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So, let’s go through the years — stay with me for a minute here, it will get a bit repetitive. When the Chiefs drafted Todd Blackledge, their starting quarterback was a man named Bill Kenney, who was the Mr. Irrelevant of the 1978 draft. He was cut and out of football when the Chiefs picked him up in 1980. Blackledge was supposed to take the job, but Kenney threw for 4,000 yards and made the Pro Bowl in 1983. He stuck around for a few spiceless years and, later, was the majority floor leader of the Missouri State Senate.
In 1988, the Chiefs picked up journeyman Steve DeBerg, who was the backup in Tampa Bay. In his career backed up Joe Montana, John Elway and Steve Young. The Chiefs made him their starter, and the team started to win. He was smart and solid — exactly what new coach Marty Schottenheimer wanted. DeBerg was the Chiefs' leading passer through 1991 — he shared a little bit of time with other veterans quarterbacks like Jaworski and former Dallas Cowboys backup Steve Pelluer.
When DeBerg expired, the Chiefs got longtime Seattle quarterback Dave Krieg. He was 34 then and was well on his way to setting the NFL record for most times sacked in a career (494; he was subsequently passed by John Elway and Brett Favre). The Chiefs had a good defense and a good running game — they were mind-numbingly boring — and the Chiefs won with Krieg managing the game.
Jeff Haynes / AFP/Getty Images
Joe Montana stepped into the quarterback role in Kansas City and nearly led the Chiefs to a Super Bowl.
The move worked in ways even Peterson and the Chiefs could not have anticipated. The Chiefs, with a rejuvenated Montana, won their first divisional playoff game in 25 years — their first since winning Super Bowl IV. And the Chiefs achieved a level of popularity unmatched in the city’s history. Montana jerseys were everywhere. A huge wait list for season tickets built — it was rumored to top 50,000 at one point. It was heady stuff. Then Montana retired. The Chiefs had their formula down: Get an old quarterback who can manage a game and let the sellout crowds make the team all but unbeatable at home.
The Chiefs started Steve Bono, who was 33 and had been a backup in Minnesota, Pittsburgh and San Diego.
When Bono faltered, they went with Rich Gannon, who was 31 and had been a backup in Washington before becoming a backup in Kansas City.
The Chiefs then went out and got Grbac, who was the backup in San Francisco. Grbac and Gannon competed for the job, and there are still people in Kansas City who will say that the 1997 Chiefs — who had the AFC’s best defense and best record — might have gone to the Super Bowl if Gannon had been the playoff quarterback.
Gannon went to the Raiders (where he DID lead the team to the Super Bowl … so it works sometimes), Grbac left for Baltimore, and the Chiefs acquired Trent Green, who was 31 and had been the backup in St. Louis. Green played in two Pro Bowls as he led the highest scoring offense in the NFL from from 2002 to 2006. But the defense was so bad, the team only made the playoffs once in that stretch.
The next quarterback: Damon Huard, 33, a backup in New England. In 2006, Huard and Green handed the ball off to running back Larry Johnson 416 times, an NFL record that likely will never be broken (unless the NFL goes to 18 game regular seasons … and even then, it probably won’t be broken).
The Chiefs, for the first time in many years, did try a couple of younger quarterbacks in 2008 — Tyler Thigpen and Brodie Croyle — but this was largely because Huard got hurt. Neither worked out. Then the Chiefs traded for New England backup quarterback Matt Cassel, and you know how that turned out.
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Now, finally, the Chiefs were back on the market for a new quarterback. They did not hesitate. They traded for another San Francisco 49ers backup quarterback, Alex Smith.
What we know is this: He will be 29 in May, he had 30 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions the last two seasons, and the 49ers were very eager to trade him.
What we also know is this: The Chiefs — rather than take the big chance on a young quarterback like West Virginia’s Geno Smith — are going to once again rely on the hope that a veteran quarterback who could not start for a team will blossom in Kansas City.
It certainly could work. Smith, after dealing with numerous injuries and struggles (he had one touchdown pass as a rookie along with 11 interceptions), became a very efficient quarterback the last couple of years. In his last game before suffering the concussion that would give Colin Kaepernick the chance to show his stuff, Smith was 18 for 19 with three touchdown passes against Arizona. The Chiefs — now under the watchful eye of Andy Reid — believe he has turned the corner and is ready to be an elite quarterback.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
“There’s a lot of talent in Kansas City,” one NFL GM says. “A lot of talent, especially on the defensive side of the ball. I would say they’ve underachieved their talent level. Alex isn’t coming into a situation where the team is barren. … But, let’s face it, he will have to learn a new system, he will have to win over his teammates, it won’t be easy. It won’t be like San Francisco the last couple of years. It will be a more like San Francisco when he first got there.”
I asked the GM if he thinks it will work in Kansas City. He shrugged and basically said, hey, everybody’s trying to find a good quarterback, and he’s got his own problems. It’s a fair point. There’s no surefire way. The new Cleveland Browns in their history have drafted three quarterbacks in the first round — one of them with the first overall pick — and have made the playoffs exactly once. The Detroit Lions have drafted five first round quarterbacks since 1968 and have won one playoff game in those 45 years.
So, there are a lot of ways a quarterback chase can go wrong. For now, the Chiefs are sticking with their plan. Get a veteran quarterback. Work him into the system. Hope for the best. It hasn’t worked all that well so far. But there’s always next year.
ProFootballTalk: Patriots QB Tom Brady addressed Wes Welker’s decision to head West to Denver. Brady says he isn’t surprised by anything after being in the league for so long and hopes that Welker has a great season with the Broncos.
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