The Kansas City Chiefs roster boasts names like Jamaal Charles, Dwayne Bowe and Dexter McCluster: there isn't a drought of talent at the skill positions. But chains are only as strong as their weakest links, which was proven by Matt Cassel's and Brady Quinn's inability to move them throughout 2012.
In all likelihood, the aforementioned duo will book one-way tickets out of town next offseason. One—or possibly two—of the following five players could land in Kansas City, turn the franchise around and eventually right the ship.
The Chiefs' new head coach, Andy Reid, has a history of bringing out the best in quarterbacks. The passing game is his bread and butter. [Waits for you to echo the last all-too-easy Andy Reid joke in your memory.] So much so, he was oftentimes criticized by the then-local Philadelphia media for seemingly shunning the run throughout games, despite starting a dynamic stable of running backs—from Brian Westbrook to LeSean McCoy—during his 14-year tenure with the Eagles.
One simple rule is etched in stone: If an Andy Reid-led team is successful, so is its quarterback.
Given Reid's guru-like status with passers of yesteryear, he should be able to mold the following five quarterbacks into legitimate threats and prop up the Chiefs' one-dimensional offense.
The football community became enamored with Matt Flynn in a meaningless 2011 game against the Detroit Lions, in which Flynn torched his adversaries for six touchdowns and 480 yards on 31-of-44 passing.
Obviously, a quarterback—no matter the circumstances—has to possess a load of talent to post those lofty numbers against an NFL defense.
Any NFL defense.
And a trade scenario makes sense from a couple of standpoints: Flynn wants to compete for a starting job—something that he likely won't do in 2013 if he remains with the Seattle Seahawks—and whispers of John Dorsey, who spent time with Flynn in Green Bay, signing on as the new Chiefs general manager have gained decibels throughout the past week.
Green Bay personnel man John Dorsey interviewing for the Chiefs GM job today. Been considered the likely choice since Andy Reid got there.— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) January 8, 2013
Off the field, the connections are there.
But Flynn's hype train should come equipped with a "buyer beware" sign before another team gambles by hopping aboard it.
Flynn has played five seasons and has yet to eclipse the century mark in passing attempts. In comparison, Matt Cassel was a far more accomplished quarterback by the end of his fourth season, and history shows how that experiment unraveled.
Although Flynn is capable of gunning it down the field and has owned the moment when the spotlight shined his way, there's ultimately a reason why he has only attempted 87 passes in five years.
Following a knee injury, Robert Griffin III became Robert Griffin: the third quarterback on the Washington Redskins. And Kirk Cousins stepped in and wowed spectators.
Coming in cold during a critical juncture in a game against the Baltimore Ravens, Cousins completed two impressive passes—the last of which was a game-tying touchdown—versus the once-vaunted Ravens defense and sent the game into overtime.
As a follow-up, the Redskins quarterback completed 26 of his 37 passes for 329 yards, two touchdowns and one interception throughout his initiation as a starter. And just like that, he became a hot commodity.
Cousins has a rocket disguised as an arm, and his accuracy has continued to improve since his days at Michigan State.
The only problem is that, while Washington is (justifiably) drooling over Griffin, Cousins plays backup to a dynamic playmaker that has battled injuries throughout his career—both collegiately and professionally. Washington's front office understands that it has a quality insurance plan in place at a discount. And given Griffin's style of play, a premium is placed on insurance.
Redskins QB Robert Griffin III will undergo total reconstruction of knee for complete tear of ACL and LCL. Recovery projection: 6-8 mos.— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) January 9, 2013
The Redskins plucked Cousins in the fourth round (No. 102 overall) of last season's draft. Taking his praiseworthy debut and the severity of Griffin's injury into account, trading for Cousins would be more of an investment than the average draft-day trade.
Washington would be crazy to let go of him. And even if it did, Cousins isn't coming cheaply.
There are plenty of knocks on Michael Vick: He's inconsistent at diagnosing coverages, injury prone and, despite redefining his position's capabilities, hasn't steered a team to the Super Bowl.
The "Michael Vick Experience" has proven to be a roller coaster of euphoric highs and discouraging lows.
But when he's on, Vick is an athletic riddle that defensive coordinators can't crack. While the media pinned the lion's share of blame on him, the Eagles' recent struggles can be traced back to an underwhelming offensive line. A line that chauffeured multiple starters to the injured reserve list and only featured one remaining Week 1 starter by Week 10.
"When Mike has time, he's one of the best in the league," said guard Evan Mathis.
Center Jason Kelce condemned the makeshift unit's performance, admitting it was "absolutely awful" (via NFL.com).
