For the next three days (at least), Matt Cassel will continue to be bashed in every football circle within a 100-mile radius of Kansas City. Lying beneath a title that associates his name with "sucks," there will be newly uploaded YouTube videos running loops of his latest lowlight(s) in slow-motion. The analogies of die-hards in faded Joe Montana jerseys will assuredly fall somewhere between Steve Bono and a third-world dictator.
No. 7 is simultaneously over-hyped and over-criticized. When he wins, his supporters hail him like a Greek deity. When he loses, mobs lambaste him like he just traded their puppy for a Klondike bar.
The truth: He's an average quarterback that can flourish with a ground game but withers without one. Cassel isn't a long-term answer, but he's better than any alternative in clear sight.
No Lombardi trophies are traveling to Kansas City with the Chiefs' current quarterback situation. Worse passers, such as Trent Dilfer, have a Super Bowl ring in their jewelry collection, but Matt Ryan isn't carving up the 2000 Baltimore Ravens defense for 40 points in his wildest dreams.
Rewind recent history, add the heavily pursued Peyton Manning to Kansas City's depth chart and the Chiefs are considered title contenders this morning.
But the Chiefs don't necessarily need a living legend, they just need reliability.
The stars are in perfect alignment for Scott Pioli to draft a quarterback in the 2013 NFL Draft. Kansas City's general manager has trade bait in Dwayne Bowe, Matt Cassel's front-loaded contract will only have two years remaining, and as of Sept. 4, just one team—the Jacksonville Jaguars—has more salary-cap space (Pro Football Talk).
Kansas City hasn't drafted a quarterback in the first round since 1983 (Todd Blackledge). It's not coincidental that the franchise has endured 18 years without a playoff victory—only the Detroit Lions (20) and Cincinnati Bengals (21) have suffered longer streaks.
The organization needs to spend a first-round pick on a passer this spring, but which Heisman hopeful should it be?
In a perfect world, Kansas City fans would be tailgating with (Matt) "Barkley" imprinted on the back of their jerseys next fall. In a perfect world, Mila Kunis would be scrounging through your phone for evidence of questionable texts with Olivia Wilde while you were deciding to bid on the first showcase.
Sunshine, rainbows and bedroom sets aside, Matt Barkley's real-estate agent probably won't be listed with a 913 area code next year. There are less-talented teams that are every bit as desperate as Kansas City for a quarterback, and they will likely be able to provide more valuable chips (draft picks) at the bargaining table.
So, who is left?
At 6'6", 260 pounds, Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas fits the mold of a scout's ideal stature for a the position—big body, bigger arm. But if he fulfills his potential, he will be highly considered as a potential top-five selection. If Kansas City wants him, it will have to pay a steep price.
Formerly scouted as a high school tight end, Thomas is still getting his feet wet at the position. He accounted for 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions last season, and through two games in 2012, he has only completed 59 percent of his passes against inferior competition (Georgia Tech and Austin Peay).
Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson is another prospect whose draft stock skyrocketed last year. He's more NFL-ready than the aforementioned Thomas for a number of reasons (experience, offensive system, etc.), but he left last Saturday's contest with another concussion. Three words will cause any quarterback's stock to rapidly plummet: "Concussion-like symptoms."
There are others worth mentioning—e.g. Aaron Murray, Tyler Bray and Landry Jones—but at this point, none of the three scream, "franchise quarterback."
West Virginia's senior slinger is often compared to a guy that has grabbed a headline or two this past week: Robert Griffin III. Make no mistake, the two aren't clones: Griffin's top-end speed maxes out a few miles per hour faster, and his throwing mechanics were a hair sharper coming out of Baylor.
However, the two are eerily similar in more ways than a few. Both share similar builds (Smith—6'3", 214 pounds; Griffin—6'2", 217 pounds), showcase exceptional pocket presence, operated in spread offenses throughout college, and at the end of the day both are playmaking roadrunners whose passes cause global warming after burning through the atmosphere. (Disclaimer: Bleacher Report does not condone the causing of global warming.)
In terms of accomplishments, Geno Smith isn't within shouting distance of the Heisman Trophy winner, Griffin, whose NFL debut ended with a victory over record-breaking passer Drew Brees. But remember, at this point last year, if you asked the average person who Robert Griffin III was, the leading reply probably would've tabbed him as a groomsman at the royal wedding.
It's hard to measure the two stars statistically. In their third season, Smith's numbers (65.8 completion percentage, 4,385 yards, 31 touchdowns, 7 interceptions) dwarfed Griffin's (67 completion percentage, 3,501 yards, 22 touchdowns, 8 interceptions). But to be fair, Griffin missed the majority of his second year after tearing his ACL in the third game.
The same complication will hold true as Smith puts the finishing touches on his collegiate career this season. Unlike Griffin, he will have little-to-no familiarity with his opponents due to West Virginia's immigration to the Big 12.
Nevertheless, skeptics will say that Smith's numbers are inflated by the spread offense, even though he pinpointed 32 completions on 36 attempts (with three drops) in his only contest so far this year. Naysayers will rebut his success by reiterating that he played in the Big East Conference his first three seasons, but he set a single-game school record for completions (38) and yards (463) against No. 2 LSU in 2011.
In the end, this much is true: Geno Smith possesses what Matt Cassel doesn't—a cannon-like arm, drag-strip speed and enough highlights to produce a flashier video (NSFW: language) to a Grammy-nominated song than the original version.
Cassel is talented enough to take his team to the playoffs, maybe even win a game while there. He's certainly one of the top-32 passers in the league. But, excluding the quarterback position, the Kansas City Chiefs have enough talent to be championship contenders.
If a change isn't made, the team will continue to trip over the same hurdle and fall short of the finish line. If Geno Smith follows in the footsteps of the man he's constantly linked to, clearing hurdles should be no problem.
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