Dec 9, 2012; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith (11) throws the ball before the game against the Miami Dolphins at Candlestick Park. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

All Eyes Now on the Chiefs

The Super Bowl marks a turning of the page for NFL fans, from 2012 to 2013.

With the Chiefs on the clock, all eyes go to us, because for any NFL fan, it’s all about next year now. It’s crunch time, and after weeks of reading about sports, I think our draft strategy comes down to an epic, philosophical battle about the quarterback positions: do we go for a one year rental vs. do we go for the rookie starter?

Cogent arguments have been put forth on both sides, by many of you. Alex Smith typifies the ultimate rental. He’s efficient and won’t make a lot of mistakes, but he may not win you games in the fourth quarter. Additionally, and unfairly, he would be an ex-Niner coming to 1 Arrowhead Drive, and we’ve seen that movie twice and might not be game for a third viewing. Or, we could prostrate ourselves before the altars of  Geno Smith or Tyler Wilson (or Mike Glennon or Matt Barkley) and hope whomever we choose turns into 2013’s RGIII, Andrew Luck or Russell Wilson.

The expectations for either choice are enormous, but the Chiefs must get this one right. I know it’s not fair to John Dorsey and Andy Reid. They are walking straight into a poisoned well, so they have to get this right the first time.

Much smarter people than me will roll out all of the statistics to prove that either an Alex Smith-type or a Geno Smith-type will secure a Super Bowl bid for our team. That level of analysis is beyond me. I want to get to the root of this issue, which really resides in the philosophy of how you win games.

Nate Silver, who is in the business of statistics and forecasting, had an interesting piece last week on the Super Bowl. Silver compared the twenty best defensive teams to play in a Super Bowl, along with the twenty best offensive teams. He found that the twenty best defensive teams had a 14-6 record in the Super Bowl, whereas the twenty best offensive teams managed just a 10-10 record.

If you believe that “defenses win Super Bowls,” then you’re probably a bit more comfortable with the rent-a-QB approach. That means in the draft, let’s build up our defense to be dominant, so that our offense can score when needed but the defense is the unit that will win games. If you think the Chiefs are one star QB away from winning it all, then you probably want Geno Smith right now because in this new day of the NFL, offensive impact is the path to redemption.

Let’s take a closer look at Silver’s research before we make a decision though. Here are the top twenty defensive teams to ever play in a Super Bowl, along with whether they won or lost and who their quarterback was. I’ve also added a column that is my own personal description of each quarterback, using a rating of superstar, game manager or horrible:

Season Team Win/Lose Quarterback Rating
1969 Vikings Lost Joe Kapp Horrible
1966 Packers Won Bart Starr Superstar
1968 Colts Lost Earl Morrall Game manager
2002 Buccaneers Won Brad Johnson Game manager
1985 Bears Won Jim McMahon Game manager
1977 Broncos Lost Craig Morton Game manager
1975 Steelers Won Terry Bradshaw Superstar
1969 Chiefs Won Len Dawson Superstar
1973 Dolphins Won Bob Griese Superstar
2008 Steelers Won Ben Roethlisberger Superstar
2000 Ravens Won Trent Dilfer Horrible
2010 Packers Won Aaron Rodgers Superstar
2010 Steelers Lost Ben Roethlisberger Superstar
1990 Giants Won Jeff Hostetler Horrible
1973 Vikings Lost Fran Tarkenton Superstar
1980 Eagles Lost Ron Jaworski Game manager
1996 Packers Won Brett Favre Superstar
2004 Patriots Won Tom Brady Superstar
1972 Dolphins Won Bob Griese Superstar
1967 Packers Won Bart Starr Superstar

There are some interesting numbers here. Remember, this list represents the top defensive teams to ever play in a Super Bowl. Here’s what we got, in terms of Super Bowl records per type of quarterback:

  • 14-6: Top Defensive Teams
  • 2-1: Horrible Quarterbacks on the Top Defensive Teams
  • 2-3: Game Managers on the Top Defensive Teams
  • 10-2: Superstars on the Top Defensive Teams

Clearly, if you have a top defensive team and a superstar quarterback, you will win the Super Bowl. But what’s interesting to me is that you can have a game managing QB or even a horrible QB, and as long as you have a killer D, not only will you improve your chances of getting to the Super Bowl, but you may actually win 50% of them!