Vick was afforded reliable protection in 2010 and authored 30 overall touchdowns (21 passing, nine rushing) to just six interceptions.
And while the human highlight remains the epitome of the dual-threat quarterback, that isn't particularly his most appealing quality as a potential member of the Chiefs.
Vick has mastered the craft of the deep ball. From 2009 through 2011, he completed 42.5 percent of his 120 pass attempts of 20 yards or more. More impressively, with his receivers' drops discounted from the total, Vick connected on 50 percent of those 120 downfield throws—only Drew Brees proved to be more efficient (Pro Football Focus).
That would equate to two things for the Chiefs: an added dimension to the passing attack and, more importantly, a very legitimate deterrent to keep safeties from cheating up in run support against Jamaal Charles.
Also, considering that Reid is expected to implement his version of the West Coast offense, it wouldn't hurt to start a quarterback that has spent a hefty chunk of the past four years learning it.
Kansas City's options are unlimited in the 2013 draft. It could bolster its 4-3 defense—and rest assured Reid will indeed make the jump to a 4-3—with the mountain-moving defensive tackle Star Lotulelei out of Utah.
It could also elect to replace offensive tackle Branden Albert with Texas A&M's Luke Joekel.
But if the Chiefs choose a quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick—which several analysts are predicting—Geno Smith's name is going to headline the draft board.
Like any and every quarterback to leave college, he's not without his share of flaws: He tends to eyeball his primary target immediately, his footwork can regress under pressure and scouts will likely tell you that his delivery could be cleaned up.
But overall, Smith is a sound, well-rounded pocket passer that doubles as a rushing threat if the situation calls for it.
West Virginia's celebrated quarterback can make every throw; he has the arm strength to rifle it across the field and the finesse to lob successful fades. Smith is, by quarterback standards, pinpoint accurate with outstanding ball placement.
No. 12's pocket presence is also second to none in his class—a sentiment echoed by ESPN's Todd McShay, who compared Smith's pocket manipulation to Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers' (via ESPN)—as is his vertical passing down the field.
And as far as intangibles go, he passes the checklist with flying colors. Smith is a diligent student of his craft and a remarkably humble but vocal leader (via YES Network):
"These last four years, I've grown tremendously: physically, mentally, spiritually. I've become a man. And it's kind of funny when you look back: I came in here as a boy, and I was an 18-year-old kid, and I had no clue about life. And now I'm the one who's in the locker room giving out lectures and, you know, teaching guys how to go about life. And how to go about this football deal, and how to become better people."
While Smith isn't as highly touted as his 2012 predecessors—namely Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III—he's the best player in his class at a position that directly dictates every game—a position that happens to be the Chiefs' weakest link.
When Andy Reid's name drifts into conversations, the two players who are instantly associated with it are Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick—two mobile quarterbacks whom present lethal downfield capabilities. Geno Smith fits that mold perfectly.
The comment section is all but guaranteed to contain at least one Alex Smith comparison to Matt Cassel with the term "game manager" included.
While those opinions do the typing, let numbers do the talking.
Matt Cassel has started at least one game in five—four with the Chiefs, one with the New England Patriots—of his eight seasons. He has only completed more than 60 percent of his passes in one of those five seasons—the season in which he was surrounded by a star-studded receiving corps in New England.
In Cassel's four years with the Chiefs, the wildly erratic quarterback has bulleted (loosely emphasized) 59 touchdowns and lobbed 44 interceptions. In that time frame, No. 7 averaged 6.4 yards per attempt and was victimized by interceptions on three percent of his passes.
Alex Smith has accounted for substantially more success throughout his past four seasons with the San Francisco 49ers. The Bay Area quarterback pinpointed 62 touchdowns and only tossed 32 interceptions. He averaged seven yards per pass and only 2.3 percent of his throws were picked off.
Kansas City will likely draft its quarterback of the future in the 2013 NFL draft. Whether the Chiefs use the No. 1 overall pick on Geno Smith or elect to fill the void in the latter stages, that rookie passer could gain valuable experience by studying a quarterback like Alex Smith for a handful of seasons.
Smith doesn't try to sling passes between double coverage and conjure something that isn't there. He's trustworthy with the ball in his hands.
For example: Due to shoddy offensive-line play, he was sacked (44 total) more than any quarterback in 2011 but maintained the league's lowest interception percentage (1.1).
He also personifies professionalism off the field and never stirred controversy in the wake of being benched for the younger Colin Kaepernick.
Under the guidance of Andy Reid, a Smith-led Chiefs team would evolve into playoff contenders sooner than later, and he would pave a road to success for a younger protégé.