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Old 07-18-2009, 10:41 PM  
Tribal Warfare Tribal Warfare is offline
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Bill Reiter: Is Cassel the one player the Chiefs have sought all these years?

Is Cassel the one player the Chiefs have sought all these years?
By BILL REITER
The Kansas City Star

The last true franchise quarterback to wear a Kansas City Chiefs jersey is already here, sitting where important men sit: in a nearly enclosed, oversized booth, watching waitresses with pleasant smiles hum by and men in business suits strain to catch his words.

“They’ve been unable to draft or develop a quarterback,” Len Dawson says. “They’ve tried. They’ve just been unable.”

This is how far back you have to look to catch a glimpse of what Matt Cassel might become: All the way to the 1960s and Lenny The Cool, he of the Super Bowl ring, the bronzed-tan glow of the good life, the loving looks of folks who remember winning ways and the special place you get to inhabit if you earn the mantle of franchise quarterback.

A franchise quarterback also happens to be the one ingredient any general manager hoping to play alchemist needs if he’s to turn a 2-14 embarrassment into a winning organization.

“How important are franchise quarterbacks? You aren’t successful without one!” Dick Vermeil says. “You get by, but you don’t get better. You don’t win big.”

Former Chiefs center Tim Grunhard agrees: “That’s what young people are looking for. They want a hero, a hero they can believe in, a guy they can go in the backyard and when they play football say, ‘I’m Matt Cassel.’ We’ve been told time and time again that these guys were going to come in, be the guy, be the face, be the resurrection of the Kansas City Chiefs. And it’s never worked. Never.”

Dawson was the last player to have come in, been the man, resurrected the franchise and brought home the trophy. Joe Montana was very good at the end of his career, and Trent Green put in five very fine — at times fantastic — full seasons. But Montana could only take the Chiefs to the AFC Championship, and Green led his team to only two winning seasons.

But those names don’t matter anymore. One does: Matt Cassel, he of one good season in New England, a college career without a single start and a contract reportedly worth $63 million, designating him the guy who must lead this town’s football team until at least 2014.

“He hit the mother lode, huh?” Dawson says with a raised eyebrow and quick smirk.

The old legend nods his head and lets his blue eyes go back in time to when he — like Cassel — hovered between obscurity and greatness. The smirk fades. Something closer to a man knowing how much luck plays a part in life emerges in its place.

“You’ve got to earn some respect,” he says. “You’ve got to have some talent around you. You have to have some ability. You’ve got to have the chance to play.”

Dawson wants to say how his story offers hope that Matt Cassel can be the real deal, but first we must acknowledge that the Chiefs’ history since Dawson requires — to say the least — some cautious optimism.

Let’s start there.

•••

Jack Steadman laughs with the rueful insight of a man who’s made his choices and learned to live with them.

He had just been asked the question that’s haunted this team off and on — mostly on — since Dawson retired in 1975: What went wrong with finding the next long-term Chiefs quarterback?

“That’s been our fault, frankly, since our Super Bowl in 1970,” Steadman says. “We just never developed a franchise quarterback. And that has been a major concern of mine with our scouting staff and coaching staffs ever since.”

Those years cover some rather unpleasant ground, a space of history comprised of players such as Mike Livingston, Tony Adams, Bill Kenney and Steve Fuller.

“This is interesting for me, because Marv Levy and I really argued about that,” Steadman says. “He just didn’t think that the quarterback position was as important as other positions. But the interesting thing is: Once he got to Buffalo, he had a franchise quarterback who went to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.”

That and four Super Bowl appearances.

Which gets us to 1983, a place that — if you were mapping out Matt Cassel’s road to $63 million and a Kansas City-area ZIP code — may well mark the starting point.

Ronald Reagan was president, “Billie Jean” had just slipped from the Billboard 100 No. 1 spot, and “Beat It” would soon take its place. Dan Marino and Jim Kelly were still available when the Chiefs made their selection with the No. 7 overall pick in the NFL draft.

