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Helping the Chiefs chances of winning a Super Bowl: Drafting a QB

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We are taking the first step in embarking on a journey that will be a multi-part series that will give us descriptions of what the Kansas City Chiefs need to do to optimize their chances of winning a Super Bowl. We'll cover whether or not the Chiefs should draft a first round quarterback, what the Chiefs will need from the QB position to win a Super Bowl, what the Chiefs need in terms of defense and a running game, and then we'll tie it all together in a conclusion.

I am still gathering the data for these posts and I have no idea where this adventure will take us, but I am hoping to obtain a number of enlightening facts. So let's get started with what the Chiefs should do in terms of drafting a QB.

To start, I made an honest mistake in a post I wrote about a month ago. I accidentally provided the wrong numbers when calculating the chance of a team's originally drafted QB winning a Super Bowl. I deleted the erroneous portion of the post and this article will correct the record.

We'll start by looking at some Super Bowl numbers that compare quarterbacks originally drafted by their team vs. quarterbacks not originally drafted by their team. I was once told you're not crazy if you talk to yourself. It's when you answer yourself that there should be concern. So yes, I just answered myself, maybe I am crazy.

I probably am because no sane person would spend hours working with spreadsheets to find this informationv... would they?

Do QBs originally drafted by their team do better in the Super Bowl?

So in the prior article, we discovered how quarterbacks originally drafted for their team fared a little better than quarterbacks not drafted by their team in the regular season but the numbers weren't jaw dropping.

That said, what about the Super Bowl? How have quarterbacks originally drafted by their team done against quarterbacks who were not drafted by their team? We'll start by the three possibilities in Super Bowl games in terms of quarterback matchups:

  1. A Super Bowl where both the starting quarterbacks were originally drafted by their teams.  Example: 1984 Super Bowl - Joe Montana vs Dan Marino
  2. An originally drafted QB vs a quarterback who was not drafted by their team.  Example: 1999 Super Bowl - Steve McNair vs Kurt Warner
  3. Both quarterbacks were not drafted by their team.  Example: 2000 Super Bowl - Trent Dilfer vs Kerry Collins
Before we can show the findings, we have to address whether or not certain quarterbacks should be included as "originally drafted" by their team.

Should Horse Face and Eli Manning Count as Being Originally Drafted by their Team?

John Elway and Eli Manning kind of blur the lines.  Both have won Super Bowls so they are relevant for this article, but were they originally drafted by their team they eventually won the Super Bowl with  Should they count towards the stats below?

For a little background information, John Elway was originally drafted by the Colts but refused to play for them. Eli Manning was drafted by the Chargers and also refused to play for them. Both quarterbacks were then traded on draft day and never played a single snap, let alone a single practice for the teams who originally drafted them.

I think there are two valid points that need to be considered:

  1. Both the Broncos and the Giants essentially used their first round picks to land Elway and Eli.
  2. Both the Colts and the Chargers took Elway and Eli with their original first round pick respectively, no trading, no shenanigans.
So should Elway and Eli count towards the stats? I am going to say no, and here is why: Any draft pick that any team makes has a chance of that player refusing to play for that team. It is a risk involved with any draft pick, especially quarterbacks.

I look at the moves by the Broncos and Giants as opportunistic trades, not draft picks. With that being said, the final numbers you will see below are not substantially altered by this decision. In fact I think I will include an asterisk below the tables where the numbers are different.

Let's Get to the Numbers Already

So do quarterbacks originally drafted by their team do better in the Super Bowl vs quarterbacks who were not originally drafted by their team?

There have been 20 Super Bowls that have had one starting QB who was drafted by their team facing another starting QB who was not drafted by their team.  Below is a table showing the outcomes for both scenarios.

Super Bowl Records
QB Type W/L Record
Drafted by Team 12 - 8
Not Drafted by Team 8 - 12

*With Elway and Eli, Drafted by Team is 13 - 7

Finding 1: In Super Bowls, quarterbacks originally drafted by their team have a fairly noted advantage over quarterbacks who were not drafted by their team.

