Everywhere I look, the signs are all the same: every franchise needs a franchise quarterback.
That might sound like common sense, but you would be wrong to assume that since it's clear that many NFL franchises feel that they do not need a franchise quarterback. Year after year, many of the same journeyman starters around the league find new homes to start in and find themselves sitting at home after another predictable round of 16 games. And those same teams that hoped that those players could help them turn the corner are left scratching their heads wondering what went wrong.
But there is one problem: there simply aren't enough franchise quarterbacks for all 32 NFL franchises. Not every game can feature a high-caliber quarterback match-up. If the analogy is musical chairs, then it's clear that some franchise is going to be left standing at the end when the music stops. There are simply not enough options to go around.
Consequently, most NFL franchises left without a franchise quarterback are going to have one of two predictable behaviors in response to the market set before them:
1. Desperate willingness to pay whatever it takes to get one
2. Stubborn refusal to cave in to the inflated market prices.
The Palm Beach Post had a story this morning from Ben Volin that says that Stephen Ross, the Miami Dolphins owner, is ready to do whatever it takes to reach that next level. Year after year of watching Chad Henne and Matt Moore will do that to an owner. You pay millions upon millions to lure other free agents like Karlos Dansby and Reggie Bush to town, but a team will only go as far as their quarterback will take them. And Ross has learned his lesson.
Ross might have formerly been in category No. 2. Now he's apparently ready to get Matt Flynn or Robert Griffin III or Peyton Manning. Will that cost him? Yes. Will it be worth it? Ask any fan or even Ross for that matter if he wants to ride into 2012 with Matt Moore as his hope at the quarterback position. It's there you will find your answer.
Now there's no guarantee that RG3 will transform the NFL in a Cam Newton-like way. There's no telling if Matt Flynn can become the next Matt Schaub. There's no way of knowing if Peyton Manning will even be available (let alone healthy) at this stage. It's all a risk. But is it riskier than going with Matt Moore at quarterback in a division ruled by the New York powers? Absolutely not.
This is all important because Ross has finally turned the right corner. Each year, a new team discovers they must make a move while others sit with arms folded holding out for a magical year when a Trent Dilfer type is enough to take a team to the Super Bowl. And every year those general managers and owners will remain disappointed. At the very least, the resolve of Ross has to be applauded.
One look at this year's Super Bowl tells you the same. Brady versus Manning. Two guys who have been here before. Two guys who have exhibited time and again that they can put the team on their shoulders and get the job done. Victor Cruz is a national sensation. The Patriots' tight ends are household names. Yes, tight ends. If you think that's not due to the skills of a great quarterback, then it's likely you have your arms folded and are waiting on Matt Cassel or Kyle Orton to lead the Chiefs to the promised land.
And that brings up the point in front of us then (after 600 words). Where do the Kansas City Chiefs go?
They made a move three seasons ago -- trading a second round choice to the New England Patriots in a deal that many wondered if it was a personal favor from Bill Belichick to Scott Pioli to give the Chiefs Mike Vrabel and, more importantly, Matt Cassel. Cassel was the heralded back-up quarterback who exhibited a modicum of success ready to hit the market. The Chiefs paid and three years later, despite a playoff appearance in 2010, it largely has not worked out.
That doesn't mean that Cassel is a bad quarterback at all. In fact, he made the Pro Bowl in 2010. But he's a model of efficiency who can do certain things well and is limited in other ways. When the schedule gets tougher, the Chiefs didn't rise to the occasion. So once the team got outside of the cupcake schedule of 2010, the Chiefs began to wilt.
Injuries played a major role this year for sure. But it's hard to find anyone who believes that it was the sole cause of the lost season. And it's even harder to find someone convinced that Matt Cassel is going to be the next great quarterback in the NFL. Serviceable starter? Absolutely. But if the Chiefs have a chance to reach for greatness, then they have to make that move -- the same move they were hoping the second round choice would become when they traded it away three seasons ago.
Kyle Orton won two of three games and some fans want the Chiefs to bring him back. But a body of work and the corresponding fan bases from both the Chicago Bears and the Denver Broncos will tell you that you are likely smoking something if you believe that Orton is going to be the answer to lead the Chiefs to the Super Bowl.
That's what fans are told every year from the powers-that-be at Arrowhead -- that the team is committed to building a long-term contender for it all. Pioli has been there before and knows what it takes to get there. Yet he also has to know that the most important position on the field must have the ability, the confidence and the swagger to take his team there. He struck gold on a sixth round quarterback and, consequently, made history in the NFL. But lightning rarely strikes twice and most of your high-end franchise options are going to cost.
Thus, the main question is this: is Scott Pioli willing to pay that cost? RG3 is going to be available in this draft. The reigning Heisman winner with a great arm, an uncanny ability to make the big play and enough athleticism to beat most defenders with the run as well is going to be available. That in itself is an incredible statement. But numerous teams are going to be licking their chops for the chance to take him after that first selection in the NFL Draft is given. Someone will pay the price.
Matt Flynn is another option. He's another back-up quarterback who impressed in very limited amounts of playing time -- far, far less than Matt Cassel. Is he the next great starter? Someone will pay the price.
The Chiefs offense has a real chance to be something special. The players all around on the offense are very dynamic and if the offensive line received some attention, the pieces could really come together. Picture a ground game with a healthy Jamaal Charles and a proper second back in FA or the draft (i.e. Chris Polk from Washington) along with Dexter McCluster. Imagine a receiving corps of (re-signed) Dwayne Bowe, Steve Breaston, Jon Baldwin (in a full season of work) and Tony Moeaki with a quarterback who can deliver the deep ball.
There's a lot of talent in Kansas City and the division is in the worst shape it's going to be in for a long time. If there's a moment to seize, this is the one. But the season will, once again, likely rise and fall on the state of the quarterback position and whether the Chiefs are willing to pay the price it will take to roll the high-risk dice and come out on top.