Tracey and Brandon would like for you to be a part of their WedPics album, so you can help them capture all the moments from their wedding.
Tracey and Brandon would like for you to be a part of their WedPics album, so you can help them capture all the moments from their wedding.
Ricky Stanzi has been in this position before – and thrived.
The Kansas City Chiefs’ rookie quarterback was taken in the fifth round out of the University of Iowa with the second highest career win total in school history (26-9), 7,377 passing yards (3rd), 56 TDs (3rd) and a reputation for being a clutch, big-game performer.
Already one of the fan-favorites, Stanzi finds himself in a familiar position; the backup quarterback the fans are looking to be the future of the franchise.
After two seasons, the Chiefs’ fans are not convinced current starting quarterback Matt Cassel is the captain that will guide their ship to a championship. However, Chiefs coaches and management seem to have a vastly different opinion.
The situation mirrors Stanzi’s previous quarterback competition as an Iowa Hawkeye in 2008.
Stanzi started the 2008 college football campaign as a red-shirt sophomore, second on the depth chart behind incumbent starter Jake Christensen. By the time the first regular season game rolled around, Stanzi had worked his way to co-starter with Christensen and the fan-favorite at quarterback, despite only throwing four career passes at the college level. Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said at the time, both players would rotate and get playing time.
But it only took one week for Stanzi to set himself apart as the frontrunner for the starting job.
Stanzi entered the game in the second quarter of the first game of the season, against Maine, after Christensen threw an early interception in the end zone – much to the displeasure of the 70,000+ on hand in Iowa City. Stanzi only went 9 of 14 passing with 90 yards as the Hawkeyes dominated Maine 46-3.
He started the next game against Florida International, going 8 of 10 passing for 162 yards and three touchdowns in his first start while also splitting time with Christensen. Iowa rolled FIU 42-0 earning Stanzi his first career victory.
Iowa then played in-state rival Iowa State, and Stanzi earned his second career victory as Iowa won 17-5.
Coach Ferentz went with experience on the road as Iowa traveled to Pittsburgh. Christensen started the game and split time with Stanzi, but Iowa lost 21-20.
Stanzi’s third start followed against Northwestern. Stanzi threw for 238 yards and a touchdown as Iowa lost 22-17. But the performance, despite the loss, was the first time he played the full game without splitting time with Christensen — and would essentially be the last.
Stanzi earned his first road win against Indiana, 45-9, throwing for 184 yards and two touchdowns. Christensen came in late for mop-up duty, signaling his official demotion to second-string quarterback.
Stanzi finished the 2008 season 8-3, including a win against South Carolina in the Outback Bowl, with a 4-game winning streak, and Christensen transferred to Eastern Illinois University following the season. Stanzi went on to lead the Hawkeyes for two more seasons finishing near the top in all of the Iowa passing categories. He even set the mark for 21 consecutive games with a touchdown pass (longest in school history) and is the only player in NCAA history to start three games against Joe Paterno (Penn St) and win all three games.
But if the fans want Stanzi to repeat his previous success dethroning the incumbent quarterback, they should allow him to follow the script he used while at Iowa. It is a similar script Cassel parlayed into his current position.
In 2007, Stanzi spent his entire freshmen (red-shirt) year holding the clipboard, more like sending in the hand signals at Iowa, on the sidelines. He made one appearance at the end of the game in Syracuse, attempting four passes and only completing one to a Syracuse defender, in Iowa’s 35-0 shutout of the Orange.
In 2007, Cassel was also on the sidelines holding the clipboard behind Tom Brady, only making six relief appearances (4/7, 38 yards, 1 Int). Then in 2008, he burst onto the season after Tom Brady suffered a season-ending injury in the first game of the season. The Patriots went 11-5 (10-5 with Cassel as the starter) and missed the playoffs in 2008. In 2009, Cassel signed a lucrative deal to be the Chiefs’ starting quarterback.