This would seemingly put a quarterback like Cam Newton at an advantage against a quarterback like Alex Smith in a Super Bowl.

Sometimes simple statistics like this are funny, and the reason behind the numbers can be quite obvious. Teams most often don't let go of their quarterbacks unless they believe they have a better option.

It would help the Chiefs case to draft and develop their own quarterback if they want to have a better chance of winning a Super Bowl. In the meantime I am in no way shape or form saying they can't win a Super Bowl with another team's seconds. What I am saying that to be quite blunt, you have a better shot with an in-house developed QB.

What About Super Bowl Appearances?

We all know anything can happen once you get to the big game. So it's a good idea to look at how frequently the two different types of quarterbacks mentioned above have done when it comes to just making it to the Super Bowl.

For reference, there have been 50 Super Bowls. Below are tables showing both sets of quarterbacks and how many Super Bowl appearances they have had.

Super Bowl Appearances -- Without Elway/E. Manning
QB Type Super Bowl Appearances
Drafted by Team 62
Not Drafted by Team 38

*With Elway and Eli, Drafted by Team is 69

Finding 2: Quarterbacks originally drafted by their team appear in a lot more Super Bowls than those who don't.

Once again this is more bad news for the Alex Smith's of the world, and I will reiterate the point that to truly maximize the Chiefs chances of winning a Super Bowl they will need to develop their own quarterback.  As before, I am in no way saying the Chiefs can't win a Super Bowl with a quarterback they didn't draft, it would just be less likely if history were to be relevant.

What About First Round QBs Who Were Let Go by Their Team? You Know, Guys Like Alex Smith

There is a little niche of former first round QBs who were let go by their team and made it to the Super Bowl. This is relevant for Chiefs fans because Alex Smith is one such player. Here is a list of the players who were drafted in the first round, left their original team, and made it to the Super Bowl at least once.

Name Appearances Wins
Len Dawson 2 1
Earl Morrall 1 0
Craig Morton 1 0
Jim Plunkett 2 2
John Elway* 5 2
Doug Williams 1 1
Trent Dilfer 1 1
Kerry Collins 1 0
Eli Manning* 2 2
Peyton Manning 2 1

*May or may not count, depending on how you look at things

Including Elway and E. Manning, these 'Alex Smith' type quarterbacks have 18 Super Bowl appearances with nine wins. Excluding Elway and E. Manning, 'Alex Smith' type quarterbacks have 11 Super Bowl appearances with six wins.

Finding 3: Being a first round pick drafted by another team  doesn't give you any type of edge once you get to the Super Bowl. Sorry Alex....

As a side note, one of my favorite all time Super Bowl quarterbacks is on this list; Doug Williams.  If you like NFL history and haven't heard much of him, I highly recommend doing a little research into him.  Williams beat John Elway in Super Bowl XXII which makes it that much sweeter.

OK, Got It - The Chiefs Need to Develop Their Own QB. What Round are We Taking this Guy In?

We'll start this portion of the article with a simple, yet very eye opening table.

Round Super Bowl Appearances Super Bowl Wins
1 50 28
2 7 3
3 14 8
4 4 3
5 0 0
6 9 5
7 0 0
8+ or Undrafted 16 5

Finding 4: First round quarterbacks have absolutely dominated in both Super Bowl Appearances and Super Bowl wins.

Why is this?

  1. First round quarterbacks are just better than later round quarterbacks.
  2. There are substantially more first round quarterbacks than later round quarterbacks, which proportionally causes the numbers to sway in the first round quarterbacks favor.
I think we could probably safely file No. 1 from above under www.noshit.com. But just to be safe we had better at least look into No. 2.

Since 1966 there have been 755 quarterbacks drafted in the NFL (including the supplemental draft.) 103 of those quarterbacks were drafted in the first round. Since 50 percent of Super Bowl appearances have been by first round quarterbacks, but only roughly one in seven quarterbacks is a first round QB we can conclude the following:

Finding 5: First round quarterbacks are substantially more successful at reaching and winning the Super Bowl than any other round. It's not even close.

