“I like the idea and concept of trying to get a quarterback every year. It’s something that I know (longtime Packers GM) Ron Wolf did, and talking with Ron over the years, it’s something he firmly believes in. A number of us in this league learn from him.”
Those were the words of Chiefs GM Scott Pioli last spring after Kansas City selected QB
Stanzi’s selection signaled a change in draft philosophy where Kansas City had selected just two quarterbacks (Brodie Croyle and James Kilian) in the previous 14 NFL drafts. In addition, none of those picks were used higher than the third round.
For well over a decade the Chiefs all but neglected to draft and develop a homegrown quarterback.
By comparison, Kansas City’s opponent this weekend –the undefeated defending Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers – has selected seven quarterbacks over that same timeframe including Aaron Rodgers and Matt Hasselbeck.
Most all of this occurred while Brett Favre was entrenched as Green Bay’s starting quarterback.
The Packers didn’t need quarterbacks, but they stockpiled and tried to develop talent under center anyway. It’s obviously paid off.
“I would think (Packers GM) Ted Thompson would probably tell you that Ron Wolf started that philosophy and I believe that it’s definitely the right philosophy,” Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy said. “The quarterback position is the most important on the football field and you should never pass on a prospect regardless of a situation on your roster and that’s something that has been in place here for a long time.”
When Rodgers kept sliding down draft boards in 2005 and fell into the Packers’ lap at pick No. 24, Green Bay had no choice but to take the player they had rated as its best available.
Favre had posted a 4,000-yard season with 30 TD passes the year before, so Rodgers’ services weren’t needed immediately. He rode the pine, developing for three seasons behind iron man Favre before he’d get a chance to start a game.
Rodgers attempted just 59 total passes during his first three seasons serving as a backup.
“Our philosophy is best player available and for us to stick to that we can’t worry about who is on the roster,” McCarthy said. “That could be at quarterback, running back or any other position. We’ve always believed that you should trust your draft board and then coaches need to trust their game plan each Sunday.”
Green Bay hedged their bet on Rodgers when they drafted two more quarterbacks the first season Rodgers replaced Favre. One of those picks was a second-round selection of Louisville QB Brian Brohm.
Brohm’s addition provided immediate competition for Rodgers.
“You have to be confident in your abilities and bring on any challenges that come your way,” Rodgers said. “(Brohm) came in and thought he was going to beat me out.”
Four years later Brohm is out of football and Green Bay’s seventh round pick from that same draft class is the one serving backup to Rodgers.
Much like Rodgers, Matt Flynn has waited in the shadows for a chance to play. A free agent after this season, most expect Flynn to compete for a starting job somewhere else next year.
“There are a couple of really good quarterbacks behind me who I believe have a chance to be NFL starters,” Rodgers said. “Matt Flynn immediately in the near future has a chance to be picked up by somebody.
“They’ve had some success here drafting quarterbacks. There have been a few guys who have waited here as backups and then went on to have success – Mark Brunell and Matt Hasselbeck are names that come to mind. Doug Peterson played a few games in Philly and came back. I think in general the philosophy of building a team through the draft has been successful for Ted Thompson in his tenure as GM.”
Flynn’s only start in four seasons also happens to be the last time Green Bay was defeated. He threw for three touchdowns and compiled a 100.2 quarterback rating in his only start, but Green Bay fell 31-27 in New England last December 19th.
Even though Rodgers had no chance of losing his starting position long-term, there was still a sense of competition pushing him to get back on the field more quickly because of Flynn’s success.
“I remember watching Matt Flynn play really well and knowing that I needed to get back the next week to get my job back,” said Rodgers.
Stockpiling quarterbacks not only adds depth, but creates competition as well. The best players almost always carry a sense of paranoia that they’ll lose their job no matter how far-fetched that possibility may be. Reality is often skewed in the mind of a true competitor.
Drafting more quarterbacks also decreases the bust factor.
Green Bay has had some dogs on its resume with Brohm being the most recent. Names like Craig Nall and former Chiefs backup Ingle Martin didn’t pan out either.
One day, Rodgers knows he may face a situation similar to the one he entered under Favre.
If another first-round quarterback falls to the Packers, much like Rodgers did in 2005, Rodgers says he knows it’s simply the Packers way of drafting.
“You have to have confidence in you abilities and helping out whoever they bring in is part of you legacy,” Rodgers said.
“Aaron will be the first to tell you that his three years of development helped prepare him to be ready when he became a starter,” McCarthy added. “He’s a very gifted quarterback, but he’s hit his stride. He’s doing all the little things day-in and –day-out and is in a very good place personally and professionally.”
A flashback to Pioli’s words last spring makes the Chiefs future at quarterback all the more interesting to watch in the coming months.
Even if the Chiefs head into the spring with all four quarterbacks currently on the roster, the Ron Wolf way of drafting won’t pass on adding another quarterback if he’s the best player on the board when it comes draft day.