Which QB Is the Answer to Chiefs' Offensive Woes?
Owners of the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s NFL draft, the Kansas City Chiefs have been on the clock since their season ended in a 38-3 loss to the Denver Broncos back in late December. Having the top pick is a two-edged sword, however.
On one hand, to be in this position one would have ended the regular season as the worst team in the entire league—which the Chiefs did with their 2-14 record, owning the tiebreaker over the Jacksonville Jaguars. On the other hand, Kansas City is first in line to select from all the young, athletic, ready-for-the-next-level talent that the college game has to offer.
While their draft strategy could hinge on their dealings with left tackle Branden Albert (an unrestricted free agent after playing his first five seasons in Kansas City), the Chiefs’ primary concern this offseason should be finding a new quarterback.
Debate will ensue as to whether the Chiefs should expend the top pick on a quarterback, largely because of the lack of top-end talent at the position. Clark Judge of CBSSports.com contends that Kansas City can’t afford to draft a signal-caller at No. 1.
Though the Chiefs have other question marks up and down their roster—decision on Dwayne Bowe and wide receiver depth, No. 2 cornerback, inside linebacker opposite of Derrick Johnson, free safety, defensive end and the interior of the offensive line, among others—there is no question that this team must find new leadership under center after last season’s debacle.
Matt Cassel (signed through 2014) and Brady Quinn combined to complete fewer than 58 percent of their passes, for just 2,937 yards and only eight touchdowns. Throw in the duo’s 28 turnovers and you had arguably the worst quarterback situation in the NFL in 2012.
New general manager John Dorsey brings in a best-available-player approach to the draft from Green Bay (CBS Sports). And the Chiefs could also explore free agency or trade options for their next quarterback as well, so there will be plenty of options as the offseason progresses.
Here are a handful of options that Kansas City should consider at quarterback moving forward.
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While Foles only played in seven games in 2012—throwing for 1,699 yards, six touchdowns and five interceptions—his skill set plays to Reid's version of the West Coast offense well. Working under the system for an entire season would also keep his progress in the NFL on a upward plane.
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The emergence of Colin Kaepernick during the San Francisco 49ers' run to the Super Bowl this past season makes Alex Smith's services expendable.
Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reported that the team will attempt to trade Smith (via ESPN's Adam Schefter). With a handful of teams—including the Kansas City Chiefs—looking for a quarterback this offseason, there should be some interest for the eight-year veteran.
Under Jim Harbaugh the last two seasons, Smith completed over 64 percent of his passes while throwing 30 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions. He led the 49ers to a 19-5-1 record during that time.
The question about Smith will be whether or not his play can continue to trend upward without Harbaugh around. Andy Reid's version of the West Coast offense would at least take the pressure off the quarterback in Kansas City.
Under Reid, Smith would be asked to work in a short passing game that would allow the ball-carrier to work in space. It requires an accurate quarterback, mitigating risk as much as possible. Smith has proven to be just that recently.
If the 49ers aren't able to find a trade partner, however, Smith could become a free agent should San Francisco take that route.
Smith had the perceived talent to have been selected with the top pick in the 2005 draft. He is a smart quarterback who absorbs the proper information well, and would serve as a capable signal-caller who can bridge the gap until Kansas City finds the true face of its franchise.
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Similar to how new Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has a connection to quarterback Nick Foles in Philadelphia, new general manager John Dorsey is naturally linked to Seattle Seahawks backup signal-caller Matt Flynn.
Dorsey had a part in taking Matt Flynn out of LSU in the seventh round of the 2008 draft.
While he may have been viewed as a flier that late in the draft, Flynn was the hot quarterback on last season's free-agent market. The emergence of rookie Russell Wilson, however, makes his services replaceable in Seattle.
Flynn is short of a viable track record in the NFL, having only started two games in his career. But with Dorsey's knowledge of the quarterback here, any move to bring him to Kansas City has to be looked at as one that should be trusted.
Having worked in Green Bay's version of the West Coast offense—at least during practice—Flynn would bring in a working knowledge of the framework of the system in Kansas City.
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It is harshly obvious that the Kansas City Chiefs were one year late to the party with the No. 1 overall pick, as Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III were swooped up in last year's draft by the Indianapolis Colts and Washington Redskins, respectively.
Though it is debatable whether a quarterback is worthy of that distinction this year, one still must emerge as the best option at the position no matter what his overall ranking is. And Geno Smith is widely considered the top quarterback in this year's class.
Smith possesses the size and skill set that teams covet in a franchise quarterback. His transition from the college game and Dana Holgorsen's up-tempo passing attack, however, could be the biggest question for his NFL prospects.
Considering that new head coach Andy Reid has gotten the most out of his quarterbacks in the past, Smith wouldn't come in as too much of a project. His accuracy on short throws is also a bonus for Reid's version of the West Coast offense.
The Chiefs have other areas they will need to focus on leading up to, and during, the draft. While they may even bring in a quarterback during free agency or via trade, adding one out of the current college crop should also be a priority.
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While Matt Cassel certainly isn't a popular guy around Kansas City, he is currently under contract and could perhaps duplicate his 2010 performance under new head coach Andy Reid and his version of the West Coast offense.
That season saw Cassel throw for 3,116 yards, 27 touchdowns and only seven interceptions in 15 games. No one would tell you those numbers wouldn't be welcomed from whoever leads the Chiefs under center in 2013.
Jason La Canfora includes Cassel in his list of potential cap casualties and had this to say about the quarterback's future in Kansas City: "League sources said there is almost no chance he remains in Kansas City. The fans have turned on him, and it's time for a change."
If the Chiefs can't find a viable option via free agency, Cassel's presence—along with a rookie from this year's draft—would almost be a requirement should other plans fall through.
Other Options and the Verdict
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In addition to the previously mentioned names, there are obviously other options via free agency and the draft that the Kansas City Chiefs should take a look it.
Look for Matt Moore to possibly pop up in the NFL ranks. And among college quarterbacks—while it will depend on where they covet them in the draft in comparison to the rest of their targets—the Chiefs should consider Tyler Wilson near the top of the draft. Names like E.J. Manuel and Tyler Bray could emerge in the middle rounds as well.
With free agency first on the docket, the Chiefs would be smart to snag a quarterback that is capable of leading this team should they not consider anyone in the draft proficient enough to do so. All things considered, Alex Smith should be that guy.
Smith started to turn the corner under Harbaugh and was just part of ushering in a young quarterback into the NFL, as Colin Kaepernick took over in San Francisco midway through last season. His experience in this league could go a long way toward bringing in the regime in Kansas City.
As far as whom the Chiefs target in the draft, it will all hinge on Branden Albert's future in Kansas City.
If the Chiefs decide to keep Albert around, there will be no need to spend the top pick on left tackle Luke Joeckel—whom Bleacher Report's Matt Miller has going to Kansas City at No. 1.
With the news that the Chiefs would like to bring Albert back to Kansas City (via NFL.com's Ian Rapoport), that would indicate that this team has plenty more options with the top pick. Should the Chiefs use it on a quarterback, Geno Smith is probably the guy in that spot.
The Chiefs need to add two viable quarterbacks this offseason. Alex Smith and Geno Smith provide this team with the best possible combination in terms of experience, ability, financial obligation and a timeline for providing the organization with its quarterback of the future.
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