This was to be John Mackovic’s crowning moment, the birth of his empire. He had been brought in to develop a franchise quarterback, to give the Kansas City Chiefs a Lenny Dawson redux, and the greatest QB draft in history happened to pop up in his first year as head coach.

One little problem.

“Our scouts were really, really high on Marino, but John decided he wanted to meet with the players and find out which was going to be his franchise quarterback,” Steadman says. “So he went to meet with Marino and (Todd) Blackledge in Pennsylvania. And Marino stiffed him. Marino didn’t show.”

This is where a quarterback’s chutzpah — that chip on the shoulder that stars are supposed to have — might have altered the arc of his career and the history of the franchise that didn’t choose him.

“That made John mad,” Steadman says. “So then he went the next day to meet with Blackledge, and Blackledge showed up with a coat and tie on. And that’s who we selected.” Stedman again laughs ruefully. “And Blackledge just didn’t develop as the franchise quarterback.”

So as Kelly, drafted at No. 14, was helping Levy dominate his division, and as Marino, drafted No. 27, began one of the finest careers in football history, the Chiefs became a sometimes good, never Super Bowl-capable, often rudderless franchise with a knack for filling stadiums and making do with three kinds of quarterbacks:

•The first-round picks who just didn’t work out: Fuller and Blackledge and, later and deeper in the draft, Brodie Croyle.

•The older quarterbacks with a strong pedigree — and some winning ways — but not enough years left to plan an organization around for the long term or win a Super Bowl in the short term: Steve DeBerg, Montana, Green.

•The hot free-agents — the next big things — who, it turned out, weren’t: Think Elvis Grbac and the brief Warren Moon experiment.

What the Chiefs didn’t have, ever, was that guy to build around deep into the future.

•••

Until, perhaps, now.

“It’s so important to have a person who your younger guys can say, ‘This is my guy I’ll have around for four or five years,’ ” Grunhard says. “And for the older guys, it shows a commitment to a guy the organization is behind. On both fronts, for the young and old guys, it sets a precedent. I’m hoping Matt can take that responsibility and be that guy for a long time, like Lenny was.”

There’s an interesting comparison between Dawson and Cassel, one Dawson himself suggested.

“For any of us, you’ve got to get your chance,” he says.

Both men saw limited action in their first professional seasons: Dawson threw the ball four times; Cassel, 24.

Dawson’s next two years saw him throw the ball only 13 times. For Cassel, years two and three produced 15 pass attempts.

Both men languished in obscurity, known more for the men they played behind than their own play. And both men shared the prospect of sudden opportunity meeting a sign of great faith.

For Dawson, who was nearly out of football, it came in the form of a last-ditch effort with the Dallas Chiefs and an injury to Cotton Davidson, whom Lamar Hunt then traded away — the first and only trade the former owner made.

For Cassel, it was Tom Brady going down, having a breakout season and having millions of dollars heaped onto him.

“I had to have an opportunity to play, and Cotton got hurt — kind of like Brady,” Dawson says. “If the guy’s winning and playing well, then you don’t make changes for the sake of changes. But (the Chiefs) were looking for a quarterback and knew the skills I had.”

That’s because Hank Stram — a man who had coached Dawson in college, who had seen him prepare and play — was the team’s head coach. And Cassel, off his breakout season, had a similar patron in Scott Pioli.

“If Brady hadn’t gotten hurt,” Dawson says, “(Cassel) still wouldn’t be playing.”

The old legend smiles. Yes, he knows a thing or two about being underestimated — and about seizing that one chance, that one last hope, after you thought it would never arrive.

Is Cassel the answer, finally, to the Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterback riddle?

Dawson thinks just maybe.

“Apparently, the preparation is there, from what I understand,” Dawson says. “He is prepared. And it starts with that, that he understands what they’re trying to accomplish. After that, leadership has to come with performance. On that, we’re going to find out.”
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Old 07-18-2009, 10:51 PM   #2
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They better hope so..
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Old 07-18-2009, 11:36 PM   #3
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He only needs to put up Trent Green #s
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Old 07-19-2009, 01:20 AM   #4
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I didn't realize Marino stiffed Mackovic...
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Old 07-19-2009, 01:42 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tribal Warfare View Post
The older quarterbacks with a strong pedigree — and some winning ways — but not enough years left to plan an organization around for the long term or win a Super Bowl in the short term: Steve DeBerg, Montana, Green.

