Quarterback to the future

Whether the Chiefs ever return to Matt Cassel, stick with Brady Quinn or eventually turn to Ricky Stanzi does not change what must be the franchise's eating, breathing, sleeping offseason mission.

Kansas City must draft a capable quarterback. How something so simple could prove to be so difficult explains why the Chiefs are in the position they are in today.

Which is this: Kansas City is now commemorating an unhappy 25th anniversary with an accomplishment franchises can't try to make happen.

It has been 25 years since a quarterback the Chiefs drafted led Kansas City to a win. A quarter-century!

Todd Blackledge was the last Chiefs quarterback to do it, back in 1987. Since then, a parade of no-name and underperforming quarterbacks has arrived in Kansas City: Doug Hudson in the seventh round in 1987; Danny McManus in the 11th round in 1988; Mike Elkins in the second round in 1989; Matt Blundin in the second round in 1992; Steve Matthews in the seventh round in 1994; Steve Stenstrom in the fourth round in 1995; Pat Barnes in the fourth round in 1997; James Kilian in the seventh round in 2005; Brodie Croyle in the third round in 2006; and Stanzi in the fifth round in 2011.

Not one of them won a game for the Chiefs, including Croyle, who went a difficult-to-do 0-10. Many have started; none has succeeded. Until this franchise figures it out and tracks down a starting signal-caller, Kansas City will continue to experience the type of frustrating losses it had at Tampa Bay before its bye this past week.

It would be one thing to find a quarterback; it would be another to actually lead during a game. The Chiefs have yet to do that this season, the longest any team since 1983 has gone without having a lead during a game. In all but one of their games, even the one in which they rallied to beat the Saints in OT, the Chiefs have been behind by at least 18 points. They are the only team this season that has yet to produce a passing play of more than 40 yards. Having a quarterback might not be everything, but it would be a huge help.

Look at how rookie quarterbacks have helped Indianapolis, Washington, Miami, Cleveland and Seattle. There never has been a time in which evaluators have a stronger belief that rookie quarterbacks are ready. The top-rated quarterbacks for the 2013 NFL draft in April -- Matt Barkley, Geno Smith, Landry Jones and Tyler Wilson -- have start-early potential. There can't be any more excuses.

After seeing Cassel and Quinn, Kansas City can agree the time has come to draft a capable quarterback. Like winning the Super Bowl, it is something the Chiefs rarely have done.

On to this week's 10 Spot:

1. In Hindsight ... There was a time, not too long ago actually, when it seemed as if San Diego fleeced the Giants for Ole Miss quarterback Eli Manning the way Dutch settlers did when they bought Manhattan from American Indians for $24.

In return for Manning, who did not trust nor want to play for Chargers management, San Diego acquired North Carolina State quarterback Philip Rivers, a 2004 third-round pick that turned out to be kicker Nate Kaeding, a 2005 first-round pick that turned out to be Shawne Merriman and offensive lineman Roman Oben.

In the years that followed, San Diego was declared the type of runaway winner that either one of our presidential candidates can only hope to be. San Diego won games, divisions, praise and the deal. But check it out now.

This past week, San Diego placed Kaeding -- the most accurate regular-season kicker in NFL history, but a kicker who has struggled in the postseason -- on injured reserve with the idea it will release him once he is recovered from his strained groin. Kaeding and the Chargers are over, which means the score on the Manning deal now can be reconfigured.

The only player San Diego has left from that deal is Rivers, coming off one of the worst games of his career -- a loss to Denver that set up the Broncos to win the AFC West.

Now, people around the league are wondering what's wrong with Rivers. Part of his problem is that he doesn't have the right talent surrounding him. It used to be that he could lean on running back LaDainian Tomlinson to lighten the pressure, and carry the football and the offense. Not anymore.

San Diego still is waiting for Ryan Mathews to elevate his game. Rivers' favorite target, wide receiver Vincent Jackson, also was allowed to leave this past offseason to sign with Tampa Bay, where he set a single-game franchise record Sunday with 216 receiving yards.

