For the next few weeks, I'm going to give position-by-position grades for how the Chiefs fared in the offseason as well as how their roster depth looks in general. Today we'll focus on the most important position of all: the Quarterback position.
More after the jump.
The Chiefs needed to add depth to their Quarterback rotation and for two consecutive seasons they have failed to do so. The Chiefs have pretty decent backups, but not for the kind of Quarterback situation they're currently in. Brodie Croyle and Matt Gutierrez are both career backups. Croyle because he can't stay healthy and Gutierrez because he doesn't have any kind of ceiling.
The Chiefs don't have the luxury of building that sort of a Quarterback rotation as the Colts or Saints do. They have a Quarterback who may or may not be a franchise Quarterback and if there is any shred of uncertainty on that, then they need to bring in a Quarterback who can legitimately compete for the starting job. They didn't. So the question becomes, what if Matt Cassel doesn't prove definitively in 2010 that he's a franchise Quarterback? I'm not talking about good, good enough, or solid. I'm talking about a Quarterback you expect to carry his franchise to a Super Bowl. If he's not the answer, then the franchise moves a few steps backwards. You have to bring in a new Quarterback (probably via the draft), you have to spend 2-3 years training that Quarterback, and then you have to cross your fingers and hope that the new Quarterback is as good as advertised. After all, teams usually don't dump franchise Quarterbacks unless there's some sort of risk involved or that Quarterback is approaching the end of his career.
If you have a potential starter as a backup on your roster, you give Charlie Weis an opportunity to coach that guy up in case Cassel doesn't live up to the billing and it gives Weis an opportunity to strongly evaluate whether that player has upside (and if he doesn't, you dump him and move to a different option next year). If Cassel proves to be a franchise Quarterback, then you have either a quality backup or great trade bait. It's a win-win-win-win proposition. I would have liked to have seen Jimmy Clausen, but can't argue with bringing in Eric Berry and Dexter McCluster instead. I don't understand, however, not bringing in a Quarterback like John Skelton or even reaching for a Quarterback like Levi Brown or Dan Lefevour in the late rounds. The Chiefs definitely had options.
What the Chiefs Did:
The Chiefs did two things for the Quarterback position: 1) they put all their eggs into one basket; 2) they told Matt Cassel "put up or shut up." I've already talked at length about the first point. Scott Pioli is putting a lot on the line by putting that much confidence in Cassel. I sure hope he's right and have plenty of reason to worry that he might not be. Cassel needs to get rid of the ball faster, needs to be smarter about reading defenses and spotting the hot route, needs to be a lot more aware of his pocket, and needs to improve his accuracy and touch on mid-to-long-range passes. That's a lot of "to dos." Hopefully with another year under his belt, with Charlie Weis as his guide, and with a better supporting cast to work with, he'll improve on those points. But the operative word is "hopefully."
To the second point, Pioli surrounded Cassel with a lot of talent. The Chiefs are going to be a phenomenal running team behind Charles, Jones, and McCluster. They're going to be significantly better at run blocking and pass protection with the addition of Lilja and Wiegmann (and potentially Asamoah). They'll hopefully have more dangerous receiver options with the addition of Moeaki and McCluster. And they have an offensive coordinator who knows a thing or two about scheming a good offense. The point being, a lot of people have blamed the supporting cast for Cassel's struggles. I think there's some truth to that, but this year, there's simply no excuse. He either produces or he doesn't.
Grade -- Current QB Depth: B. They have pretty good backups and I'm grading Cassel pretty generously because he could have the upside to be a good Quarterback. However, you clearly can't give the team an A until Cassel proves he can be a franchise Quarterback.
Grade -- Chiefs' 2010 Offseason at QB: D. They're gambling when they don't need to. The Chiefs have had two offseasons to bring in legitimate competition and are instead relying on future backups. Not good if you don't have a clear, definitive franchise Quarterback on your roster.