Stanzi Selection Signals Change in Chiefs Draft Philosophy

Posted May 3, 2011

Prior to selecting Ricky Stanzi, the Chiefs had drafted just two quarterbacks since 1998

For well over a decade the Chiefs all but neglected to draft and develop a homegrown quarterback.

From 1998, until Ricky Stanzi was selected with the first of two fifth-round picks Saturday afternoon, the Chiefs drafted 105 players - 103 of those picks weren’t quarterbacks.

Brodie Croyle (3rd round, 2006) and James Kilian (7th round, 2005) make up the entire list of Chiefs QBs selected over the past 13-plus drafts. Kilian, as it turns out, was drafted one slot ahead of Matt Cassel.

For whatever reason, the Chiefs have balked at drafting quarterbacks. Right up until Saturday afternoon, at least. Going forward, it sounds as if history won’t be repeating itself.

“I like the idea and concept of trying to get a quarterback every year,” Chiefs General Manager Scott Pioli said. “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.”

Stanzi was the first quarterback selected by Pioli in his three drafts as Chiefs general manager. In New England, however, Pioli was part of a personnel department that selected a quarterback five times in his nine years with the franchise.

None of the selections occurred before the third round.

“In my previous (stop), we had some success with mid and late-round quarterbacks to develop and we also had a number of failures, or situations that were failures and/or didn’t work out,” Pioli said. “In this situation I like the idea of drafting a quarterback every year. Ricky has a lot of things that we like as a staff and try to develop.”

One of the qualities that the Chiefs find appealing is Stanzi’s ability to take care of the football. As a senior, Stanzi delivered a very Cassel-like TD/INT ratio with 25 touchdown passes and just six interceptions.

“(Taking care of the football) is something that Coach (Kirk) Ferentz really preached and it was something I definitely took to heart last off-season,” Stanzi said. “When to check-down, take chances and when to throw the football away – I improved in all of those areas last year.”

Pioli agrees.

Stanzi’s senior performance looked so much like a “Chiefs type of quarterback” that very few were surprised when Kansas City drafted the Iowa quarterback. A number of Chiefs fans “called the shot” on Twitter while the Chiefs were on the clock with the 135th pick.

“He’s a guy who changed his numbers from his junior year to his senior year – in terms of his touchdown to interception ratio – he changed that I think more dramatically than any quarterback in the country,” Pioli said. “A lot of what happened had to do with his work ethic, which Kirk (Ferentz) made very clear to me, but it also had to do with his learning how to do certain things like throw to check-down, not take risks but go more with the sure thing. It made him a much better quarterback.”

The Chiefs also liked Stanzi’s off-field dedication.

Cassel is typically among the first to arrive at the facility and one of the last to leave. He holds impromptu meetings with wide receivers and puts in extra hours of film review with coaches

 Pioli saw those same qualities in Stanzi during visits to Iowa City.

“One of the big things we noticed about Ricky, I was up there this year and I saw the kid’s work ethic first hand, in terms of film study,” Pioli said. “I’m not sure how many classes he had but the day that I was in there, he didn’t know I was in there, but he happened to be in there over three hours doing film study on his own.”

Stanzi is in a perfect situation to develop. The Chiefs have a starting quarterback in place and a newly-hired position coach (Jim Zorn) with a history of developing young quarterbacks.

Whether or not Stanzi succeeds as the Chiefs first homegrown quarterback since Mike Livingston/Steve Fuller/Bob Gagliano/Todd Blackledge (yeah, it’s tough to find one) remains to be seen.

What we do know is, as long as Pioli is serving as general manager, Stanzi won’t be the last quarterback that the Chiefs draft. He’s just batting leadoff.

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