Ironically, it is that contract which may be the biggest obstacle to Stanzi taking over the starting role. Organizations may preach they want the best 53 guys on the team and the best guys will be the ones who start. But we all know finances play a role in roster spots and positioning.
The best opportunities for Stanzi to start in the NFL, is for Stanzi to follow in the steps of Kurt Warner and Cassel (ironically) and impress the fans and coaches so much while the starter is out with injuries that they can’t justify taking him out, or being traded to another team in order to be the starter (just like Matt Schaub and Kevin Kolb).
Regardless of how it happens, the best scenario for Stanzi and Chiefs’ fans, is to wait until 2012 before expecting Stanzi to start in the NFL. Anything sooner and you could end up with another Rex Grossman, Jimmy Clausen or Alex Smith. And no one wants that.
Sure, Jamaal Charles led the universe in yards-per-carry (6.4 avg) and finished second to Arian Foster in rushing yards (with 1,467). Yes, Dwayne Bowe led the league with receiving touchdowns (15) and finished 7th in the league in receiving yards. And then there’s Matt Cassell, who finished 8th in NFL passer rating (93.0) and a stellar 27/7 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Hold onto that Cassell thought for a second.
But a key offensive addition to the Kansas City Chiefs may have contributed just a much to their success as Charles, Bowe and Cassell – rookie tight end Tony Moeaki.
With Moeaki, a third-round draft pick out of Iowa, getting three or more receptions in a game, the Chiefs were 8-2 (40 rec, 465 yds, 2 TDs). But when he caught less than three passes in a game, the Chiefs were only 1-5 (7 rec, 91 yds, 1 TD). Moeaki did miss the Arizona game due concussion symptoms and the Chiefs won, and Moeaki tallied a reception in every game he played during his rookie season. And during their first playoff game since 2003, Moeaki only had one reception for 22 yards in the Chiefs’ loss to the Baltimore Ravens. So technically, they would be 1-6 when Moeaki gets less than three receptions in 2010.
This was not something that escaped Chiefs’ opponents. It was apparent schemes were created to mitigate Moeaki as the key relief valve for Cassell, as well as to ensure the tight end stayed in protection to give his quarterback extra time in the pocket. Opponents knew with Moeaki out of the picture, Cassell’s comfort level would decrease, opening him up for more mistakes.
Moeaki will not supplant Charles as the Chiefs’ team MVP or even offensive MVP, but he definitely is the team’srookie offensive MVP. Of course his only real opposition for that would be gimmick specialist Dexter McCluster. Moeaki broke the team’s rookie receptions record (previously held by Tony Gonzalez) and was only a few yards (4 yards) shy of setting the Chiefs’ rookie receiving yards record.
With a full year of NFL experience under his belt, Moeaki should be positioned to have a breakout sophomore season, as well as find himself on everyone’s fantasy football draft list in 2011.
Now back to Matt Cassell … Chiefs Nation needs to keep something in perspective. Cassell is not “the chosen one” or anything like that. He had a good season in a very safe offensive scheme. It was a low-risk, low reward system. In comparison, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers‘ Josh Freeman finished better than Cassell in passer rating (95.9) and passing yards (Cassell: 3,116 yards; Freeman: 3,451 yards). Cassell threw more touchdowns (27 Cassell, 25 Freeman), but Freeman threw fewer interceptions (6 Freeman, 7 Cassell). Unless Cassell can become a threat with his running ability, his numbers and impact are just average. He is not a threat to any opposing defense.
Mr. Pressbox Out!!
Dear Big 10 Commissioner,
This is what we waited for? Really? First, you only add Nebraska to round out the Big 10 to twelve teams after your big announcement that the conference was expanding.
Then you drag out the conference alignment. That is followed by a dramatic conference naming ceremony that only rivaled LeBron James’ “The Decision.” Only this one would have had to been labeled, “The Farce.” With great fanfare and drama, you unveil such gems as “Legends” and “Leaders” for the two conference names.