Our defense last year was about the 13th best defense in the NFL, depending on who you ask. We know we have talent – perhaps with better coaching, we could have been in the top ten. So here’s the gamble: do we go for the superstar quarterback first, and then use our second and third picks to bolster the defense, or do we go with the rental QB and pick a first rounder who may well vault our defense to number 1 in the league?

For the first time, I’m actually now kind of torn on this question. I’ve been a “draft Geno” guy thus far, but imagine if we go defense and we get Star Lotulelei or Damontre Moore or Barkevious Mingo or Jarvis Jones or Dee Milliner? Last year, I advocated for Luke Kuechly, who just become the Defensive Rookie of the Year. Beefing up our defensive line or adding a killer linebacker or corner may be just what we need to literally have the best defense in the country.

It’s worth thinking about. What do you think, Addicts?!

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  • Patrick Allen

    Defensive rankings can be deceiving because football is a team game. If your offense never, ever scores then it is going to be hard for the defense to stop NFL offenses consistently. On the other hand, if your defense is terrible and the offense is always playing catchup in garbage time, the offense can rack up a bunch of yards and on paper, appear better than it actually is.

    I am excited to see Bob Sutton’s defense because I think it will be ore aggressive than Crennel’s. I feel like Romeo’s D was always back pedaling and trying to avoid giving up the big play but the offense was never good enough for that style of D.

    The Chiefs have to be able to score points to win. I’d rather go for a balanced team than try to put together an all-time great D.

  • Jeff Suther

    I have already addressed in previous comments that defense is the way to go. If we loaded the D up to the number 1 D in the nfl an Andy Reid o would score enough for Super Bowl contention.

  • Joel Wagler

    With the draft nearly 3 months away, I think we can turn our attention to baseball and college basketball for a while and not miss a thing.

    That being said, well done. Interesting take. As to your last paragraph…We could also end up with a Glen Dorsey, Tyson Jackson, or Ryan Sims just as easily.

    • john

      This is the “Arrowhead Addict” isn’t it? I’m thinking, this is where we Chief/NFL nuts come to talk football, even during baseball (?) and college basketball season. Just a thought.

  • Spencer

    Our defense was not bad last year, hell i would rate it top 10 considering how bad our offense was :our offense always gave the opposing offense more chances (and easier) chances to score…giving the opposing offenses far easier in scoring range (often in FG range before the drive even started early in the season)…our offense was what made our defense look so poor…

    Draft Geno now…our Defense is good, our offense is SOOOO bad to the point it declines on defense immensely….very few teams (especially in this league today) can win games when scoring under 13 points and giving up 2 turnovers per game….its just impossible…Go QB in this draft…improving the defense just so our offense still can’t score 13 points and turns the ball over so often is pathetic…

    Anyway…Alex Smith and Cassel are far to similar to my liking….

    THis is a post on another message board of which was also from even another message board

    He looked good in Harbaugh’s offense, there will be a learning curve to Andy’s WCO.

    Below are Alex Smith and Cassel’s career totals.

    Career Numbers in the exact same amount of years they’ve played except cassel only attempted 18 passes for 215 yards in his 1st 2 years in the league. Alex Smith didn’t play 2008. Not only does cassel have better #’s but in 1 less year.

    Matt Cassel = 1 Pro Bowl
    Alex Smith = 0 Pro Bowls

    Matt Cassel’s OC’s:

    2005 third string = McDaniels

    2006 on bench = McDaniels

    2007 on bench = McDaniels

    2008 starting 15 games = McDaniels

    2009 in KC = Haley

    2010 = Weiss

    2011 = Muir

    2012 = Daboll

    Total = 5 OC’s in 5 years being a starter

    Alex Smith’s OC’s:

    2005 playing 9 games = Mike McCarthy

    2006 staring = Norv Turner

    2007 starting = Jim Hostler

    2008 benched = Mike Martz

    2009 starting = Jimmy Raye

    2010 starting = jimmy raye, replaced by mike johnson 1/3 thru season

    2011 starting = greg roman

    2012 starting = greg roman

    Total = 6 OC’s (you could say 7 although i’m sure mike johnson kept everything intact) in 7 years of starting.

