Capitals

Chiefs have rough history of starting quarterbacks

Chiefs have rough history of starting quarterbacks

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) The Chiefs are turning away from a former seventh-round draft pick whose career is spiraling toward ignominy, and putting the offense in the hands of a former first-round draft pick whose own career thus far has been a disappointment.

Matt Cassel is out. Brady Quinn is in.

Nobody is quite sure whether the Chiefs will be any better off when they host the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, but what's clear is that the quarterback situation in Kansas City is dire.

It's been that way for years, too.

The reasons for the quarterback conundrum range from the Chiefs' inability to develop their own prospects to their refusal to pick one early in the draft. The result has been this motley collection of starters over the past five years: Tyler Thigpen, Damon Huard, Brodie Croyle, Tyler Palko and Kyle Orton, along with Cassel and Quinn.

Kansas City has selected just one quarterback in the first 100 picks since 1992, when Matt Blundin - Remember him? Didn't think so - was the Chiefs' second-round choice.

They haven't picked one in the first round since Todd Blackledge in 1983.

The failure of the Chiefs to pick a high-profile quarterback early in the draft resulted in years or fan animosity directed at former general manager Carl Peterson, and even more at current GM Scott Pioli, who acknowledged that upgrading the position is a priority.

``There's a lot of issues,'' Pioli said, ``and that position is one of them.''

Pioli doesn't have to look far for a blueprint in drafting a quality quarterback, or one early in the draft: The Kansas City Royals have been pretty good at it.

The Chiefs' parking lot neighbors chose outfielder Bubba Starling with their first-round pick last summer, and doled out enough money to persuade the highly recruited prep quarterback to eschew a scholarship offer from Nebraska to patrol a minor-league outfield for them.

Then there was the Royals' memorable 1979 draft.

With their fourth-round pick, they chose a hard-throwing right-hander out of Pittsburgh's Central Catholic High School. Dan Marino nearly signed with Kansas City before taking a scholarship offer from Pittsburgh, and would go on to have a Hall of Fame career with the Dolphins.

When the Royals' pick rolled round in the 18th round, they took an outfielder from Granada Hills High School in Northridge, Calif., who had a decent bat and big upside. John Elway wound up going to Stanford, though, and then had a Hall of Fame career with the Broncos.

Incidentally, the Chiefs drafted Clemson quarterback Steve Fuller in the first round the same year. He was 19-23 as a starter over parts of seven seasons in Kansas City and Chicago.

Why is so much value placed on drafting a quarterback in the first round? Wasn't Tom Brady picked in the sixth round, and Tony Romo not drafted at all?

It's a fair argument, sure. But of the 32 starters in the NFL (if Blaine Gabbert goes Sunday for Jacksonville), 24 are former first-round picks - including Quinn and his counterpart on Sunday, the Raiders' Carson Palmer.

Three more were selected in the second or third round.

Five of the first six quarterbacks taken this year are starting, and Brock Osweiler - the one who isn't - is backing up Peyton Manning in Denver. Not a bad gig.

What's more, 20 of those starters were drafted by their current team, and two others - the Giants' Eli Manning and the Chargers' Philip Rivers - were swapped on draft day.

``There's nobody that has a bigger impact than the quarterback,'' Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel acknowledged in announcing his QB change this week. ``That impacts the whole team. You look at it and decide what you're going to do and go forward with it.''

It's not like every quarterback chosen in the first round pans out.

The only one take ahead of Quinn in the 2007 class was LSU's JaMarcus Russell, who went first overall to Oakland and was out of the league after three forgettable seasons.

Quinn certainly hasn't lived up to expectations, either.

He went 3-9 as a starter in Cleveland, where his completion rate was just 52.1 percent, and where he threw 11 interceptions against 10 touchdowns. Quinn eventually was dealt to the Broncos and signed in Kansas City this offseason as a free agent, where he was expected to back up Cassel.

Now, he's getting the start on Sunday against the Raiders.

So the Chiefs have a first-round draft pick starting at quarterback after all.

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How the Capitals have limited Columbus' top offensive threat

How the Capitals have limited Columbus' top offensive threat

The Capitals boast a roster full of superstar forwards including players like Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov.

The Columbus Blue Jackets do not.

As a team, Columbus’ offensive output is more spread out among the team, except for one offensive focal point: Artemi Panarin.

Traded in the offseason to Columbus from the Chicago Blackhawks, Panarin has proven this season to be a star in his own right rather than just someone hanging on to the coattails of his former linemate in Chicago, Patrick Kane.