Whoever headed your marketing department and piloted this public relations debacle should be fired for stealing your money. Five year olds with Crayons could have created a more interesting logo.
Just a note, but the only league that used non-regional (East, West, North, South, etc.) divisional names in the modern era – the National Hockey League – abandoned the honorary divisional titles in favor of regional ones as a way to make the NHL more interesting to the new wave of fans it was bringing to the league. It was deemed to be a simpler and less confusing way to attract fans to hockey and keep them interested. The names were confusing to novice hockey fans, and the new Big 10 divisional titles will most likely do the same.
The Twitterverse and Blogoshphere has been flooded with suggestions for alternate names for the division names. It took me about two minutes to come up with better names for the Big 10 divisions:
Obviously, West and East are the obvious front-runners. Pretty hard to question which teams belong in which division here.
Another is Black and Blue. Black includes the Blackshirts of Nebraska and Iowa, and Blue for the other division (the Blue bloods as well as Penn State).
The Pioneer and Patriot divisions, for the Western plains pioneers and the Eastern patriots of this country.
You could also argue the Plains and the Great Lakes divisions, again for the Western plains and the Eastern states bordering the Great Lakes.
I could come up with dozens better suggestions than the Big 10 unleashed on us today.
Whenever you are serious about handling these expansion details, Big 10, please give me a call.
Mr. Pressbox Out!!
Even the head coach (Gary Pinkle) said so.
Missouri Tigers fans have no one to blame but themselves for Mizzou getting another bowl game snub. I admit, it was a bit of the AT&T Cotton Bowl rubbing salt in Mizzou’s wounds by selecting Texas A&M before the Big 12 Championship was even played and the hierarchy of the Big 12 Conference was established. Regardless, the Cotton Bowl chose a 9-3 school over Mizzou who finished 10-2.
The one and only thing Mizzou fans need to keep in perspective is that the ONLY thing the bowl committees are interested in is making money. Period. Therefore two criteria apply, only two. (1) Which teams (available) would provide the best game in order to attract the biggest television audience (for sponsorships, of course). And, (2) which teams (available) will bring the most fans to the games (to buy tickets, merchandise, stadium food and spend money in the community).
The Missouri Tigers have undoubtedly achieved the first point frequently, but it is the second point where Mizzou has failed – and that has nothing to do with the football team, and everything to do with the fans.
Mizzou fans only need to look to their neighbors to the North (Iowa) for a perfect example. Iowa has traditionally been selected over other Big 10 programs for better bowl games solely based on the extraordinary reputation Iowa Hawkeyes nationwide have for flocking to bowl games. Iowa can not only guarantee selling out its entire allotment of tickets, it can guarantee that the crowd will be predominantly Black and Gold. At the Orange Bowl in January, Iowa fans traveled twice as far as the Georgia Tech crowd, and easily dominated the attendance numbers inside (then) Landshark Stadium in Miami. The crowd was near 70% Iowa fans, and sometimes seemed greater out tailgating in the parking lots.
Can Mizzou guarantee that? No. The Missouri Tigers may perform well on the field, but the fans do not provide the support required to make them an attractive bowl invite. But Texas A&M, with the help of being a local team, has a rabid fan base that travels well and represents the school ferociously for major games (i.e. the Nebraska game Nov. 20).
Gary Pinkle, Chase Daniel, Jeremy Maclin and Blaine Gabbert have built a solid football program in Columbia that is well-respected on the football field. But Joe Tigerfan needs to step up his game in order for Missouri to get the respect it needs with the bowl committees. Plain and simple, bowl games want fans in the stands with money it their hands – not sitting on a couch in Columbia watching on ESPN.
Don’t be afraid to travel outside the state of Missouri for a football game. It can really be a fun experience. I promise you’ll like it if you try it.
Stay frosty. Mr Pressbox Out!!
