KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Chiefs are turning away from a former seventh-round draft pick whose career is spiraling toward ignominy, and putting the offense in the hands of a former first-round draft pick whose own career thus far has been a disappointment.
Matt Cassel is out. Brady Quinn is in.
Nobody is quite sure whether the Chiefs will be any better off when they host the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, but what's clear is that the quarterback situation in Kansas City is dire.
It's been that way for years, too.
The reasons for the quarterback conundrum range from the Chiefs' inability to develop their own prospects to their refusal to pick one early in the draft. The result has been this motley collection of starters over the past five years: Tyler Thigpen, Damon Huard, Brodie Croyle, Tyler Palko and Kyle Orton, along with Cassel and Quinn.
Kansas City has selected just one quarterback in the first 100 picks since 1992, when Matt Blundin — Remember him? Didn't think so — was the Chiefs' second-round choice.
They haven't picked one in the first round since Todd Blackledge in 1983.
The failure of the Chiefs to pick a high-profile quarterback early in the draft resulted in years or fan animosity directed at former general manager Carl Peterson, and even more at current GM Scott Pioli, who acknowledged that upgrading the position is a priority.
"There's a lot of issues," Pioli said, "and that position is one of them."
Pioli doesn't have to look far for a blueprint in drafting a quality quarterback, or one early in the draft: The Kansas City Royals have been pretty good at it.
The Chiefs' parking lot neighbors chose outfielder Bubba Starling with their first-round pick last summer, and doled out enough money to persuade the highly recruited prep quarterback to eschew a scholarship offer from Nebraska to patrol a minor-league outfield for them.
Then there was the Royals' memorable 1979 draft.
With their fourth-round pick, they chose a hard-throwing right-hander out of Pittsburgh's Central Catholic High School. Dan Marino nearly signed with Kansas City before taking a scholarship offer from Pittsburgh, and would go on to have a Hall of Fame career with the Dolphins.
When the Royals' pick rolled round in the 18th round, they took an outfielder from Granada Hills High School in Northridge, Calif., who had a decent bat and big upside. John Elway wound up going to Stanford, though, and then had a Hall of Fame career with the Broncos.
Incidentally, the Chiefs drafted Clemson quarterback Steve Fuller in the first round the same year. He was 19-23 as a starter over parts of seven seasons in Kansas City and Chicago.
Why is so much value placed on drafting a quarterback in the first round? Wasn't Tom Brady picked in the sixth round, and Tony Romo not drafted at all?
It's a fair argument, sure. But of the 32 starters in the NFL (if Blaine Gabbert goes Sunday for Jacksonville), 24 are former first-round picks — including Quinn and his counterpart on Sunday, the Raiders' Carson Palmer.
Three more were selected in the second or third round.
Five of the first six quarterbacks taken this year are starting, and Brock Osweiler — the one who isn't — is backing up Peyton Manning in Denver. Not a bad gig.
What's more, 20 of those starters were drafted by their current team, and two others — the Giants' Eli Manning and the Chargers' Philip Rivers — were swapped on draft day.
"There's nobody that has a bigger impact than the quarterback," Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel acknowledged in announcing his QB change this week. "That impacts the whole team. You look at it and decide what you're going to do and go forward with it."
It's not like every quarterback chosen in the first round pans out.
The only one take ahead of Quinn in the 2007 class was LSU's JaMarcus Russell, who went first overall to Oakland and was out of the league after three forgettable seasons.
Quinn certainly hasn't lived up to expectations, either.
He went 3-9 as a starter in Cleveland, where his completion rate was just 52.1 percent, and where he threw 11 interceptions against 10 touchdowns. Quinn eventually was dealt to the Broncos and signed in Kansas City this offseason as a free agent, where he was expected to back up Cassel.
Now, he's getting the start on Sunday against the Raiders.
So the Chiefs have a first-round draft pick starting at quarterback after all.
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