San Diego has lost other great talent -- running backs Michael Turner and Darren Sproles, as well -- and hasn't replaced it. It's why Chargers general manager A.J. Smith recently told the U-T San Diego that unless his team rallies, there will be "the beginning of a new era in Chargers football."

2. Hello, Good "Bye": There might be blood in the water, but the Eagles have to draw comfort that this is the week they never have been better.

Coming off bye weeks, the Eagles are 13-0 under Andy Reid. This, more than any other time, is when the Eagles are lethal. And they need to be.

For starters, the Eagles will host the Falcons, the NFL's lone unbeaten team. But it's bigger than just Sunday. These final 10 games will determine whether the Eagles will keep Reid, the NFL's longest-tenured head coach.

The Eagles are counting on new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles to turn around a disturbing trend. Over Philadelphia's past 22 games, the team has blown seven fourth-quarter leads. It's why this team is 3-3 this season, 11-11 since the beginning of last season. It cost former defensive coordinator Juan Castillo his job last week and could cost others as well.

3. London's Calling: With little notice, Redskins linebacker London Fletcher has cobbled together one of football's most impressive streaks. Heading into Sunday's game against the Steelers, Fletcher has played in 231 straight games, including 186 consecutive starts.

The central reason the streak is drawing focus now is that Fletcher's hamstring injury puts the mark in jeopardy. But whether it continues is secondary to what Fletcher already has accomplished. He has strung together his streak of games playing a physical brand of football, dishing out punishment Sunday after Sunday.

Fletcher is not going to match former quarterback Brett Favre's streak of 299 straight games, nor former defensive lineman Jim Marshall's streak of 282 straight games. But it doesn't detract from yet another accomplishment on a highly decorated résumé for an overachieving player who has had a standout career built not just on ability, but on durability.

4. Jonesing For A Rematch: Before the season began, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told fans attending Dallas' training camp: "Y'all should come to that [Cowboys] stadium and watch us beat the Giants' ass."

Dallas backed up its owner in the regular-season opener, whooping New York when few expected it. Now Dallas has the chance to do it again Sunday. But there are a couple of issues. Since Dallas opened its new stadium in Jerry's World, the Giants have eaten the Cowboys' food, drunk their beverages and taken their lunch money with a 3-0 record in Dallas.

Plus, the Giants have not forgotten what Jones said this summer -- and plan to feed off it all week. Asked whether his team would remember what Jones said this summer, Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw said: "Definitely. We take pride in the billboard postings and different things. We just use it all for motivation for the game."

5. Fourth-Quarter Failings: Maybe a trip to London for Sunday's game versus the Rams will help the Patriots with one of their biggest problems this season. Uncharacteristically and unusually, New England has gotten owned in the fourth quarter.

In their past three games, the Patriots have been outscored in the fourth quarter 34-6. In each of their past two games, the Patriots have squandered double-digit fourth-quarter leads. First, they lost a 23-10 advantage to the Seahawks, who won 24-23. Then, the Patriots lost a 23-13 lead to the Jets before surviving and winning 29-26 in overtime.

Despite leading the AFC East, New England is not rounding into the form it will need to get back to the Super Bowl -- not yet, anyway. But Patriots teams usually get better as the season progresses, and this one will need to if it harbors any hopes of erasing last season's postseason disappointment.

As former Patriots linebacker and current ESPN analyst Tedy Bruschi noted, "It's not about being great in October; it's about solving issues come December."

6. Family Feud? Saints interim head coach Joe Vitt finally gets to return to the sideline, and whom will he face in his first game back? His son-in-law.

Vitt's daughter, Jennifer Gase, is married to Broncos quarterbacks coach Adam Gase. Jennifer and Adam have two children -- Vitt's grandchildren. Vitt spent his first weekend away from football this season, when his suspension was kicking off, in Denver visiting the Gases and his grandchildren.

In a perfect world, the Saints would have faced the Broncos during Vitt's six-game suspension so Vitt wouldn't have to now. But as the Saints have already discovered, the NFL is an imperfect world. Now Vitt will want to help turn around New Orleans' season and lead the Saints to a victory. But to get it started, he will have to do it at the expense of his son-in-law's team. It's just the latest tough spot for Vitt.