What makes Brett Favre Brett Favre? What makes Peyton Manning Peyton Manning? What makes Michael Vick Michael Vick? Drew Brees? Tom Brady? Aaron Rodgers? Phillip Rivers?
… Their ability to be themselves. They are all unique and have different skill sets, and their coaches utilize those abilities – not try to fit them in a neat little box.
While many try to figure out what went wrong after an indescribably disappointing 7-5 2010 season, I point the blame at one key area – Ricky Stanzi version 2.0. Not at Ricky Stanzi the man or the player, but at Ricky Stanzi 2.0 the offensive concept.
After a magical 2009 season that saw Iowa start the season with a team record nine straight wins, finish 10-2 (with Stanzi out and injured in the two losses) during the regular season, and 11-2 overall after handily defeating Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl, some in the Iowa Hawkeyes head-shed thought improving Stanzi’s touchdown-to-interception ratio would only make the team better. They were wrong.
Though Kirk Ferentz, Ken O’Keefe and company managed to transform Stanzi from a 17/15 (TD/Int) cardiac kid in 2009 to a 25/4 (TD/Int) precision machine in 2010, they also managed to take the spectacular Capt. America and turn him into the pedestrian Steve Rogers. They stripped Capt. Comeback’s powers, leaving him unable to overcome four-interception games with one magical drive. They converted a Heisman-hopeful into a quarterback who was not even an Honorable Mention in the All-Big 10 voting.
They were so focused on reducing Stanzi’s interceptions; they neutralized his abilities to be a playmaker, a field general, a game manager, a leader, and more importantly, a threat to opposing defenses. He may have had 25 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions, and he may have been ranked in the top five of all FBS quarterbacks, but when the game was on the line, Capt. Comeback was not a threat.
It was obvious throughout the entire season that Stanzi was so paranoid about finding the check-down receiver and not taking chances down the field, that he ignored wide-open targets streaking down the seams or on crossing patterns. It cost the Hawkeyes dearly.
Having 25 touchdowns and only four interceptions doesn’t mean much when you have five losses. In his first two years as a starter for the Iowa Hawkeyes, Stanzi had a record of 18-4 (.818) with 31 touchdowns and 25 interceptions (a 1.24:1 ratio). 2010 traded in 25 touchdowns and 4 interceptions (6.25:1 ratio) for an unranked 7-5 (.583).
There was no reason to mess with the formula. The prudent thing to do would have been to tweak a few things but leave the package, as a whole, virtually untouched. Why mess with success?
But to be completely fair, the special teams cost the Iowa Hawkeyes two crucial early games (Arizona and Wisconsin) and Adrian Clayborn admitted what we all feared, that after those two losses, the team basically fell apart and lost its motivation to go on. Stanzi could have thrown 50 touchdowns and no interceptions all year and that wouldn’t have made a difference if the rest of team basically quits after two gut-wrenching losses.
Again, this is not blasting Ricky Stanzi as a player or a person. This is against the schemes and positions the offensive leadership of the Iowa Hawkeyes put him in, trying to make Stanzi into something he is not.
Stanzi is a playmaker, a leader, a game manager and a little quirky. But one thing he is not, is a robot, and to expect him to behave and produce like one, was absolutely unreasonable and potentially what suffocated this extremely talented 2010 Iowa Hawkeyes team. Couple that with a ridiculous amount of key injuries, you’ve got a perfect s storm for losing five games by a combined total of 18 points.
That is eerily similar to Stanzi’s first year as a starter (2008) when Iowa lost four games by a combined total of 12 points. To put it into perspective, Michigan State’s loss to Iowa was by 31 points, compared to Iowa’s 18 over five losses. And seven of Iowa’s 18-point differential came in the game against Arizona, leaving the last four losses with an average margin for defeat of less than three points (11 points, 4 games).
