Some guys have all the luck
Some guys have all the pain
Some guys get all the breaks
Some guys do nothing but complain
It seems like some teams have all the luck in acquiring their quarterbacks of the future. The Green Bay Packers had Bart Starr and Brett Favre and now Aaron Rodgers. I recall when the 49ers had Joe Montana in place with Steve Young waiting in the wings. The Cowboys have had Don Meredith, Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman and now Dak Prescott. The Kansas City Chiefs have had Len Dawson and… err… Len Dawson and… well, Len Dawson.
The really good ones are hard to come by.
Since the Kansas City Chiefs last won the Super Bowl in January of 1970 — 47 years ago — the Pittsburgh Steelers have had two Hall of Fame level quarterbacks, Terry Bradshaw and Ben Roethlisberger, holding down the fort for 28 of those 47 years. Why is that so important — as if I need to tell you — but the Steelers have produced 8 Super Bowl appearances and 6 wins during the era since the Chiefs last appearance in the big show.
You may have guessed by now that I am assuming a link between excellent quarterback play… and Super Bowl appearances. True enough and while I’d be the first to tell you that Dan Marino — the Dan Marino of one Super Bowl appearance — is one of the best QBs ever, the chances of going to the grand game go way up when you have a top flight passer at the helm. Note: how cruel life in the NFL can be… that Marino made it to the Super Bowl in his second year only to never make it back there again.
So, how do these teams acquire such great quarterbacks when other teams flounder for decades without ever even sniffing a Super Bowl?
Timing. Timing. Timing.
That’s right, almost all of those teams has appeared to “luck into” their QBOTF by being in the right place at the right time. In 2004, when Ben Roethlisberger was drafted, quarterbacks Eli Manning (1st in the draft by San Diego) and Philip Rivers (4th in the draft by the N.Y. Giants) were getting all the attention because Manning refused to play for the Chargers and forced a trade to the Giants for Rivers.
While Eli Manning has been part of two teams to win the Super Bowl, Philip Rivers is 4-5 in the playoffs with no SB appearances. In the meantime, Ben Roethlisberger has been to three Super Bowls winning two, although he was the one drafted 11th overall. The selection of each of those QBs was based upon the good fortune of good timing. Manning and River’s teams were both 4-win teams in 2003 and it just so happened that there were three excellent QBs available in the top 11. That’s significant because all three could end up in the NFL Hall of Fame… while on the flip side, the year the Chiefs choose first in 2013, there were not only no elite QBs available but no elite LTs and they ended up selecting LT Eric Fisher. Fisher, while solid, is not only not a great LT but… he is also not a great QB either. If the Chiefs had chosen first overall the year before, they get Andrew Luck. The year before that? Cam Newton.
That’s exactly the point… timing is everything.
While some teams seem to “luck into it” other teams take advantage of the “timing” — a small window of availability — by taking a calculated risk. While there are no guarantees that a first round QB will work out, the Kansas City Chiefs have proven over the past 47 years that if you don’t take a first round QB, you can not expect a first round QB to lead you to a Super Bowl. Yes, they’ve drafted a couple during that time, but because those QBs failed is not a reason to abandon the practice of drafting potentially good one’s early and often. Otherwise, there is no such thing as good timing.
This year, the Chiefs general manager, John Dorsey, orchestrated a trade up to the 10th spot in the draft to take their QBOTF. Presumably.
Will it work out? Who the heck knows for sure?
On the other hand, if the Chiefs didn’t trade up and take a top rated QB, they’d be left, along with their fans, standing on the outside looking in, singing that old Linda Ronstadt tune, Poor, Poor Pitiful Me.
A year ago, the timing wasn’t right. It was right for John Elway, the Denver Broncos general manager, to trade up to the 26th pick, two spots ahead of the Chiefs, to take QB Paxton Lynch. It had been reported that the Chiefs were interested in Lynch and so while they may have felt the rug had been pulled out from under them, their trading up and selecting Patrick Mahomes II with the 10th pick in this year’s draft would seem to indicate that they did covet Lynch and were attempting to… make their own “timing” — in pursuit of a QBOTF.
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Paxton Lynch was my favorite value QB in last year’s draft as I have stated previously. While the “timing” didn’t work out to nail down Lynch, John Dorsey and Andy Reid have made a bold move by investing draft stock into one draft pick. However, not just any pick. A bonafide QBOTF. Some would have preferred that the Chiefs wait until next year’s draft when a supposed bevy of top-shelf quarterbacks will become available. There are several problems with that approach.
1. You Can’t Count on the Future– in 2012, the Chiefs backup QB Tyler Bray was rated a first round pick in the next year’s draft (one year into the future), however, the next year he didn’t perform as well and mostly because of off the field issues, we saw him go undrafted. There are many other examples of that kind of depreciating value from one year to the next. That’s why so many QBs come out as soon as they can.
2. Finite Carpe Diem– John Dorsey seized the moment which is a necessary component of timing your play for a QBOTF. If you don’t take advantage of the now, the future you envision never comes. These opportunities rarely come around so you have to make a move or be lost in the dust.
3. Leverage: a Bird in the Hand– by trading away quality draft picks the Chiefs used the draft stock leverage that comes by having 10 draft picks in their pocket. While there might be a QBOTF available to the Chiefs in next year’s draft — which would be rare — is it nothing to be counted on. For the Chiefs, the move to take Mahomes is all wrapped up in the dovetailing career of starter Alex Smith. If JARD saw fit to pursue Paxton Lynch in 2016, they certainly were going to make a move 2017 to get their man. Consequently, 2018 would be entirely too late.
If Patrick Mahomes does well, fans will call the trade, and pick, a great deal but, if he fails it’s always the same: failure is failure whether you make that move or not. When Boston College product, Matt Ryan, was chosen by the Atlanta Falcons 3rd overall in 2008, he was thought by many to be a risk. Aside from Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck, it’s hard to think of any QB in the past 20 years who wasn’t considered to be a risk in some way or ways. Manning and Luck have been the only two that I can recall who were hailed as “sure-fire-can’t-miss” bets.
The likelihood that Patrick Mahomes will succeed is very good. Why? Because of the strength of the organization he’s been drafted into. The Chiefs are thought to have one of the top 3 or 4 deepest rosters in the AFC and the coaching/front office combo are as strong as you will find in the league. Stability is their byword.
The Chiefs could have tried to fill in a few gaps such as inside linebacker or offensive guard or cornerback but in each of those cases, they’d be essentially be drafting for the future or depth. The only pick they made this year who could see starting minutes is likely to be RB Kareem Hunt. Weighing the future contributions and/or depth at other positions vs. a possible QBOTF, the QBOTF should win out every time. Especially for the good organizations. Time will tell and… time will tell. See what I did there?
It’s all about the timing. I guess you had to be there.
Time it was, and what a time it was, it was
A time of innocence, A time of confidences
Long ago, it must be, I have a photograph
Preserve your memories; They’re all that’s left you
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