patrick Allen

    I agree with you that the Chiefs need to do a better job drafting in the later rounds.

    The biggest difference, however, is that the Steelers got themselves a franchise QB.

    The six years before that, they struggled a bit going 6-10, 10-5, 13-3, 9-7, 6-10, 7-9. Well, struggling for the Steelers.

    They’ve been more consistent since getting Ben, with their worst season being 8-8. They were able to win some in the 90′s with some underwhelming QB’s but with the way the game has changed I am not sure that would work any more.

    • ladner morse

      Big Ben… or is it Troy Polamalu? Hehe.

      Yes… we can agree the Chiefs need a franchise QB. I’m just unsure that Geno Smith is that kind of QB. For the Chiefs sake… I hope he is… because it looks more and more like he’s headed for Arrowhead fame… or infamy.

      In the end… the Chiefs need to draft better up and down the draft and the perhaps lost point here is that Scott Pioli hasn’t really done that in his four years.

  • Leon Ritz

    Good read and I love Charts. As with your Mike Glennon article I still think the way to go is to draft Te’o in the first and Glennon either in the second or by trading back into the first. Even if we get the first overall pick I think this is the way to go. Lets we get get the first with Jacksonville second and Arizona somewhere around 4-5, I’m willing to bet Arizona would give up a lot to get in front of jacksonville to take Smith. I think Arizona would give us their first rounder and second rounder this year and a first next year. Now the problem with this is if Arizona takes Smith then Jacksonville could very well take Glennon, if this happens then I am hoping Murray declares. I would be completely happy getting Te’o in the First Murray in the second and having another second this year along with an extra first next year when the QB class might be better. I know it’s not the popular opinion here but I have no issue missing out on Smith as I don’t think he is going to be great at the next level, I do however think Te’o will be great and a QB like Glennon or Murray will be just as good as Smith in the NFL if not better.

  • Michael Shaw

    Laddy, I am in your corner if you are suggesting that the boys take Manti Te’o with our first pick. Then I think we can get the kid from K-state or some other QB in the second or go ahead and trade back into round 1 if we need to.

  • david

    i would love te’o in the 1st then go after a qb later not sure who i would go after i always liked mccarron, but he is staying at bama next yr


    Nobody would argue that Te’o would make the Chiefs LB corps one of the best in the league. But, we also know that first and foremost is the disaster at QB. I can’t say that Smith is our answer, but if we have the first pick, this may be the year to dangle it out there so that we can see what that #1 is worth. Would J’Ville give up their first and also a second, or perhaps more, to get Smith? Maybe Arizona gives up the ranch to get the pick. This draft could very well define this franchise for years to come. Now, all the Chiefs have to do on the field is………oh, God, I can hardly get the word out………lose, and hope that the Jags somehow luck their way to a win. Yeah, I know. They couldn’t even beat a horrible Jets team at home. And they only gave up one touchdown!