We hear all the time about how certain teams in professional sports are just one player away from getting over the hump. Whether it is a big bat in the middle of the lineup in baseball or a three-point specialist on the hardwood, organizations—oftentimes to a fault—scramble to find that missing link.
In football, the quarterback is the focal point of the team—even more so in the NFL, as, to a certain extent, he actually represents the entire face of the franchise.
Finding the franchise quarterback, however, is an inexact science. Teams expend countless resources—via the draft or in free agency—and still end up getting it wrong a lot of the time.
In the case of the Kansas City Chiefs, neither method has paid off, as they have not won a postseason game since the 1993 AFC divisional round—the third such longest streak in the NFL.
The Chiefs swung and missed in 1983 when they selected Todd Blackledge out of Penn State. That same year also saw quarterbacks John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino drafted—all of which went on to become Hall of Famers.
Since then, the Chiefs have virtually neglected the position during the draft—taking only three quarterbacks inside the top three rounds: Mike Elkins, second round 1989; Matt Blundin, second round 1992; Brodie Croyle, third round 2006.
In fact, the Chiefs and New Orleans Saints are the only two NFL franchises to not use a first-round draft pick on a quarterback since 1984.
The only difference is that the Saints actually got it right when they signed Drew Brees to a free-agent contract prior to the 2006 campaign. New Orleans eventually went on to beat the Indianapolis Colts in Super XLIV after the 2009 season.
Of the 63 quarterbacks taken in the first round in this span, 12 have appeared in Super Bowls (Troy Aikman, Drew Bledsoe, Steve McNair, Trent Dilfer, Kerry Collins, Donovan McNabb, Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning, Rex Grossman, Eli Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Joe Flacco).
There have been 29 Super Bowls played since the 1984 draft. This group has 18 total appearances and 11 titles among them.
The 1984 draft was chosen here due to the Chiefs having begun their stretch of steering clear of the quarterback position. When including the 1983 crop, however, the numbers become even more skewed.
There are also plenty of examples of quarterbacks not taken in the first round since 1984 to lead their teams to huge success. Brett Favre, Kurt Warner and Tom Brady have appeared in a total of 10 Super Bowls, walking away with five rings.
However, the teams that these three were drafted by, or played for at the time of their Super Bowl appearances, have expended a total of eight first-round draft picks on quarterbacks during that time.
The Chiefs will enter this year's draft with the No. 1 overall pick. But with no big names to headline the options at quarterback, Kansas City will be stuck with a difficult decision—though the numbers indicate this team must begin using its top pick on the position.
While also bringing in a veteran could help bridge the gap—something this franchise has done in the past with Joe Montana, Trent Green and Matt Cassel—finding a franchise quarterback on their own is the one objective the Chiefs have been unable to fulfill.
The question then becomes: Is this future franchise quarterback—whoever he is—the one player who can truly save this organization?
Though the quarterback is the most important position in sports, football is the one game that actually lends itself to relying on your teammates the most—making it unrealistic to isolate one team's success on a single player's efforts.
That does not take away from the importance of the position, however. As indicated above, the quarterback is where it all starts; but the key is properly filling in the rest of the roster around him.
The Indianapolis Colts are the best example refuting this argument.
With Peyton Manning at quarterback between 1998-2010, the Colts had a record of 141-67 and appeared in two Super Bowls, winning Super Bowl XLI against the Chicago Bears.
Manning missed the entire 2011 season with a neck injury, and the Colts won just two games as a result—affording them the rights to draft Andrew Luck with the top pick in this past year's draft. And with Luck under center in 2012, Indianapolis notched 11 victories and made a return trip to the playoffs.
While it may appear that Manning and Luck are solely responsible for the Colts' good fortunes, the fact is that they—as any NFL quarterback, no matter their accomplishments—depend on a solid supporting cast to be successful.
Should the Chiefs do a complete 180 with their philosophy towards the quarterback position during the draft? Yes. Will that quarterback be this team's sole savior? No. Kansas City has plenty of talent to usher in a new signal-caller.
That doesn't mean that whoever that player is won't be the face of the franchise moving forward.
It isn't a coincidence that the Chiefs are the only team to flub the quarterback position for this long. But to correct the situation, they first must come to grips with their biggest mistake: not putting forth nearly enough effort in addressing such an obvious need.
It is time for Kansas City to at least get the process started.
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