This stat actually benefits a quarterback like Alex Smith.

There have been 50 Super Bowls since 1966. Amazingly with the 100 possible quarterback appearances, there have only been 47 different quarterbacks who started a Super Bowl. Like our economy, there are a select few individuals who hog all of the Super Bowl wealth for themselves. In fact, 46 percent of all Super Bowls have been started by 12 individual quarterbacks.

Name Round Appearances Wins
Tom Brady 6 6 4
John Elway 1 5 2
Terry Bradshaw 1 4 4
Jim Kelly 1 4 0
Peyton Manning 1 4 2
Joe Montana 3 4 4
Roger Staubach 10 4 2
Bob Griese 1 3 2
Troy Aikman 1 3 3
Ben Roethlisberger 1 3 2
Kurt Warner 8 3 1
Fran Tarkenton 3 3 0

The ultimate goal is to draft a quarterback similar to one of the above. So one of the first questions should be, which round gives teams the best chance of drafting one of these quarterback elite? Below is a table showing the likelihood of reaching a Super Bowl and winning a Super Bowl based on the round the quarterback is drafted.

Round Total Drafted Appear in SB % Appear Win SB % Win
1 103 22 0.21 14 0.14
2 55 6 0.11 3 0.05
3 58 6 0.10 3 0.05
4 69 3 0.04 1 0.01
5 53 0 0.00 0 0.00
6 86 4 0.05 2 0.02
7 71 0 0.00 0 0.00
8+ or Undrafted 253 5 0.02 3 0.01

I'll be honest, when I first saw this table, my jaw dropped a little....

So there is a lot of information here. Let's explain the columns. The "% Appear" column represents the percentage of quarterbacks who are drafted in a particular round and appear in at least one Super Bowl.  The "% Win" column represents the percentage of quarterbacks who are drafted in a particular round and won at least one Super Bowl.

Essentially what this table represents is the likelihood of getting a Super Bowl caliber quarterback based on draft round. This data was used on quarterbacks who were drafted after 1966 (the Super Bowl era).  I didn't count quarterbacks drafted before 1966.

To clarify further, if a team were to draft a first round quarterback after 1966 to present, that quarterback would have a 22 percent chance of appearing in a Super Bowl and a 14 percent chance of winning a Super Bowl. These numbers are much higher than I anticipated.

Finding 6: Quarterbacks drafted in the first round are extremely more likely to appear and/or win a Super Bowl than quarterbacks taken in the later rounds.

Once again it would seem that Alex Smith would benefit from these numbers.  At the same time this in no way shape or form suggest Alex Smith is a Super Bowl caliber quarterback.  All it suggests is statistically over the course of history, quarterbacks taken in the first round appear in and win more Super Bowls.

Final Thoughts

You either have a Super Bowl caliber quarterback or you don't. However, the numbers show substantially that drafting your own QB in the first round and developing them gives your team a better chance of going all the way.

This would seem to contradict the prior article I wrote, but that is not true. The prior article shows that drafting first round quarterbacks frequently doesn't lead to success. Teams have to draft first round quarterbacks sparingly, and when they do draft one they need to hit the jackpot.

Since the Chiefs haven't drafted a first round quarterback since 1983, and Alex Smith is yet to show he can make it to the Super Bowl, the Chiefs should be extremely open to drafting a quarterback in the first round if there is one available in which they like.

If the Chiefs don't draft a first round quarterback within the next three years I predict their chances of winning or appearing in a Super Bowl in the future (without Alex Smith) will be fairly reduced. The time to act is now, and honestly the Chiefs front office would be stupid not to draft a first round quarterback sooner rather than later if they're serious about going all the way.

Upcoming, Part II - What Do the Chiefs Need in a QB to Win a Super Bowl?

The next part of this series will take a very extensive look into what the Chiefs need from the quarterback position statistically to best help their chances for winning a Super Bowl.  We'll cover a lot more data in Part II than we did in Part I.