Part two: The Bad
In part one of the three part series analyzing the 2012 Kansas City Chiefs I examined The Ugly aspects of last year’s Chiefs. My conclusion, the ugliest moment of their season was the 2-14 record. In my analysis, I mentioned that one of the largest contributing factors in their lack of success was the poor production by the offense. The Chiefs ranked in the bottom quarter in almost all offensive statistics, and they were last in the NFL in points. They finished the season with six games in which they scored fewer than 10 points. Tack on an additional four games they scored fewer than two touchdowns, and it is not shocking they finished with the ugly 2-14 record.
The question becomes; why did the Chiefs offense struggle so much in 2012? A quick glance at the roster shows that the offense had bundles of talent. The Chiefs lined up one of the best running back tandems in the NFL in the partnership of Peyton Hillis and Jamaal Charles. They also have arguably the best wide receiver in the AFC West, Dwayne Bowe (cover32.com’s Will Petersen ranks Bowe third in the AFC West). Before being hit with the injury bug, the Chiefs had a solid rotation of tight ends, in addition to a strong offensive line.
Despite all of that talent, the Chiefs offense was still one of the worst in the league. The reason for the offensive performance was the bad play by the Chiefs quarterbacks. Yes, the bad offense was caused by bad play from the two starting quarterbacks, Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn. The most important position in all American professional sports is quarterback. There is no other position that correlates more with success than the quarterback. Just look at the teams that made the playoffs last year, each of them had a top-12 quarterback.
Historically speaking, the Chiefs have had two great quarterbacks, Len Dawson and Joe Montana, and a handful of good quarterbacks: Deburg, Gannon, Grbac, and Green. However, last season the Chiefs had the misfortune of having two bad quarterbacks, which lead the team to such an ugly record. Matt Cassel began the season as the starter, just as he had in the previous three seasons. Cassel was brought to Kansas City in 2009 to be the franchise quarterback after a 13-win season with the New England Patriots. He largely disappointed in his first three seasons, but expectations remained high despite his past history. Cassel once again disappointed the Chiefs faithful with his bad play on the field. In his eight starts he totaled just six touchdowns to 12 interceptions. He completed only 58 percent of his passes and finished with a 66.7 passer rating. Cassel’s play was so bad that when he was injured during a loss at home to the Baltimore Ravens, many fans booed him while he was down on the turf. This was a truly embarrassing moment for Chiefs fans.
Cue Brady Quinn. Quinn signed in the offseason from the division rival Denver Broncos. Quinn arrived in Kansas City after not receiving a fair chance to compete for the starting job in Denver, being completely run over by the Tim Tebow train. But when Quinn received his opportunity to play the final seven games of the season, he proved why he was unable to win the chance to start in Denver, hold the starting job in Cleveland and maybe his draft day slide in 2007 too. His totals were just as bad as Cassel’s. Quinn finished with an even worse touchdown to interception ratio, tallying only two touchdowns and eight interceptions. His completion percentage was two points lower, and his passer rating was a dismal 55.4. Just when Chiefs fans didn’t think they could have a worse quarterback than Cassel, their hearts were broken by Quinn. Combined, the two quarterbacks ranked 25th in the NFL in passing yards, worst in touchdown to interception ratio and worst in passer rating.
Thus, it was no surprise Cassel did not stay with Kansas City, instead moving to the NFC North and the Minnesota Vikings as a backup. Another obvious choice for the Chiefs was to not bring Brady Quinn back to Kansas City. Quinn instead signed with the Seattle Seahawks, and will be the backup for breakout star Russell Wilson. By ridding themselves of bad quarterbacks from 2012, the Chiefs and new Head Coach Andy Reid needed a fresh face and steady performer to lead the offense in 2013. Due to the emergence of Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco, former number-one overall pick from Utah Alex Smith was available on the trade market. The Chiefs were able to negotiate a deal with the 49ers that sent Smith to Kansas City for a second-round pick in 2013 and a conditional pick in 2014. The Chiefs immediately signed Smith to a new contract, and are ready to move forward with a new man at quarterback.
While Smith has not lived up to the expectations that go along with being a number-one overall draft pick at quarterback, over the last two years he has experienced a career resurgence. Under head coach Jim Harbaugh, Smith developed into one of the most accurate passers in the NFL, completing 70.2% of his passes in 2012. He also learned to be more careful with the football, throwing only 10 interceptions in the last two seasons. Smith is a huge upgrade from the bad quarterbacks the Chiefs sent to the field in 2012, and should be able to help the team to more than two wins. As long as he is able to learn and become comfortable in a new offensive scheme that Andy Reid will install, Smith has a chance, along with the 5 returning Pro Bowlers (Part 3: The Good), to lead the Chiefs back to the playoffs in 2013.