And those who are calling for Kirk Ferentz to resign or be fired are ignorant, misguided or simply blinded by the pain of such a disappointing season. Kirk Ferentz has earned the right to have a disappointing season every now and then, but he does need to make some changes, starting with the offensive coordinator and the offensive scheme.
Now, the optimum destination for Ricky Stanzi would be a team with a veteran quarterback on the downside of his career. This will give Stanzi a few years to learn the NFL as a backup before taking the reins of an NFL franchise. It is the formula that has worked tremendously for Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, Tom Brady in New England, Kurt Warner in St. Louis and even Steve Young in San Francisco. Warner and Young were not drafted by the teams mentioned, but that is not the point.
The clear number one destination for Stanzi would have to be the Indianapolis Colts. Peyton Manning is on his way out in a few years, has set or will set just about every passing record known to man, and has a Super Bowl ring. The Colts have also not had a credible backup behind Manning and have been playing with fire for years. One bad hit to Manning and the Colts go from Super Bowl contenders to Average Joes in a flash. Stanzi would have time to grow and learn in the system, and already looks the part directing the offense on Saturdays for the Hawkeyes. The Colts would trade a little bit of Manning’s arm for a more mobile quarterback who could evade the rush and still get the ball downfield. Plus, the Colts are already poised as the professional affiliate of the Iowa Hawkeyes with four Hawkeyes currently on roster (Dallas Clark, Bob Sanders, Pat Angerer and Mitch King) and even had former Iowa fan-favorite Ed Hinkle on the roster briefly a few years ago. Stanzi would also be a huge lift to the Colts’ budget once Manning gone, freeing up more money for more offensive weapons.
A close second, would have to be the Washington Redskins. The Redskins currently have Donovan McNabb, who may not be the best when it comes to grooming his replacements (just ask Michael Vick and Kevin Kolb), but a year or two as a backup under Mike Shanahan would set Stanzi up to be the successor in Washington and be Shanahan’s guy for the future. McNabb may have just signed a five-year extension in Washington, but the terms of the contract make it very easy for them to dump him early without too much heartburn. And Shanahan is a proven quarterback-friendly coach. He is behind Super Bowl quarterbacks Steve Young and John Elway, as well as other productive quarterbacks Jake Plummer (the good Denver version), Jay Cutler, and Steve Beuerlein. Stanzi has comparable arm strength to McNabb and any questions about Stanzi’s overall arm strength can be nullified with a system that Shanahan has thrived in for years; medium to short passes to receivers who can make things happen, and then short passes to the tight end and running backs. And Stanzi would be perfect for the Redskins with their third-round pick, their second pick of the draft after trading their second round pick for McNabb.
The Seattle Seahawks also provide a good situation for Stanzi. Matt Hasselbeck’s days are numbered and the Seahawks clearly overpaid for Charlie Whitehurst as his backup. Pete Carroll will also like to draft a guy he can groom for his specific offensive scheme. Stanzi will have at least two more years before being the full-time starter and Hasselbeck is prone to injury, so he could get some early familiarization work in before being given the keys to the car. Carroll also has a solid history with top quarterbacks; Carson Palmer, Mark Sanchez, Matt Leinart and Drew Bledsoe. The Seahawks have some young offensive talent that could form a nucleus for the next few years as Carroll works on building his version of the Seattle Seahawks after the departure of Mike Holmgren. Although I cannot possibly picture Stanzi wearing that safety-green jersey in Seattle.
Cincinnati is the last stop in the tour of optimal locations for Stanzi. The Bengals are on the fringe of this list because it is uncertain how much longer Carson Palmer can hold up under the abuse he takes in the Cincinnati. The most likely scenario here is some sort of injury-shortened career for Palmer, and the Bengals will need to come up with a solid backup plan now, not after it’s too late. And Caron’s brother, Jordan, is not the future of the Bengals. Remember, he is Caron Palmer’s brother, not Caron Palmer himself. I’m not sure the current cast of players (Ochocinco, Terrell Owens and Cedric Benson) are the best guys to start your career with, but if it meant starting slowly and not forced into a bad situation as a rookie, it might be worth it for Stanzi because Benson, T.O. and Ochocinco may not be there by the time he takes over as the starter.
