The Kansas City Chiefs are the worst team in the NFL in 2012 and the primary reason is poor QB play.
Only it didn’t have to turn out this way.
The team had the chance to draft a young QB of the future. You see, in early 2011, the Chiefs worked out both Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick… but took Jonathan Baldwin instead.
Back then, things were different for the Chiefs. The team was coming off a 10-6 season and an AFC West Championship. QB Matt Cassel had put forth a Pro Bowl season in which he threw 27 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. The general consensus at the time was that the Chiefs lacked the receiving threats necessary to compete in the playoffs. Dwayne Bowe and Tony Moeaki had been shut down in the team’s playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens in January.
Still, at the time, we here at Arrowhead Addict thought taking a QB early in the draft would be a good idea.
Let’s take a little trip back in time to our post on the Chiefs working out Nevada QB Colin Kaepernick.
The Chiefs have already had a private workout with QB Andy Dalton and now they are looking at Kaepernick. This is curious because both QB’s are projected to go around the late first to third rounds.
I don’t take this as an indictment on Matt Cassel. I take it as an indictment on Brodie Croyle. Quite frankly, the Chiefs would be wise to grab as talented a QB as they can in this draft without wasting a pick. The team is getting better and deeper each year and Scott Pioli would be extremely foolish not to have solid depth at team’s most important position. We saw last year that without Matt Cassel the Chiefs were pretty much screwed.
Matt Cassel is about to turn 29 and while he should be entering his prime as a QB, there is always the chance that he could get injured or flame out. QB’s like Dalton and Kaepernick aren’t guys you want
starting from day one but they both have huge upside and potential.
The Chiefs are rolling with Matt Cassel in 2011 but what about beyond that? What if Cassel gets hurt or stops progressing? The Chiefs are likely wisely taking warning from teams like the Arizona Cardinals and Minnesota Vikings. Those teams are loaded with talent and are wasting years because they don’t have the right guy playing QB.
My guess is that the Chiefs are strongly considering taking a QB in the third round if they right guy is available. If Dalton or Kaepernick were to slide that far, they’d be wise to snatch one of them up. This way they could inject the QB position with depth and developmental talent without causing too much of a QB controversy.
The best thing for the Chiefs would be for Matt Cassel to continue to develop and to continue making Pro Bowls but it certainly won’t hurt the Chiefs to have a very solid backup plan just in case.
It was clear, even following that playoff season, that the Chiefs would have been wise to invest in the QB position, something they have failed miserably at for decades.
Instead, here is what happened. The Chiefs held the 21st pick in the draft. The favorite to be the Chiefs’ selection at the time was DT Phil Taylor. Fans had been clamoring for a nose tackle since the Chiefs instituted the 3-4 defense.
When the Chiefs’ number got called inside Radio City Music Hall, Taylor was still on the board. I was on hand, along with AA staffer Big Matt. We were pretty positive that Taylor would be the pick. Only Scott Pioli surprised us and traded the pick to the Cleveland Browns. KC moved back to #27 and picked up an extra third round pick.
First the good news. The Chiefs used Cleveland’s third round pick, #70 overall, to select OLB Justin Houston. A clear home run for Pioli.
Now the bad news. KC’s new first rounder, #27, quickly became #26 when the Baltimore Ravens, who owned that pick, failed to make a selection during the allotted time because they were trying to make a trade. The Chiefs used the pick to select Jonathan Baldwin.
While it may be a bit early to call Baldwin a bust, especially given KC’s terrible QB play, things aren’t looking good.
Nine picks later, the Bengals selected Dalton and with the next selection, the 49ers selected Kaepernick.
To have nabbed Dalton or Kaepernick, the Chiefs would have either had to trade back a little farther or they would have had to use their first round pick. At the time, Cam Newton, Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder were already off the board, so the Chiefs would have been using their first round pick on what would have been the fifth or sixth QBs selected.
Now it is easy to sit here now and say that Pioli should have taken either Dalton or Kaepernick but as they say, hindsight is 20/20. Given the circumstances at the time, we may have all thought it was crazy to spend a first round pick on a QB, considering the season Cassel had just had.
On the other side of the argument, you have the San Francisco 49ers and Jim Harbaugh. The 49ers, who many assumed would be selecting a QB given the failures of Alex Smith to that point, selected Aldon Smith at #7. They could have taken Locker, Gabbert or Ponder but they went defense instead.
In 30 NFL games, Mr. Smith has 33.5 sacks, 95 tackles, five forced fumbles and one interception. This season, he has 19.5 sacks and is closing in on the single-season sack record.
Then in the second round, the 49ers took Kaepernick.
Hindsight aside, herein lies the difference between Scott Pioli and the Chiefs and the 49ers. Not only did the 49ers make QB a priority, they made getting the RIGHT QB a priority. They did their homework, passing on three QBs who are having mediocre, at best, careers thus far, and got their man early in round two.
The Bengals took a similar path. They drafted AJ Green #4 overall, also passing on the Locker, Gabbert, Ponder combo and selected their QB next.
Many of us want the Chiefs to take a chance on a QB in the first round this offseason, likely with the #1 overall pick. It has been so long since the Chiefs have selected a QB in the first round and the QB play has been so terrible that those feelings are natural.
But what this situation illustrates to us is that while it is important that the Chiefs get themselves a QB early, that it is important that they get the right QB early.
Pioli has shown to be a failure in this department. He evaluated both Dalton and Kaepernick and passed on them in favor of Jon Baldwin. While WR was a position of need for the Chiefs at the time, Pioli could have selected a QB late in the first round and still nabbed Torrey Smith or Randall Cobb in the second.
Lastly, Harbaugh’s decision to bench Alex Smith in favor of Kaepernick this season is absolutely astounding. Smith had been playing well and the 49ers were a Super Bowl favorite. The move shows that not only were the 49ers confident in their selection of Kaepernick, the were willing to take the chance to do what it took to give themselves what they thought was the best possible chance at winning a championship.
Had the Chiefs done that, had the team’s talent evaluators been able to spot the potential problems and limitations of having Matt Cassel as their QB, perhaps the 2011 draft would have turned out differently for the Chiefs.
When Clark Hunt sits down to decide Scott Pioli’s fate, he needs to look at situations like the 2011 draft to determine whether or not he should move forward with the current regime.
Pioli has done some nice things in KC but he has also failed in his evaluation of the team’s most important position and he has whiffed on most of his first round selections. That, combined with his failure to put together a stable coaching staff, should be more than enough to convince Hunt to move on.
The 2013 offseason could very well be the most important in franchise history. The team will have prime draft position. The roster has enough talent for things to be turned around rather quickly. The team has enough cap space to keep some of its stars and also make a play for some top free agents.
But it all starts at the top, with Clark Hunt. If Hunt can make the right move, it could start a chain reaction that will change the Chiefs’ fortunes for the next decade.
If, however, Hunt makes the wrong decision, his father’s franchise will likely continue to be the laughingstock of the NFL for years to come .