Chief Concerns: Rob Gerster
I’m not sure if John Dorsey’s initial press conference quote about the Best Player Available was still hanging in the air before I started typing out the linked commentary on the foolishness of such a philosophy in the case of the Kansas City Chiefs. To sum up my feelings… I stated that ANY team that went into battle with the 2012 Chiefs’ quarterback group MUST put quarterback at the top of their draft board regardless of any other circumstances.
Of course we can now report that Dorsey is not going into battle with Matt Cassel and the three dwarves (or is it Brady Quinn and the three dwarves – I get confused sometimes.) He is going into battle with Alex Smith instead, and all it cost him this year was the 34th pick in the draft and a conditional draft pick next year (according to reports.) Hey! Isn’t that about what Scott Pioli sent to the Patriots for Matt Cassel? Look how well that turned out.
Maybe that wasn’t fair… afterall, they really aren’t similar at all… outside of being traded for identical 34th picks… and entering the league in 2005, and being excellent athletes… and being humble articulate leaders… and coming from a championship team to a sad sack Chiefs’ team with a new head coach… and being the front office’s way of pacifying the fans because they have no intention of drafting a quarterback with their first pick, I can’t think of a single similarity.
Really the two situations are radically different (except for the part about the front office pacifying the fans).
Had Alex Smith entered the NFL in 2012 instead of 2005, he would have been the third quarterback taken – probably by the Browns with the third selection and easily before Ryan Tannehill. Any quarterback taken within the first five picks in the draft can make all the throws. If he winds up being a bust, it is because either he can’t read defenses, or his offensive line doesn’t give him time to learn this art. Clearly, Smith could accurately hit his targets in 2005, and I have seen no evidence that he has lost that skill. Just as clearly, Matt Cassel has lost any ability that he once possessed to hit a moving six foot, 215 pound target. Even when he came to the Chiefs, he couldn’t find receivers as well as Smith does now – which is far better than he could in 2005.
Then there is the matter of experience. Both the Chiefs and the 49ers have been enrolled in the offensive coordinator of the season club for the past decade. Around Iowa, we hear the phrase, “Don’t like the weather? Just wait a day and it will change.” Around Arrowhead, it sounds more like, “Don’t like the offensive coordinator? Wait a season…” Neither guy has been exactly nurtured on their path to maturity, but Smith has been playing everyday since his first season until Jim Harbaugh decided to move to Colin Kaepernick. It is a plus that Smith has been properly nurtured for his last two seasons under Harbaugh, the quarterback whisperer.
The last, and most critical difference, is who will be working with Alex Smith. Matt Cassel came to the Chiefs only to be welcomed by what is perhaps the most caustic coach in the history of football (at least that I can remember.) Todd Haley had little time for the niceties of human relations and little patience for anything that was not his idea. He had no head coaching experience, and yet thought it was a good idea to fire his offensive coordinator just before the season started. It was a nightmare scenario for a first year starter. On the other hand, Andy Reid, who will welcome Smith to the Chiefs, has proven to have a deft hand in dealing with quarterbacks. What’s more his offensive coordinator, Doug Pederson, is himself a former NFL quarterback. This is very fertile ground for any quarterback, and a perfect situation for a transitional quarterback.
As for that 34th pick… this is the part of the deal that bothers me. This slot is perfect for poaching the best quarterback that falls out of the first round. The 49ers know it and they will either be able to get their new and much cheaper backup here, or demand a fairly steep price from one of the other teams to trade up – just as the Chiefs would have. Unfortunately, the law of economics applies here. When demand is high the price goes up. With the lackluster quality of this year’s quarterback crop, Smith was in demand.
The Kansas City Star’s writer Sam Mellinger wrote that getting Smith was like ordering the best thing on the Chili’s menu. True, but there are a whole lot of people in Somalia that would love to have a crack at a Chili’s. The quarterback starved Chiefs twisted the rules of best player available (unless you don’t have a quarterback) a little they will now select the guy at the top of their draft board. The team will not have the best quarterback situation over the next few seasons, but they just guaranteed that they won’t have the worst either.