7. Jumping The Firing Gun: A move some around the league suspected would come at the end of the season was expedited, coming before the NFL's real hunting season begins around Thanksgiving. Carolina dismissed general manager Marty Hurney, who was in the last year of his contract.

Any NFL executive or head coach who's allowed to enter the last year of his contract knows that when the expiration date is showing, the clock is ticking. The alarm sounded Monday morning for Hurney, who had spent a lot of Jerry Richardson's money and didn't get a lot of victories for it.

During Carolina's past two offseasons, Hurney handed a five-year, $43 million contract to running back DeAngelo Williams; a five-year, $37.8 million contract to Jonathan Stewart; a five-year, $50 million contract to linebacker Jon Beason; a five-year, $27.5 million contract to safety Charles Godfrey; and a six-year, $76 million contract to defensive end Charles Johnson.

Altogether, that's $234.3 million on five players who have made little impact and could not help avert Carolina's 1-5 start this season. There's also the fact that Hurney already had committed $134 million to Carolina's salary cap next season while failing to re-sign defensive end Julius Peppers.

Carolina was not going to have a lot of financial flexibility next season, and so Richardson made his move this season.

8. A Banner Start: Cleveland's transition of power will first be reflected in the way the organization handles the NFL's trade deadline that is coming up Tuesday.

According to league sources, Cleveland's new CEO, Joe Banner, not the Browns' brain trust of president Mike Holmgren and general manager Tom Heckert, will have the final say on whether the Browns make any trades. It is the surest sign of a shift in Cleveland.

Any team that calls Cleveland to inquire about the availability of quarterback Colt McCoy or any other Brown will need the input and approval of Banner. In the past, Holmgren would have to approve any deal, and he relied heavily on Heckert to engage in any trade talks, such as the failed ones to trade up for Robert Griffin III or the successful ones to trade up for Trent Richardson.

But starting now and continuing through and beyond the NFL's trade deadline, Banner is boss.

9. A Grand Beginning: Green Bay wide receiver Randall Cobb now has more than 1,000 combined net yards, joining Billy Grimes from 1950 as the only player in Packers history -- a storied history -- to surpass 1,000 yards in the team's first seven games of the season.

Even before Cobb reached that milestone and caught two touchdown passes Sunday against the Rams, quarterback Aaron Rodgers was calling him one of Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson's finest draft picks.

"Randall is probably going to go down as one of the better picks in Ted Thompson's career, if not the best," Rodgers said on ESPN Milwaukee Radio about the 64th overall pick in the second round of the 2011 draft. "I think to get him where we got him, the kind of person that he is, the approach that he has, his knowledge of the game, what he adds to our team, his locker room presence, he is a personnel and a coach's dream."

Strong words. Cobb also figures prominently in the Packers' future. With wide receiver Greg Jennings nursing a nagging groin injury this season and scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, Cobb's role in Green Bay will remain significant and even increase.

10. Is Best Finished? Lions running back Jahvid Best is only 23 years old, he feels great and yet he cannot get doctors to clear him to return to football, raising doubts about whether he will be cleared to play not only this season, but ever again.

Doctors who have examined him don't want to be responsible for him, which is why none has signed off on him returning to football. It's also the reason the Lions haven't taken Best off the physically unable to perform list, something they have until Nov. 5 to do.

It has been more than one full year since Best suffered his last concussion. He has been recovering, working out, and he said he feels he is ready to return to practice. But doctors and Lions officials do not. Nothing more will change with Best's condition, which is why some now wonder whether he has played his last NFL down.

The Schef's specialties

Game of the week: Atlanta at Philadelphia -- In a game with so many storylines, Michael Vick going against his former team is merely secondary.

Player of the week: Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning -- New Orleans' favorite son goes up against New Orleans' favorite team with a chance to pay it back for the Super Bowl XLIV loss the Saints handed him.

Upset of the week: Dolphins over Jets -- Coming off its bye week, Miami has been a tough out for anyone it has faced.