Saturday, February 5, 2011

What If?

In the midst of searching for the much-talked about (and, upon viewing — overhyped) Big Ben piano bar video from earlier this week, I found this. It's a clip from the 2005 NFL Draft, which has been somewhat of a talking-point this Super Bowl week because the draft's first-round was highlighted by projected top-five quarterback, Aaron Rodgers' falling all the way to the Green Bay Packers, 24th overall.

On the forefront, the video doesn't offer much, unless you put any real value on the raw and unfiltered analysis by ESPN's Chris Berman and Mel Kiper, Jr. The interesting part, of course, is while the world-wide leader's "experts" sympathize with and attempt to encourage young Aaron, the Kansas City Chiefs were on the clock, fate to-be-determined, with a soon-to-be star quarterback there for the taking.

It got me thinking, what if?

The 'what if' game can be fun to play, probably for none more reason than that it will boggle the mind. Forget the fact that it's mostly unfair to blame then-Chiefs' GM Carl Peterson for failing to predict Rodgers' emergence.* After all, 22 other NFL franchises concluded Rodgers wasn't worthy of a first-round pick that year, either. And that included the San Francisco 49ers, who selected Utah quarterback Alex Smith with the first-overall pick in the 2005 draft. The "20/20 hindsight" factor is only part of it.

*As most Kansas City fans realize now, it's likely King Carl didn't think, for even a second, about drafting Rodgers. That 2005 season would become a farewell tour for beloved coach, Dick Vermeil, and the Chiefs were desperately seeking help on defense in an attempt to return to that untouchable, early 2003-form. By 2005, the Chiefs roster was mostly filled with veterans — a youth-movement, which would come three years later, was already imminent. The team already had its quarterback in Trent Green, who at that point had not missed a start in four years in Kansas City. Vermeil and King Carl decided on Texas linebacker, Derrick Johnson, and the last-chance hoo-rah went 10-6 and fell short of the playoffs.

The more thought-provoking, mind-numbing component to consider is that we have no way of knowing Rodgers would have earned the "Super Bowl quarterback" label had his NFL journey gone in a different direction —

Would it be the Chiefs playing in the Super Bowl Sunday? ... Would King Carl still be in Kansas City? ... Would Rodgers in 2011 with KC be thought of as an underachieving NFL quarterback who never lived up the the hype of his draft selection as opposed to his current status in Green Bay which includes the possibility of surpassing Brett Favre's legacy?

And, of course, we'll never know.

What we do know is that great quarterback play seems to equal great things for that team year after year, and with Rodgers and Big Ben facing off in Super Bowl XLV, this year will be no exception. And we know the Chiefs have a quarterback named Matt Cassel, who thus-far in his career has never been great. There's no debating he's been very good at times — most of which occurred this past season. But "great" has never been a word used to accurately describe Cassel. Does this mean the Chiefs are doomed?* No.

*Maybe a more telling question/answer:  Is this the sole reason why the Chiefs are doomed?

Let's look at the quarterback matchups in the previous 10 Super Bowls:

2010:  Drew Brees def. Peyton Manning
2009:  Ben Roethlisberger def. Kurt Warner
2008:  Eli Manning def. Tom Brady
2007:  Peyton Manning def. Rex Grossman
2006:  Ben Roethlisberger def. Matt Hasselbeck
2005:  Tom Brady def. Donovan McNabb
2004:  Tom Brady def. Jake Delhomme
2003:  Brad Johnson def. Rich Gannon
2002:  Tom Brady def. Kurt Warner
2001:  Trent Dilfer def. Kerry Collins

It's not completely overwhelming, but most of the quarterbacks on that list would qualify as "great". And most of the ones that don't quite fall into the "great" category were, at least, very good during their respective Super Bowl seasons. Here's the quarterback matchups in the 10 previous Super Bowls to that:

2000:  Kurt Warner def. Steve McNair
1999:  John Elway def. Chris Chandler
1998:  John Elway def. Brett Favre
1997:  Brett Favre def. Drew Bledsoe
1996:  Troy Aikman def. Neil O'Donnell
1995:  Steve Young def. Stan Humphries
1994:  Troy Aikman def. Jim Kelly
1993:  Troy Aikman def. Jim Kelly
1992:  Mark Rypien def. Jim Kelly
1991:  Jeff Hostetler def. Jim Kelly

The trend continues. Of those 20 Super Bowl winning quarterbacks (counting the ones repeated for each year they won), only five could have a strong argument made against their Hall of Fame induction. The other 15 are either already in or are sure-to-be HOFers, with Drew Brees being the least likely of the bunch.

The point here is not to dog-on Cassel. This blog has done plenty of that the past few months. It's not an indictment on him, either. It's more just a perspective of what it might take for the Chiefs to get to where the Packers and Steelers will be Sunday. Great quarterback play isn't the only thing that can make a team "super", though the previous 20 years suggest, at the very least, that it surely helps. Great defenses can also carry a team all the way (see: 2000-'01 Ravens, 2005-'06 Steelers). But the Chiefs seem to be as far away from greatness on defense as they are at the quarterback position. Maybe Cassel will become great. Maybe greatness will just fall into GM Scott Pioli's lap — although I'm not sure we should bank on lightning striking twice there (Tom Brady, anyone?). Maybe Eric Berry and Brandon Flowers and Glenn Dorsey will turn the Chiefs' defense into a force again, and with that running game... maybe.

But, come Sunday, I just won't be able to help myself.

Chiefs' quarterback Aaron Rodgers brings Lombardi trophy back to Kansas City!

What if?

*** Super Bowl prediction: Packers 24, Steelers 23 ***


  1. I gotta' admit, when I see the Chiefs are "on the clock," I hold my breath! I recall this draft well, and I was happy that the Chiefs landed D Johnson, I remember thinking: We just landed a playmaker for the next decade!

    The Draft "What if" that makes me curse is when the Chiefs traded their mid-round pick w/ Pittsburgh to move down to the late round and select RB Larry Johnson. Pittsburgh (who's scouting dept rarely misses)used KC's pick to land star USC safety Troy Polamalu. Here is a 2-time SB champion who already owns a highlight reel that showcases the most physical and athletic playmaker at his position, perhaps in league history! (Apologies to Ed Reed)

    I'm pulling for the Packers, Eli, but this game is Pittsburgh's to lose--- and the Steelers simply do not lose Super Bowls. Steelers 27 Packers 17

  2. I like to see that you are incorporating videos to the blog now.