    Now lets look at this a bit deeper. Matt Cassel had 2 OC’s that were known to be QB guru’s, McDaniel’s and Weiss. And under thos OC’s he had 2 extrememly good years, 1 sent him to the probowl the other got him several accolades including

    2× AFC Offensive Player of the Week (2008)

    Back to back 400-yard games (2008)

    USA Today All-Joe team (2008)

    Now Alex smith had 3 OC’s that are known to be QB guru’s. Norv, McCarthy, and Martz, And you could even say his new HC Haurbaugh is a QB guru aswell. And smith had 1.5 good seasons before being yanked and replaced. No ProBowls and

    FedEx Air NFL Player of the Week (week 5, 2012)

    NFC Offensive Player of the Week (week 8, 2012)

    Who’s better as apposed to worth?

    alex smith due 8.5 millon in 2013

    matt cassel due 7.5 millon in 2013

    Matt Cassel in 2010 > Alex Smith in 2011/12 with a good OC and putting the right system around him.

    Lets compare their quote unquote probowl years shall we?

    matt cassel’s 2010 season :

    Alex Smith’s 2011 & 2012 season :

    Was Smith having a better year in 2012? Yes, was it going to be anything more than game manager? No

    What was the 49ers strength of schedule for the 2011 season? .449
    what was the chiefs strength of schedule for the 2010 season? .414

    People want the IT factor of a guy that can throw his team on his back and lead them to victory against the tough teams in this league, people argue about cassel all the time that he can’t do this and we can’t take peoples backups that don’t have the IT factor and can’t do that.. Guess what Alex smith is the same guy people don’t want.

    There is a reason he was benched. He is a game manager that has to have the right system around him, and a strong run game, just like cassel. He was benched for Kaep cause Kaep is a game changing gun slinger that can either run you to victory or throw you to victory. Neither of which alex can do. and he’s proved it.

    Oh and for those that say Smith is a better scrambler.

    Cassel’s carreer #:
    Att, Yrds, Avg, TD
    168 612 3.6 3

    Smith’s carreer #:
    Att, Yrds, Avg, TD
    212 761 3.58 4

    • ArrowFan

      Nice post there is only one Smith we need and he will be a rookie.

    • yeaheee

      proof to keep NEITHER olf them.
      cassel at 7 million.. why even do that to yourself? flynn is likely to be released. so sign him, cut cassel. draft a qb,

      • Justin R Groth

        Flynn is in the same tier as cassel and smith.

        • Danny W

          I’ve seen him do some crazy things in the Green Bay spread though. 600 yards passing is crazy town.

          • KCMikeG

            It is but then again he had the hands down best and deepest group of receivers in the NFL.

          • Danny W

            And was playing the weakest secondary in the league that year. Which are all things to consider before even seeing if he’s available and how much to pay for him. I wouldn’t mind bringing him in to compete with Geno Smith though as long as the cap wasn’t hit too hard.

      • Danny W

        I like that logic.

    • KCMikeG

      Great post backing up what I totally agree with – Alex Smith is NO better than Cassel so why cut the guy who cost less, is familiar with the team and could serve as a back up in 2014. Instead of dumping more money and another 3+ year contract to end up where we have already been. There are NO options in FA for our QB situation especially Flynn who has had only played a significant amount of time in three games and looked good due to the fact that he was playing with the best group of receivers in the NFL. He is due $7.25M next year – NO thanks. Draft Geno Smith and let’s get a CB with our #2 pick and we will be in great shape. Thanks for bringing the facts!

    • Troy Utt

      No he was benched because he had a concussion… With the team on a roll…Harbaugh did not turn the reigns back over so as not to lose momentum! That plan kind of back-fired! Sorry… I would still take Alex Smith over Cassel any day of the week & twice on Sunday!

  • Nemoi

    The Joe Montana years were a pretty fun time! Just Sayin’.

  • kyle mangione

    Look at the Bears that’s how far a defense will take you. I think their offense is OK they are like us we have a running back jc and receiver Dwayne bowe the only deep threat people. And bears have Marshall and forte that’s it

  • GDL40

    Exactly what I was thinking….. a terrible offense will make any defense look a lot worse than they really are. We have a good D ! of course it can get better and should address the CB position, but we are not going to win a playoff win with Alex Smith, and I think we’ve all heard enough of the “once every 10 year D-Linemen” …. I just hope we draft Geno in the first and the best ILB or CB available in the second !

  • mattU

    I’m a Geno Smith fan, but with Reid’s history of getting decent production from average to below average QBs, I could accept the Chiefs taking Star or Milliner with the 1st pick and getting the best QB available with their 2nd pick. Lotulelei is a complete beast (like Suh) and would likely give KC the best defensive line in the league if Tyson Jackson were to restructure and be retained, while Milliner could possibly give us one of the best defensive backfields.