Defensively, shutting down Panarin was priority No. 1 for Barry Trotz and company heading into their best-of-seven first-round playoff series

“We went into the series knowing fully well how good of a player Panarin is,” the Capitals head coach told the media via a conference call on Sunday. “He's a leader for them. It's no different than what they would do with Kuznetsov, Backstrom or [Ovechkin]. It's got to be a team game.”

Initially, things did not go well for the Capitals, as Panarin tallied two goals and five assists in the first three games. In Game 4 and Game 5, however, he was held off the scoresheet and finished with a plus/minus rating of -3.

For the series as a whole, Washington has actually done a good job of shutting Panarin down. Four of his seven points came on power play opportunities, meaning the Caps limited Columbus’ top forward to only three even-strength points in five games.

Washington’s strategy coming into the series was to give Panarin a healthy dose of Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen. At 5-on-5 play, no two defensemen have been on the ice against Panarin anywhere near as much as the Orlov-Niskanen pairing. That’s been true all series. The offensive line Panarin has been matched against, however, has changed.

In Game 1, the Caps’ second line of Backstrom, Andre Burakovsky and T.J. Oshie matched primarily against Panarin’s line. That changed in Game 2. Since then, Ovechkin, Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson have been on Panarin duty.

There are several ways to approach matching lines against an opponent. Backstrom is one of the best shutdown forwards in the NHL. It makes sense for Trotz to want him out against Columbus’ most dangerous line. The problem there, however, is that Trotz was taking his team’s second line and putting it in a primarily defensive role.

In Game 1, Backstrom was on the ice for seven defensive zone faceoffs, 12 in the neutral zone and only two in the offensive zone.

The Capitals have an edge over Columbus in offensive depth, but you mitigate that edge if you force Burakovsky, Backstrom and Oshie, three of your best offensive players, to focus on shutting down Panarin.

Let’s not forget, Washington scored only one 5-on-5 goal in Game 1 and it came from Devante Smith-Pelly. They needed the second line to produce offensively so Trotz switched tactics and go best on best, top line vs. top line in a possession driven match up.

The strategy here is basically to make the opposing team's best players exhaust themselves on defense.

You can tell this strategy was effective, and not just because Panarin's offensive dried up. In Game 4, when the Blue Jackets could more easily dictate the matchups, Columbus placed Panarin away from the Caps’ top line, whether intentional or not.

Kuznetsov logged 7:27 of 5-on-5 icetime against Panarin in Game 4. Wilson (6:52), Oshie (6:46), Ovechkin (6:42) and Backstrom (6:01) all got a few cracks at Panarin, but nothing major. Those minutes are far more even than in Game 5 in Washington in which Ovechkin matched against Panarin for 12:45. Kuznetsov (12:42) and Wilson (12:30) also got plenty of opportunities against Panarin as opposed to Chandler Stephenson (2:10), Oshie (2:10) and Backstrom (2:01).

This is a match up the Caps want and the Blue Jackets are trying to get away from.

Trotz was asked about defending Panarin on Sunday.

“There's no one shadowing anybody,” Trotz said. “You know you want to take time and space from top players in this league, and if you do and you take away as many options as possible, you have a chance to limit their damage that they can do to you."

At a glance, this statement seems to contradict itself. You are going to take time and space away from Panarin, but you’re not going to shadow him? But in truth, this is exactly what the Caps are doing.

When the Caps’ top line matches against Panarin, if they continue attack and maintain possession in the offensive zone, that limits the time Panarin gets on the attack.

This will become more difficult on Monday, however, as the series shifts back to Columbus for Game 6. As the Blue Jackets get the second line change, just as in Game 4, you should expect to see Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella try to get his top line away from the Caps’ to avoid that matchup.

Shutting down Columbus’ power play and matching Panarin against both Ovechkin’s line and the Orlov-Niskanen pairing have been the keys to shutting him down. The Caps will need more of the same on Monday to finish off the series.

MORE CAPITALS vs. BLUE JACKETS:
How Nick Backstrom saved the Capitals in Game 5
Burakovsky done for first-round, but how much longer?
Capitals' penalty kill the biggest difference maker
 

4.19.18 Rick Horrow The Sports Professor talks with Joe Leccese, Chairman ProSkauer

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USA TODAY Sports

4.19.18 Rick Horrow The Sports Professor talks with Joe Leccese, Chairman ProSkauer

Rick Horrow The Sports Professor sits down for an exclusive interview with Joe Leccese -- and more from the $1 trillion-dollar business of sports in this week's 'Beyond The Scoreboard with Rick Horrow'

About the Guest: Joe Leccese is the Chairman of Proskauer. He is responsible for leading the Firm’s global operations across its 13 offices and co-heads of Proskauer’s renowned Sports Law Group.

By Rick Horrow

Podcast producer: Tanner Simkins

LISTEN HERE