I read an interesting article by our good friend Patrick Allen at Arrowhead Addict the other day. In that article, he claimed that it was absurd to suggest that the Chiefs could take Jimmy Clausen with the #5 pick in the draft. I firmly disagree.
It's not absurd at all and I think it's very much in play. More on why after the jump.
Let's get into some of the reasons why Clausen makes sense for the Chiefs as well as dispel a few myths about why they wouldn't take him:
Myth: The Chiefs are Already Committed to Matt Cassel for the Long-term. You'd be Flushing $60M Down the Toilet!:
Cassel's contract seems to be pretty front-loaded, so it's not like the Chiefs are committed to him for a really long period of time. His contract was worth $63M with $40.5M guaranteed the first three years of his contract. Now, I'm going primarily based off of information spit out to the media, but to my understanding, the majority of his bonus money is in the form of roster bonuses. If you cut a guy from your roster before the bonus is due, you don't take a cap hit. That's very different from a signing bonus, which would require the Chiefs to take a cap hit based on how many years were left on Cassel's contract.
So enough with the rumor about the Chiefs being committed to Cassel long-term. If they want to cut him after this season, they can do so with very little hit to their cap.
Myth: Assuming Cassel Has a Bad 2010, Pioli is Too Arrogant to Admit That He Made a Mistake in Trading for Cassel:
Because Pioli has bent over backward to Patriotize the Chiefs, I think people are making a weird accusation that Pioli has some kind of history of arrogance and over-loyalty.
That's just not the case. That's not Pioli's history. Ask Lawyer Milloy, Ty Law, or Chad Jackson if the Patriots have a history of loyalty. They'd laugh in your face. When Pioli was with the Patriots, he was not afraid to part ways with players who he believed were not producing to their salary level. I don't see why he would act any differently in Kansas City. Pioli hated spending money on players in New England. It's hard to imagine that all of a sudden he's all about throwing money at players who aren't producing.
Yeah, but... but... Pioli traded a second round pick for Cassel. Okay, but he also cut second round pick Bernard Pollard and, if you'll recall, he traded up to pick Chad Jackson several years ago (sacrificing a 2nd and a 3rd round pick). That didn't stop Pioli from cutting Jackson after a short two seasons.
Myth: Pioli Loves Cassel Because he Represents the "Patriot Way"
Wrong. Read up on what the Patriot Way really means. The Patriot Way is less about the players and moreso about a system where the personnel staff and the coaches work together in lockstep.
Pioli made a mark in New England by listening to what Bill Belichick wanted and delivering those players to him. If Charlie Weis feels that Jimmy Clausen is the better man for the Quarterback position, then Pioli is going to listen to him. And yes, I imagine Weis wants Jimmy Clausen. And given that Pioli hired Weis back, my guess is that he has enough respect for Weis that he's going to trust his input.
Myth: You Don't Waste Your #5 Pick on a Backup Quarterback
Yes, if you have Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, then you probably don't want to drain that much money and pass up quality talent for a guy who'll likely ride the pine. But the Chiefs don't have Manning. They don't have Brady. Quite frankly, they don't know what they have. They have a Quarterback who could be good, but there's enough doubt to suggest that he never will be.
You can't rest your franchise on a Quarterback who may or may not be good.
Besides, Quarterback is the one position where you can salvage your pick, even if your pick at QB doesn't play a single snap. If Matt Cassel lights it up in 2010 and the Chiefs don't need a guy like Clausen, then you can trade Clausen for a solid pick. Probably a first rounder. You draft a QB at #5, then turn around and trade him for a #15. That's not a huge loss in value.
Quarterback is the one position teams absolutely must get right. Sometimes you can squeak by with a Trent Dilfer or a Rex Grossman, but those guys are the exception and not the rule. The Chiefs need insurance at the Quarterback position. If Cassel fails, then you have insurance in Clausen. If Cassel succeeds, then you ship Clausen away and get decent draft value in return. If both fail, then well, at least you tried. There isn't a whole lot to lose, even if Cassel ends up being wildly successful.
Myth: Matt Cassel Deserves Another Year to Prove Himself. After All, He Had a Horrible Supporting Cast!
And if he doesn't do well in 2010, then what? How many chances are the Chiefs going to have to sit pretty with a top 5 pick and a potential franchise quarterback sitting there? Besides, if you do that, then you're basically throwing 2011 away as you develop another young quarterback.
Look, I haven't given up on Cassel. I think he could thrive in the more Patriot-esque offense Weis will bring to Kansas City. But I'm also willing to settle for nothing less than at least top 10 talent and I just haven't seen anything that leads me to believe that he is absolutely the answer in Kansas City. I'm leery about whether he has a good enough deep ball, whether he makes quick enough decisions, whether he loses his composure sometimes. I'm leery about his accuracy issues. Yes, he can improve, but there's also a strong enough possibility that he won't. At least not to the extent that I believe he needs to improve to make this a championship-caliber team.
Some of that has to do with a poor offensive line and a poor receiver corps, but I just didn't see much improvement even when the supporting cast around him got better and better and better. Chris Chambers played like a true #1 receiver. The offensive line finally started holding their blocks. Jamaal Charles took a lot of pressure off Cassel by being a dangerous threat on the ground. Despite all of that, I just didn't see marked improvement by Cassel. He certainly did nothing in 2010 that lead us to believe that he is absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt the QB of the Future.
Besides, in watching Peyton Manning and Drew Brees and Tom Brady over the years, I began to realize that great quarterbacks make everyone around them better. Brees and Manning don't have all-world talent around them on offense. They make their offensive line better by getting rid of the ball quickly and make their receivers better by consistently throwing catchable balls in the right spots. Same with Tom Brady--he was leading productive offenses with Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney as his go-to guys.
And as long as there is that doubt, you can't rest easy knowing that you might not have the most important piece of your puzzle on the table. And when you can't rest easy, you buy insurance.
Jimmy Clausen is very much in play. We have a GM who has a history of demanding results from contract players and of listening to his coaches. We have an Offensive Coordinator who personally coached and mentored Clausen in college and undoubtedly thinks very highly of him (and who knows, maybe he's not that high on Cassel). We have a starting QB who has not yet proven to be anything close to a franchise QB of the Future and who is locked into a contract that basically expires after this season.
Jimmy Clausen isn't a bad pick. It's not one bit risky. In fact, it might be one of the safest picks the Chiefs can possibly make in this draft. I'm not saying he's a guarantee at #5 or that I would absolutely draft him, but I'm just surprised that so many people seem to think there's no way it could happen.