STANZI: Deja vu all over again

16 08 2011

 

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Ricky Stanzi (13) passes to a teammate during the second half of an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Friday, Aug. 12, 2011. The Buccaneers defeated the Chiefs 25-0. (AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann)

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.

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Moeaki: Chiefs offensive MVP candidate

9 01 2011
Tony Moeaki, Kansas City Chiefs

Kansas City Chiefs rookie tight end Tony Moeaki makes on of the NFL 2010 season's best catches.

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!!

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Ricky Stanzi: Destination NFL (part 1)

18 11 2010
Ricky Stanzi, Iowa Hawkeyes

Ricky Stanzi, Iowa Hawkeyes

It is clear that Ricky Stanzi will be an NFL quarterback, and the first drafted Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback since Chuck Hartleib (1989, Houston Oilers). Let’s take a look at the teams that might be the best places for Stanzi to play on Sundays in the future.

For those who disagree with his potential as an NFL quarterback, stay tuned for my feature breaking down the numbers to prove Stanzi’s potential to play in the NFL.

First, let’s just remove all of the teams who have recently drafted a quarterback with a high draft pick, have an established, young quarterback, or will likely pass on Stanzi in the draft. That removes Dallas, Detroit, Baltimore, Cleveland, Miami, Tennessee, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, New York Jets, New York Giants, Green Bay, Denver, San Diego, Houston, Atlanta and Philadelphia.

Next are the fringe candidates; the teams who most likely will not take a serious look at quarterback but may look to add a solid insurance policy at quarterback – not a future starter.

The Arizona Cardinals lead this list with their uncertainty at the quarterback position. Derek Anderson and Max Hall are definitely capable quarterbacks in the NFL, but neither has shown enough to prove they are the “quarterback of the future” for the Cardinals. Pittsburgh may look for a more dependable backup to Ben Roethlisberger, but they also have to worry about the backlash of Roethlisberger’s recent indiscretions which may dictate a premature departure from the Steelers for the man once deemed to be the Steelers’ next “quarterback for life.” Plus it’s easy to see Stanzi make the transition from the Iowa to the Steelers offense and uniform.

The Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints are not looking to replace Drew Brees anytime soon, but would definitely entertain the need for a solid backup standing on the sidelines. Chicago would also be an easy fit for Stanzi. But I believe the Bears have been doing everything to avoid a quarterback controversy with Jay Cutler, just look at their backups (Todd Collins and Caleb Hanie), but having an actual NFL-level quarterback standing on the sidelines may help Cutler’s performance on the field and would alleviate the death-blow that any injury to Cutler would currently be. Jacksonville definitely fits in that group as well. David Garrard is solidly cemented as the Jaguars’ starter, but they could benefit greatly from a capable backup behind him. Plus with free-agency and salary issues a future possibility with Garrard, having Stanzi in the wings may ease the Tums
consumption when it comes time to negotiate with Garrard, who will warrant a good-sized deal that the Jaguars may not be able to match.

The Carolina Panthers are on the fringe of the fringe teams. They just drafted Jimmy Clausen in the third round, but they are in dire need of a serious quarterback. I pulled no punches this off-season with my appraisal of Jimmy Clausen, which has been almost spot on. He is overrated, lacks the “IT” factor, and is just embarrassing to watch. He was drafted on hype and Notre Dame’s reputation, not on his NFL ability. Now, if the Carolina Panthers are willing to admit their mistake, Stanzi would be major upgrade at the quarterback position, but he would be more of an immediate fix (which will be discussed in Part 2) because the Panthers currently do not have a capable quarterback to mentor the Mentor, Ohio-native, Stanzi. But I don’t see them taking a quarterback in the top three rounds of the draft in two consecutive
years.

Part 2 of the series will cover the more likely destinations for Ricky Stanzi in the NFL Draft.

Part 3 will breakdown the justification why Stanzi is a solid NFL prospect.

Mr. Pressbox Out!!

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Iowa Hawkeyes All-Decade team (2000-2009)

8 01 2010

The 2009 Iowa Hawkeyes capped one of the best seasons in the school’s history with a victory over Georgia Tech, 24-10, Jan. 5, 2010. The victory ensured Iowa its fourth season-ending top 10 ranking of the decade (2002, 2003, 2004) and possibly its first top 5 finish since 1960 (finished #2). And four top 10 finishes easily qualifies as the best decade the team has had since it finished with four top 10 finishes in the 1950s (’53, ’56, ’57 and ’58).

In celebration of Iowa’s success beginning the new millenium, here is the Iowa Hawkeye All-Decade team (2000-2009) – as determined by me.

POS: STARTERS in all-caps (and reserves)
QB: BRAD BANKS (Drew Tate, Ricky Stanzi)
RB: SHONN GREENE (Albert Young, Ladell Betts, Fred Russell)
FB: EDGAR CERVANTES
TE: DALLAS CLARK (Scott Chandler)
OL: ROBERT GALLERY, MARSHALL YANDA, BRUCE NELSON, SETH OLSEN, ERIC STEINBACH (Brian Bulaga, Brian Ferentz)
WR: KEVIN KASPER, ED HINKLE, CLINTON SOLOMON (Maurice Brown, Trey
Stross, Kahlil Hill)

DL: AARON KAMPMAN, JONATHAN BABINEAUX, HOWARD HODGES, MATT ROTH (Adrian
Clayborn, Kenny Iwebema, Mitch King, Matt Kroul)
LB: ABDUL HODGE, CHAD GREENWAY, FRED BARR (Mike Klinkenborg, Levar
Woods, Mike Humpal)
CB: ANTAWN ALLEN, JAVON JOHNSON (Bradley Fletcher, Charles Godfrey,
Amari Spivey)
S: BOB SANDERS, SEAN CONSIDINE (Marcus Paschal, Tyler Sash)

P: RYAN DONAHUE
K: NATE KAEDING (Kyle Schlicher)

This is not official, and strictly my opinion. Please feel free to contribute your nominations and comments.

— Mr Pressbox Out!!

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