Indy envy: When drafting QBs, Colts have Luck — while Chiefs have none at all
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Man, we hate you, Indianapolis.
OK, OK, OK, maybe "hate" is too strong a word, too emotional, too much in the moment. We’ll just say "envy," all right? We envy you.
One of the best quarterbacks of his generation lands in your lap. Then his neck gets all wrong, a season goes down the toilet, and you’re looking at the No. 1 pick. Again.
And then one of the best quarterbacks of the next generation lands in that lap. Again.
Throw out 2011 (and why not?) and from 1998 to present, the Indianapolis Colts have been under the direction of Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck. Throw out 2011, and from 1998 to present, the Kansas City Chiefs have been under the direction of (deep breath):
Rich Gannon, Elvis Grbac, Warren Moon, Trent Green, Damon Huard, Brodie Croyle, Tyler Thigpen, Matt Cassel, Tyler Palko, Kyle Orton, Brady Quinn, Alex Smith and Chase Daniel.
It’s not Cleveland, granted.
But it’s also not exactly what you’d call stable.
"It’s almost like a quarterback curse," former Chiefs stalwart Bill Maas says.
In Kansas City, Sunday night’s passing-of-the-torch takedown of Manning’s Denver Broncos by Luck’s Indianapolis Colts in the AFC divisional playoffs was something of a mixed blessing.
On one hand, if it wasn’t the final act of Manning’s storied career — No. 18 turns 39 in March — it almost certainly feels like the beginning of the end. Which is great for the Chiefs, short-term, because a) what’s bad for the Donkeys is good for Andy Reid, and b) because Peyton has been persona non grata in the Paris of the Plains, perhaps the greatest single, one-man Chiefs-killer over the past two decades.
On the other side of the coin, there’s Luck, 25, heading into what looks like the apex of a stellar career, now with another signature postseason victory tucked under his belt.
Now imagine him in Chiefs red. Or don’t. Because either way, it kind of hurts.
Luck was the consolation prize for being the Worst Team in the NFL in 2011. The Chiefs crashed to the bottom of the pile in 2012, and the best quarterback available to take in the spring of 2013 was … E.J. Manuel. Or Geno Smith. And cue the sad trombone music.
In the spring of 2010, the Chiefs had the No. 5 overall pick, and the top two quarterbacks up for grabs were Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy. Or Tim Tebow. Or Jimmy Clausen.
Forget scouting, drafting and development. It’s almost as if the Chiefs can’t even get when to be absolutely terrible right.
"Yeah, it’s almost an anomaly," says Maas, the ex-Chiefs-defensive-lineman-turned-analyst. "And I’m not talking just about recent years. Since the Chiefs have come to Kansas City (before the 1963 season), they’ve failed to draft and develop a franchise quarterback.
"That’s almost impossible to do. That’s really hard to do. I’d like to know the percentage of the chances of that happening in 50 years. I think every team you can name has had a franchise guy."
Meanwhile, the Chiefs don’t grow their own franchise guys; they snatch up someone else’s (Joe Montana, the aforementioned Smith) instead.
The last quarterback drafted by the Chiefs to start a game for the club was Croyle in 2010. The last quarterback drafted by the Chiefs to actually win a contest for the franchise was (all together now) Todd Blackledge, back in 1987.
According to the draft database at Pro-Football-Reference.com, the Chiefs have drafted 31 quarterbacks. Of those 31, 23 wound up appearing in 20 or fewer NFL regular-season games in their career, and a baker’s dozen — 13, or 41.9 percent of all signal-callers taken — never appeared in a regular-season game at all.
The best quarterback the club ever drafted — Roger Staubach out of Navy — came at the height of the AFL-NFL signing wars in 1964, and Staubach elected to cast his lot with the NFL’s Cowboys instead. Len Dawson, still the greatest here under center, was a first-round pick out of Purdue in 1957. By the Steelers.
"I think the next great quarterback is always on anybody’s mind, especially college football fans, pro football fans," Maas continues. "It’s magnified with us (in Kansas City) because of the things we just talked about — it’s been so long. We’ve never done it. You’re looking for a guy that’s going to come into Kansas City and just be a savior."
Sunday night, Luck. Monday night, Marcus Mariota, the NFL centerpiece of the first-ever College Football Playoff title game. And in a few months, he’ll likely be bound for Tampa. Or Nashville. Or, heaven help him, the Jets.
"Look what this town did when Joe Montana signed. It went absolutely crazy over Joe Montana signing (here)," Maas says. "This town went absolutely berserk. I’m not sure what it would do if it did draft and get a superstar/franchise quarterback, someone who is going to be here (for a while)."
From 1984 through 2013, quarterbacks drafted by the Packers won 298 games. Signal-callers drafted by the Colts won 321 games.
Quarterbacks taken by the Chiefs? A whopping two victories, and none with Kansas City. The club drafted Steve Matthews in 1994. He won his only NFL start, in 1997, for the Jaguars. The Chiefs picked Steve Stenstrom in 1995. He won a game (and lost six more) for the Bears in 1998.
Come to think of it, maybe "hate" isn’t too strong a word after all.
"Green Bay, (you go from) Bart Starr to Lynn Dickey to Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers, are you kidding me?" Maas chuckles. "It’s a head-scratcher."