|Brady Quinn is who Kansas City fans want at quarterback right now. Would they be happy if he was the starting QB next season? (US Presswire)|
The likelihood that the Chiefs will end the NFL's longest streak and draft a quarterback with their first-round pick for the first time since 1983 increases with every loss. Matt Cassel has elicited such strong feelings in Kansas City that last week fans paid for a banner to fly over Arrowhead Stadium asking for Cassel to be benched -- among other things -- and some even cheered when he lay on the ground injured.
Some of the cheers, of course, were for Brady Quinn, who has become so popular in Kansas City that Browns' fans are smirking right now. Sheesh, you want THAT guy?
Quinn will likely start on Sunday, ending yet another long streak in Kansas City. It will be the first time since Oct. 25, 1987, that a first-round pick starts at quarterback for the Chiefs. The last one was Todd Blackledge, who just so happens to be the last QB the Chiefs famously drafted in the first round, passing on some guy named Marino and another named Kelly.
Since the Blackledge experiment failed, Kansas City has been running out retreads for years. Some have succeeded (Steve DeBerg, Joe Montana and Trent Green); some have inspired the same boos and calls for the backup that Cassel has received. (Elvis Grbac feels your pain, Matt Cassel.).
Kansas City fans want their own guy, not someone else's quarterback. But because Cassel has been so bad -- his 14 turnovers are more than any team except Philadelphia, which ties him with 14 -- KC fans are more than happy to settle for Quinn right now. And his promotion-by-injury raises two big questions:
Is there a chance he could succeed?
- If he does succeed, how will Kansas City fans feel if his success leads to too many wins, dropping the Chiefs too low in the draft to take a top QB?
Quinn's chances at success
He has already been labeled a bust, and his numbers in Cleveland support that belief. In 14 games over three seasons in Cleveland, Quinn completed 52.1 percent of his passes, threw for 1,902 yards, 10 touchdowns, nine interceptions and had a 66.8 QB rating. That rating would rank 31st in the NFL currently, two spots ahead of Cassel.
It's not unfathomable, however, that Quinn could turn from bust to success story. No QB has really been good in Cleveland since the franchise returned in 1999. The best talent that surrounded Quinn in 2009 when he saw a majority of his playing time was Jamal Lewis on his last legs, Jerome Harrison -- who led the team in rushing -- and WR Mohamed Massaquoi,who was the Browns' top receiver as a rookie.
Massaquoi has never topped his rookie season, and since 2009, Harrison has 701 rushing yards, two touchdowns and has bounced around as a backup or backup to the backup.
Quinn will be surrounded by talent when he takes the field Sunday. Kansas City has the NFL's No. 1 rusher in Jamaal Charles, and Dwayne Bowe is on his way to a third straight year with 1,000-plus receiving yards. The Chiefs also have an above-average offensive line and a few other intriguing weapons.
History hasn't been kind to first-round quarterbacks who flame out with their first franchise, but the success stories are out there if you search hard enough.
Jim Plunkett, drafted first by New England in 1971, never had a winning record or a QB rating above 69 until he signed with Oakland in 1978. He did not attempt a pass his first season in Oakland and only threw 15 passes in 1979. After taking over for an injured Dan Pastorini in 1980, Plunkett led the Raiders to the playoffs and won the Super Bowl. He led them to another Super Bowl win in 1984.
Vinny Testaverde, drafted first by Tampa Bay in 1987, went 24-48 in six years as the starter in Tampa. Testaverde went on to make two Pro Bowls and was the starting quarterback on three playoffs teams.
- Jeff George, drafted No. 1 overall in 1990 by Indianapolis, went 14-35 in four years in Indy. He was traded to the Falcons and in his second year in Atlanta, he threw for 4,143 yards and led the Falcons to the playoffs. Later on in his career, he led the Vikings to the playoffs in 1999 when he went 8-2 as a starter.
What's the worst that could happen?
When jobs are on the line in the NFL, coaches will do just about anything to win. So far in 2012 for Kansas City, that has meant sacrificing the future of Charles to try to win some games. Charles, in his first year returning from ACL surgery, has run the ball 80 times the last three weeks. If the Chiefs keep using him how they have the last three weeks, he'll finish with 395 rushing attempts this season. That would rank seventh all time in rushing attempts in a season and is 165 more carries than he had in 2010 when he had career-high 230 attempts.
To hypothesize what kind of impact that could have on Charles' career, consider former Kansas City RB Larry Johnson and Tennessee's Chris Johnson. Larry Johnson never ran for more than 1,000 yards again after his NFL-record 416-attempt season in 2006. Chris Johnson, a similar back to Charles, averaged 310 attempts from 2009 through 2011, and his overuse is one explanation for a 2.9 yards per carry average this season. It should also be noted that Johnson's most rushing attempts in a season is 358, and he's never had major knee surgery.
Last week, Charles ran the ball 30 times and it's not likely to change. In Quinn's final two starts in Cleveland with Crennel in charge and Brian Daboll as offensive coordinator, the game plan was eerily similar.
In a sky-is-falling world that currently inhabits Kansas City, here's the worst that could happen: Crennel asks Quinn to be a game-manager and that works well enough to get the Chiefs to seven wins. It's difficult to say whether Quinn has promise or not because of Crennel's conservative approach. GM Scott Pioli is able to sell Quinn's performance as adequate, and the Chiefs drop far enough in the draft that they miss out on the top quarterback options and are forced to stick with Quinn, who in 2013 shows he is what Cleveland fans thought. And Charles shows he's all used up.
Is this a glass-half-empty outlook? Sure. But for a franchise that has found ways to win enough games to miss out on first-round QB prospects but hasn't won a playoff game since 1993, it's a scenario that has played out before.