Offseason Roster Review: Quarterback

Posted Jan 16, 2012

Reviewing and previewing each position heading into the 2012 offseason

Chiefs Quarterback Overview

Under Contract (2)

Matt Cassel and Ricky Stanzi

Free Agents (2)

Kyle Orton (Unrestricted) and Tyler Palko (Exclusive Rights)

End Of Season Depth Chart

1. Kyle Orton, 2. Ricky Stanzi, 3. Tyler Palko

Injured Reserve: Matt Cassel

What Happened: The Chiefs quarterback situation in 2011 was almost as unstable as it was in 2007 when the Chiefs re-wrote the playbook mid-season to better fit the skills of Tyler Thigpen.

Like the 2007 season, last year’s quarterback situation became a roller coaster because of injury and inexperience.

When starter Matt Cassel was lost for the season due to a Week 10 hand injury, everything changed under center. Tyler Palko got the initial nod over rookie Ricky Stanzi as the team’s starter but struggled with the tall task of facing New England and Pittsburgh in his first two NFL starts. Both games came in a primetime setting.

The Chiefs were gifted with veteran Kyle Orton just a week into Palko’s starting tenure when Denver unexpectedly released its opening day starter. Once Orton learned the playbook, the Chiefs quarterback situation appeared to be stabilized for the remainder of the year. It wasn’t.

Instead, former head coach Todd Haley balked at handing the keys to Orton while Palko continued to struggle. When Orton finally saw the field, he suffered a finger injury on his first snap as a Chief.

The play-call: a flea-flicker.

Following Haley’s dismissal in Week 15, new head coach Romeo Crennel immediately inserted Orton - who was still recovering from the dislocated index finger on his throwing hand - as the team’s starting quarterback.

Once Orton took control of the starting role, he led the Chiefs to upset victory over Green Bay to end the Packers 19-game winning streak. Aside from a costly interception in the red zone against Oakland, Orton was impressive on short notice and the Chiefs posted a 2-1 record with him as a starter down the stretch.

Orton’s three starts won over a lot of Chiefs fans. Surely it was a welcomed atmosphere following a difficult departure in Denver.

Big Question

Will the Chiefs re-sign Kyle Orton for the 2012 season?

What’s Next

Kyle Orton sits in the driver’s seat. It’s a good place for a veteran quarterback aiming to be a starter next season. Give it up for Orton, who improved his positioning as a free agent with his performance during Kansas City’s final three games.

Had Orton stayed in Denver as a backup to Tim Tebow or performed poorly in this time with the Chiefs, what leverage would he have entering free agency? Certainly not what he does today.

Matt Cassel has already received vocal support this offseason, multiple times, from Romeo Crennel and Scott Pioli. Cassel will be back in 2012, but has also said he’s ready to compete for the starter’s job.

Though Brodie Croyel and Tyler Thigpen had previous starting experience, Cassel has never had true veteran competition for the Chiefs starting job. Competition often pushes players to new heights and it will be interesting to see what approach Kansas City takes at quarterback this offseason.

Is there a scenario where the Chiefs head to training camp with both Cassel and Orton competing for the starting job?

Right now that prospect appears easier said than done.

Story You Missed

Matt Cassel and Kyle Orton developed a close relationship in a short amount of time. The two veterans built up a great amount of respect for each other and their ability to work with one another no doubt helped Orton’s huddle command and Cassel’s leadership role.

Seeing Cassel and Orton attack the final three games as a team helped Orton in the short-term and Cassel in the long-term. Both players showed a commitment to winning over individual agendas. It’s something that goes a long way with teammates.

One Sentence Wraps

Matt Cassel: Still a driving force in the locker room.

Kyle Orton: Set himself up for a job in 2012.

Tyler Palko: Would be a shocker if he doesn’t become a coach one day.

Ricky Stanzi: Everyone is still interested to see what he can do.

Interesting Stat

The Chiefs were the only NFL team to see three players pass for more than 500 yards, but were one of only five teams to go without a 2,000-yard passer.