The seemingly unending Chiefs search for a franchise quarterback

  Print article

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – For the fifth consecutive week, the Chiefs face an opponent with one of those highly-valued franchise quarterbacks, passers selected in the first or seconds rounds of the NFL Draft and are now the centerpiece for their team.

Oct. 11, 2015; Kansas City, MO: Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) in action against the Chicago Bears at Arrowhead Stadium. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Oct. 11, 2015; Kansas City, MO: Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) in action against the Chicago Bears at Arrowhead Stadium. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

It started in Week 2 with Peyton Manning (first round 1998) in Denver. What’s followed has been Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers (first round 2005), Andy Dalton with Cincinnati (second round 2011) and Chicago’s Jay Cutler (first round 2007.)

Coming up on Sunday are the Minnesota Vikings with Teddy Bridgewater as the starting quarterback, a first-round selection in the 2014 NFL Draft.

Before the end their season, the Chiefs will play 13 games against highly drafted quarterbacks, with the possibility of two more based on future possibilities of injury and production.

The Chiefs have their own first-round, franchise-type quarterback that they’ve thrown up against these other highly-rated guys in Alex Smith.

Those quarterbacks are part of the continual back-and-forth that goes on with owners, scouts, media and fans that all zero in on the quarterback position, and want their team to draft the league’s next great passer. They all desire a star quarterback that can lead a club to championship performances.

Nobody knows that more than followers of the Chiefs, those long-suffering fans of the Hunt family franchise that have seen their team go 32 years without using a first-round draft choice to select a quarterback – Todd Blackledge in 1983. They have gone 23 years without using a second-round pick for a passer – Matt Blundin in 1992.

“It’s certainly one of the most important positions on any team,” said former Chiefs president/general manager Carl Peterson, who controlled the team from 1989-2008. “That increases the attention on the position; he gets too much credit and too much of the blame. It also is a position of greater risk when talking about evaluating and acquiring.”

In 20 seasons where Peterson ran the Chiefs, the team did not drafted a first-round quarterback. That doesn’t mean they didn’t use first selections as currency to get starting quarterbacks. A first-round choice (No. 18) was part of the trade that brought Joe Montana to Kansas City in 1993 from San Francisco, and there was also a first choice (No. 12) in the trade with St. Louis in 2001 for Trent Green.

When Scott Pioli took over in 2009 as the team’s general manager, he used a second-round draft choice (No. 34) to acquire Matt Cassel from New England. Four years later, in his first season as Chiefs G.M., John Dorsey used two selections in the second round (No. 34, 56) in a trade with San Francisco for Smith.

(kcchiefs.com has done a year-long series on the Chiefs attempts to find franchise quarterbacks. The posts provide plenty of information about the ups and downs of the position over 50 years. Here is the link.)

Some have wondered over the years if there is some sort of ban instituted by ownership that a quarterback should not be drafted in the first round by the Chiefs.

“All Lamar (Hunt) wanted was to be informed and to be consulted if we traded a first-round pick,” Peterson said. “There was no mandate to stay away from the position.”

For Peterson, it had more to do with the two most successful head coaches that worked for him – Marty Schottenheimer and Dick Vermeil. Neither one wanted to deal with the roller coaster that comes from a young quarterback getting his first opportunity to play in the league.

“They didn’t want to go through that, and frankly neither did I,” Peterson said. “Hindsight always tells us we should have used the first rounder this year, or that year for a quarterback. When it’s early in the draft, you seldom have that kind of clarity.”

Pioli was influenced by his time with the Patriots, where Super Bowls came with a sixth-round quarterback (choice No. 199) in Tom Brady. Both Dorsey and Andy Reid were part of decisions at their former teams that selected a first-round quarterback – Green Bay with Rodgers and with his first draft choice in charge of Philadelphia, Reid drafted Donovan McNabb with the second pick in the first round of the 1999 NFL Draft. Both of those quarterback decisions worked out well for those teams.

The quarterbacks facing off in the Chiefs-Vikings game this Sunday are both first-round picks, with Smith the first choice in 2005 and Bridgewater the 32nd choice in 2014. Both stepped into the starting lineup as rookies.

For Smith, that began a roller coaster of a career in San Francisco thanks to changing offenses, changing head coaches and injuries. After only 16 starts over the last two seasons, it’s too early to tell what career path Bridgewater will travel. The Vikings are 8-8 in his starts.

Unlike the Chiefs, Minnesota has dipped into the first round of the NFL Draft several times in hopes of finding their quarterback, drafting three in the last 16 years – Daunte Culpepper (1999), Christian Ponder (2011) and Bridgewater (2014).

The Vikings hope Bridgewater is the man to fill their franchise quarterback role; that’s why they traded into the late first round of the ’14 Draft to get him. Based on the lack of victories and performance, the Chiefs may soon have to make another big decision about their quarterback position.

Over the NFL Drafts in 2005-1014, what quarterbacks could the Chiefs have selected without trading to improve their position in the first round? Here are the players they drafted and the quarterbacks that were available to them at the time.

Year Pick* Selection QB they could have drafted
2014 23 LB Dee Ford Teddy Bridgewater (32), David Carr (36)
2013 1 OT Eric Fisher E.J. Manuel (16), Geno Smith (39)
2012 11 DT Dontari Poe Brandon Weeden (22)
2011 21* WR Jonathan Baldwin Andy Dalton (35), Colin Kaepernick (36)
2010 5 S Eric Berry Tim Tebow (25)
2009 3 DE Tyson Jackson Mark Sanchez (5), Josh Freeman (17)
2008 5 DL Glenn Dorsey Joe Flacco (18)
2007 23 WR Dwayne Bowe Kevin Kolb (36)
2006 20 DE Tamba Hali Kellen Clemens (49)
2005 15 LB Derrick Johnson Aaron Rodgers (24 ), Jason Campbell (25 )

*Chiefs made draft day trade moving from No. 21 down to No. 26.
———-

Bob Gretz is the senior editor for ChiefsDigest.com. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @BobGretzcom.

———-