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How the Cutler Trade Could Bury Kansas City
Posted By ChiefsWarpath.com On April 5, 2009 @ 3:45 pm In Commentary | Comments Disabled
Jay Cutler is a good quarterback. Kansas City fans have spent the past three years denouncing his ability, downplaying (or outright disregarding) the fact that he’s already one of the league’s better technicians at the position. They take his youthful brashness as an indication that he’s another Jeff George–a physical specimen with the leadership qualities of a gerbil. His proclamation of his superiority to John Elway and unwillingness to bury the hatchet with new coach Josh McDaniels as prima facie evidence of this, failing to take into account that Elway, former Broncos hero and current Raider Girl domestic partner, was the original crybaby quarterback who forced a trade by refusing to play for his team.
Further evidence to Chiefs fans is the fact that the offense led by Cutler never carried the Broncos into the playoffs, which is something that Elway did frequently, even early in his career. This, of course, fails to take into account that Elway was never as good without Sammy Winder or Terrell Davis–only three of his ten playoff berths came without one or the other. Cutler hasn’t had his Sammy Winder or Terrell Davis yet. He hasn’t even had his Bobby Humphrey. Also, let’s not discount Elway’s defenses, which frequently sported four or more Pro Bowlers. That, from what I understand, helps quite a bit in terms of winning games and staying competitive. On the flip side, even with Champ Bailey and Elvis Dumervil, Denver’s defense was a joke during the entirety of Cutler’s tenure.
To say Elway got a fairer shake is a monumental understatement.
So where does that leave Cutler? It leaves him in a different division to prove whether he’s closer to Elway or George. For the Chiefs, this is a good thing. Leadership qualities aside, it’s a given that Cutler is going to complete a lot of passes, and, as we very painfully witnessed last season, the Kansas City Chiefs cannot play the pass.
And where does that leave Denver? In terms of the quarterback position, it leaves them with Kyle Orton. Kyle Orton is the David Eckstein of signal callers. On his best day he’s never going to be anything better than average, but his lack of tools won’t stop him from winning games. The term “gritty” was invented for guys like this. They’re good guys to have around–ask any hardcore Chiefs fan about Mike Maslowski and they’ll tell you so.
For the Broncos, Orton is a breath of fresh air. They’ve spent the last decade focused on one thing only: replacing John Elway. Thus far they’ve burned through two Pro Bowlers and a two-time Pro Bowl alternate, but, like Bono (the mediocre singer, not the mediocre quarterback), they still haven’t found what they’re looking for. That’s something older Chiefs fans can easily relate to. Aside from fleeting trysts with Steve DeBerg, Joe Montana, and Rich Gannon, the Chiefs had nothing but heartache between Len Dawson and Trent Green. Orton has the ability to win games, but the state of Colorado won’t lean on him to do so because they know he’s not that guy. He’ll never be asked to assume the Atlas pose forced upon Brian Griese, Jake Plummer, and Cutler. Orton gives the team a chance to step away from that pursuit and focus on addressing their other needs, most notably at guard/center and linebacker.
…. which brings us to the 2009 NFL Draft. With the 12th, 18th, 48th, 79th, and 84th pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, the Denver Broncos select players at every position the Kansas City Chiefs wish the Broncos wouldn’t. This draft is deep at every position they badly need, and that spells bad news for the other three teams in a division on the decline. They might be out of contention for a top flight player like Aaron Curry, but they’ll be in fair contention for Alex Mack, Max Unger, Duke Robinson, Antoine Caldwell, Andy Levitre, Jonathan Luigs, Ray Maualuga, James Lauranaitis, Clay Matthews, and Brian Cushing. They could easily take three of the above, then continue to shop from solid 2nd tier guys like Darryl Beckwith and A.Q. Shipley.
Of course, it was only a year ago that Kansas City had their very own Miracle Gro crop of draft choices. The 2008 NFL Draft was the saving grace the Chiefs needed, right? Right. The problem is that they squandered those cushy 3rd round picks on complimentary skill position players, rather than bolstering an ailing interior line and linebacking corps. No matter how much I like Brad Cottam and Jamaal Charles (I won’t include DaJuan Morgan because he hasn’t given me anything to like as of yet), I have to think they would have been better off addressing positions that are more important than blocking tight end and change-of-pace tailback.
Unlike the 2007 Chiefs, the 2008 Broncos are entering the upcoming draft from a position of strength. For a team with so many obvious holes, they also went 9-7, 7-9, and 8-8 over the last three seasons. They have talent. They have as good of an offensive tackle tandem as there is in the league right now. They continually prove that a star running back isn’t a necessity to having a solid running game (though it helps–they made the playoffs a lot more when they had one). If they can keep their jailbird star receiver out of trouble, they very well might be able to make do with Orton for two or three years while searching for a suitable replacement. On defense, they have a quality young defensive end in Elvis Dumervil and a future Hall of Fame cornerback in Champ Bailey. If they can find a few extra linebackers to put next to Champ’s little brother, they might see a return to their glory days in the blink of an eye.
The Chiefs, on the other hand, traded one of their three good players–the youngest one, no less–to stock up on role players. That’s the sort of thing payroll-challenged baseball teams do. Maybe the Chiefs need to move out of Truman Sports Complex, because it’s starting to seem like there’s something in the water.
In the end, Kansas City’s saving grace could be that Denver covets either Matt Stafford or Matt Cassel enough to trade away some of their prime draft real estate. As much fun as it might be to watch my team spend the #3 pick drafting a defensive tackle to replace the one they drafted with the #5 pick a year ago, I think I’d rather see them acquire somebody to compete with Demorrio Williams and Wade Smith for their starting jobs. Last year was a strong free agency and an average draft, and the Chiefs missed out. This year is a weak free agency and a strong draft, and the Chiefs are slated to miss out again. Given the price they’re paying by missing out on all of those aforementioned prospects, Cassel had better be the next Brett Favre.
Also, kudos to anyone who caught both Boss references in the last sentence of the 10th paragraph.
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