There are also some teams out there with immediate quarterback needs that may have no other choice but to consider going with a rookie quarterback next season. These options put Stanzi in a very bad position. Even Peyton Manning struggled as a rookie quarterback thrust into the starting role to open his rookie season. More recent examples include Sam Bradford and Matt Stafford. Both have done OK, but Stafford has struggled to stay healthy. And being a rookie starting quarterback usually means the team isn’t very good and is desperate.
With the announcement that Brett Favre is not returning for the 2011 season (and I actually may believe him this time), the Minnesota Vikings may be the front-runners in the “Immediate Need” category. Brad Childress will most likely be gone as well, which will leave a talented supporting offensive cast in the hands of new head coach and Tavaris Jackson. That is unless the new head coach wants to instill his new system with a quarterback he chooses. Stanzi will be a tempting choice with his proven leadership skills after three years as a starter for successful Iowa Hawkeyes team.
Despite what rhetoric the head coach may throw out, the Kansas City Chiefs cannot be satisfied with Matt Cassell as their top quarterback option. Charlie Weiss has been credited with turning Tom Brady into a future Hall of Famer, and would have several of the same building blocks available in Stanzi. With one of the most successful running back tandems in the NFL, a pretty good offensive line, and one of the best young tight ends (Toni Moeaki) in the league – who he spent two years throwing to in Iowa City, the Chiefs could use an infusion of skill and confidence at the quarterback position. The Chiefs found a gem in the third round when they drafted a player from Iowa (in Moeaki), and could easily find another in Stanzi this year.
Despite having the worst record in the NFL, the Buffalo Bills are not as desperate for a quarterback as some may think. They have getting some pretty solid quarterback play from Ryan Fitzpatrick this year. He has turned Steve Johnson from a nobody to a fantasy football stud and has been more comfortable at the helm of the offense now that Terrell Owens has left. They still may look to overhaul the offense, but as tempting as it would be for him to be a starter with a big paycheck in Buffalo, I could never wish such torment on anyone. I can’t imagine a more less desirable situation to be in.
A week ago, I would have put the San Francisco 49ers a little higher on the “Immediate Need” list. But with their new-found success with former Heisman Trophy-winner Troy Smith, they may not be as desperate as they were when Alex Smith and Mike Singletary were arguing on the sidelines during the Kansas City Chiefs game (week 3). The 49ers also don’t seem to be in much of a hurry to give Nate Davis, the fan-favorite successor to the Niners quarterback throne, his shot at being the starting quarterback. The traditional 49ers West Coast offense, with short, accurate timing patters, check downs to running backs and tight ends, and a mobile quarterback shifting the pocket fit Stanzi’s skill-set perfectly. And with an All-Pro running back (Frank Gore), top-tier tight end (Vernon Davis) and one of the hottest young wide receivers in the NFL (Michael Crabtree), Stanzi could find immediate success behind a developing young offensive line. But the 49ers would first have to admit the Alex Smith experiment is over before truly making a step toward drafting Stanzi.
Though, personally, I think Indianapolis or Washington are the best overall scenarios for Stanzi in the NFL, I think Minnesota, Kansas City or San Francisco would be great opportunities for Stanzi to demonstrate his abilities early as an NFL quarterback.
I guess we will just have to wait until late April to find out for sure.
If you missed it, I detailed the teams with outside chances of drafting Stanzi on Thursday.
Part 3, breaking down the numbers, justifying Stanzi as a legitimate NFL quarterback, is coming next week. In the meantime, I’ll let K.C. Joyner or ESPN start the conversation with his comparison of Stanzi deserving Heisman consideration, which also does a lot to justify Stanzi as an NFL-caliber quarterback.
Stay frosty. Mr Pressbox Out!!