•The hot free-agents — the next big things — who, it turned out, weren’t: Think Elvis Grbac and the brief Warren Moon experiment.
How did Warren Moon end up in that second "list"?
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Old 07-19-2009, 01:54 AM   #6
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The Chiefs havn't tried enough to draft and develop our own QB. under Carl Peckerson we allways had rehashed old QBs that never grew with the team. Trent Green was the best we had but he got old too. Yea we tried Matt Blundin and Brodie Croyle, two out of twenty years of Carl that we tried to draft and develope our own QB. That is not trying.

I hope that Matt Cassel works out for us that is all.

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Old 07-19-2009, 01:57 AM   #7
Count Zarth Count Zarth is offline
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Does Len Dawson ever say anything of substance anymore?

Seriously.
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Old 07-19-2009, 02:06 AM   #8
J Diddy J Diddy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GoChiefs View Post
Does Len Dawson ever say anything of substance anymore?

Seriously.
What are you talking about?
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Old 07-19-2009, 02:08 AM   #9
Count Zarth Count Zarth is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by J Diddy View Post
What are you talking about?
This article.

All Len Dawson does is spew captain obvious statements.

He's been doing it for awhile.
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Old 07-19-2009, 02:57 AM   #10
J Diddy J Diddy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GoChiefs View Post
This article.

All Len Dawson does is spew captain obvious statements.

He's been doing it for awhile.
what i took from this
That there was a lot of similarities to his situation then and cassell's now. That just because lightening struck once doesn't mean it will happen again.

I'm sure he's being guarded about what he will say, but come on and listen to him game time.
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Old 07-19-2009, 05:03 AM   #11
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this makes me want to cry turds....this franchise has been run by the dumbest pieces of shit in human history


Quote:
“Our scouts were really, really high on Marino, but John decided he wanted to meet with the players and find out which was going to be his franchise quarterback,” Steadman says. “So he went to meet with Marino and (Todd) Blackledge in Pennsylvania. And Marino stiffed him. Marino didn’t show.”

This is where a quarterback’s chutzpah — that chip on the shoulder that stars are supposed to have — might have altered the arc of his career and the history of the franchise that didn’t choose him.

“That made John mad,” Steadman says. “So then he went the next day to meet with Blackledge, and Blackledge showed up with a coat and tie on. And that’s who we selected.” Stedman again laughs ruefully.
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Old 07-19-2009, 05:36 AM   #12
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Old 07-19-2009, 07:37 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by the Talking Can View Post
this makes me want to cry turds....this franchise has been run by the dumbest pieces of shit in human history
Marino was selected at #27 ... hindsight is always 20/20.

If any potential 1st round draft pick today did to the Chiefs what Marino did the entire NFL (as well as the Planet) would be in an uproar about what an arrogant douchebag he was; how he was an idiot for affecting his draft status, losing millions in guaranteed money. Conversely, people would be talking about the maturity and class of the "coat and tie" guy, how he's "Chiefs" material, how he earned respect by showing respect, blah blah blah ...
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Old 07-19-2009, 07:51 AM   #14
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Dallas Chiefs?
Stole my post. I guess newspapers can't afford editors any longer.
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Old 07-19-2009, 07:54 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by the Talking Can View Post
this makes me want to cry turds....this franchise has been run by the dumbest pieces of shit in human history
Though the blowoff is cited, the rumors of rampant nose candy use had to play in there too, as with all other teams except Miami [and Washington, who didn't get a chance to pass].

The stupifying one is Rooney with the Steelers who told the FO he wanted Marino [a Penn local], but made the mistake of telling them the newspaper guys suggested it.

Could you imagine King Carl going into Herm's or Gun's or Marty's FO and saying Fatlock had turned him on to a first round selection?
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