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Chiefs History: The Search for "The One"

Posted Nov 7, 2013

Having the QB means never having to say you’re sorry

Every year, about the halfway mark of the NFL season, talk turns to next year, for many fans, whose favorite teams have lost their quarterback to injury or who have discovered they didn’t have the “one” they thought they had in the first place.

To date, there have been 12 changes at starting quarterback in the NFL this year, some by injury and others by way of a coaching decision and we are only at the midway point of the season.

New Eagles coach Chip Kelly admitted recently that college football had become a case of “haves and have-nots.”

In the NFL, that comment would apply primarily to quarterbacks: who has one and who does not? Kelly’s Eagles are on their third starting quarterback this year, the Browns, Vikings and Bills, on their third as well. Arizona started four different quarterbacks last year. There were 15 changes at the position that season. In 2010, 20 of the 32 teams had to go to the bench for a starting quarterback.

How you do as an NFL franchise rests so much on your quarterback. The infatuation with who should (or should not) play quarterback has a long history in Kansas City, dating back to Len Dawson, who had his detractors, despite a career that landed him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Each year, since Dawson’s departure, the process begins as a benign, hopeful experience and then turns almost nightmarish, as a quarterback is injured or doesn’t fulfill the ultimate dreams of the city’s fanbase, which has come to mean a Super Bowl title.

Some might say the greatest opportunity the Chiefs had to solve the quarterback puzzle came in 1983, when Dan Marino was theirs for the taking, but they passed and instead picked up Todd Blackledge. But, Marino only reached the Super Bowl once and didn’t win it. Maybe just reaching the championship round would have been enough to silence critics, but that’s doubtful.

The greatness of Joe Montana was in full evidence in 1993, but who can doubt he was in the final days of his storied career, when he played here. Had he not been injured in Buffalo in the AFC Championship Game, perhaps the Chiefs could have made it to the Super Bowl and he has said as much himself, but the Bills were a veteran unit, familiar with championship games, and one cannot simply dismiss them, particularly as the game was played in Buffalo.

The team that would appear to have captured magic in a bottle is Indianapolis, who picked the perfect time to go bad – and only after one year - when the supposed answer at QB is waiting and ready to be plucked. But, the verdict is still out on just how successful Andrew Luck will be, should he become the next Peyton or perhaps only a Marino – successful for sure, but not a Super Bowl leading champion.

And the Chiefs?  Alex Smith has silenced the naysayers, for the moment. He has solidified the position, has exhibited the mental makeup of a leader and has the recent credentials of a winner. (Largely forgotten is the fact that Smith was the QB of record for the 49ers march to the Super Bowl last year, starting more games than Colin Kaepernick). His teammates in Kansas City respect him and follow his lead. Andy Reid believes in him and Smith does what he asks. Much of the success the Chiefs have experienced this year is due to being secure at his position.

To have the “one” is to bask in the certainty of victory, or so fans exhibit the necessary confidence to believe.

As the team’s public relations director for more than 20 years, I saw up-close what John Elway seemingly did to the Chiefs, himself. As I made my way from the press box, down the steps of old Mile High Stadium, in the closing minutes of so many games, I saw victory snatched away again and again by Elway’s heroics and, in the back of my mind, I longed for the day he was gone and the Broncos would find themselves in the same place as the rest of the league. That day came and it’s been a search for Denver to find the “one” since then. Perhaps they have him now, perhaps they have not, as last year has shown. Time will tell.

The search goes on.

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