  • Lucas_Hampton

    Our defense has A LOT of talent on it. Aside from the obvious holes at number 2 corner, pretty much the whole D-Line and SILB, our defense is pretty well set up. Our line isn’t the best obviously but our linebackers are beastly! Tamba Hali, Justin Houston, and Derrick Johnson all are menaces to opposing offenses. Brandon Flowers is one of the best CBs in the NFL. Eric Berry is still a top 16 SS. Kendrick Lewis is a pretty good FS if he can stay healthy more. Look at the 2011 and 2012 seasons, our defense was just outside the top 10 each time and above most other teams, but the problem was, they were on the field SO much due to the lack of offensive success, adding in a QB like Alex or Geno that can provide a kickstart to an offense that has leaned so heavily on Jamaal Charles will do several things: 1- it will take pressure off Charles and force the defense to cover the pass which opens up space for Charles to run more effectively 2- it will allow our defense to sit on the bench and rest leaving more energy to be beastly with making it more powerful than it already is. There are holes on the defense, this I cannot deny, but if the defense isn’t on the field so often, it will do better and look more like the potential top 5 that it is

    • yeaheee

      lot of talent, but there are actually 2 huge holes at DE. the team has literally zero starting DE’s once they cut jackson

      • Lucas_Hampton

        I would actually be fine with starting Allen Bailey in Jackson’s place, the kid has some potential and he actually has pass rush ability and I’m not sure I would like Star Lotulelei to be drafted by us either. But there are two huge holes there, Dorsey is awful, Jackson sucks, I would be fine with Bailey and some other guy as long as they can get pressure in the pocket and get to the QB a few times a year instead a few times over many years

        • Danny W

          I’d say Powe and Toribio would do find at DE, as would Pitouatoua.

          • KCMikeG

            Plus I have read some disappointing reviews of Star’s ability to rush the passer. Hardly want to replace Jackson, who was actually starting to play more and better with Poe next to him, with our 1st round pick with the same issue. Fool me once shame on you, fool twice shame on me.

          • Danny W

            If were not taking a quarterback it would be way easier for me to get behind a left tackle then another DE. Hopefully Jackson renegotiates as I don’t think he will get a better deal somewhere else. He seems prone to do it so we will see. I’d like to see a Toribio Poe Powe front sometimes just to see how it works. Maybe even just on goal line.

          • KCMikeG

            I think Pitoitua and Bailey compete with Poe for most improved DL net year. Toribio got demoted a little as the year went on and not sure what the issue is with Powe not gaining ground. I can’t get behind LT unless they know Albert’s back is going to be a problem in the future.

  • ArrowFan

    With a better QB we already have a top 10 if not top 5 D.

  • ArrowFan

    I don’t want Smith for the cost of a 4th round pick and a price of 8.5 mill for one season. I would rather keep MC around for no draft picks and only 7.5 mill for next season. Either way we will still need Geno.

    • yeaheee

      not to mention, people who want to throw the 3 or 4th rd picks, need to realize, thats the top of the round, not the mid, or the bottom, but the very top/2nd pick overall. thats a steep price.

  • Jason Ray Brawn

    Great article man i am of the mind set that our offense needs to catch up to our defense. That bein said i think we should trade #1 and move down a lil and grab a few extra picks and Milliner in the first and try to grab Wilson in the second. I just think thats a better plan for the Chiefs future. And remember people this could take a couple years to get us to the serious playoff contention level its not a quick easy process to go from last to first.

  • Joe Myers

    look at it like this was our defense bad enough that we have to need or should use our number 1 draft pick in that fashion . Is our offence good enough to pass on Geno smith !!! I think we all know the situation we are in as fans . Do we wlreally want to keep doing the same thing beefed up line av to good QB great run game good d but i think we should turn the page draft Geno smith and start a potential super power !!!

  • chiefridgy

    A good QB only makes our already good defense gooder!

  • Danny W

    I think the cornerback and middle linebacker position is pretty deep in free agency. I don’t think Alex Smith is a bad idea but only for a one year deal to compete with Geno Smith to play out of his mind.

  • Outback Chief

    The Chiefs should upgrade any position that presents itself, they shouldn’t have more than a handful of untouchables.