Back-up Bonanza … Game-Day Cup O’Chiefs

Todd Haley’s answer to the question – “Are you comfortable with your quarterback situation?” – has never varied over the two weeks the Chiefs have been in training camp in St. joseph.

“I’m very comfortable with those guys,” Haley has said of his three QBs – Matt Cassel, Tyler Palko and Ricky Stanzi. “If there is somebody out there that we feel like improves the competition or helps make us better, I’ll keep that open at all positions … I wouldn’t say it worries me. ”

The question keeps being asked because of the dearth of NFL experience behind Cassel, who is the unquestioned starter. Palko has played in two games while banging around the league for the last five years. Stanzi is a rookie.

Starting Thursday night at Arrowhead Stadium will come four quarters of football action that will test the comfort level of the head coach with his quarterback roster. Cassel is expected to play, but if he takes more than ten snaps it will be a shock; he’ll have a baseball hat on his head before most of the crowd is settled into their seats after the opening kickoff.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Kansas City Chiefs

7 p.m. kickoff @ Arrowhead Stadium

Telecast on FOX network, Channel 4 in K.C.


That’s going to leave almost the entire game in the hands of Palko and Stanzi, and they will be out there without the starters. They’ll try to get things done with some players who are just a few weeks away from leaving football behind and going on with their lives.

But this will be their opportunity to keep their head coach comfortable, or have him screaming into the night in search of the personnel department to find quarterback help.

“They’re going to get significant action in these games and we have to see how they’re progressing,” Haley said. “I’m encouraged by their development; both of them. Tyler’s now been around a little bit, but he’s going to get to see, hopefully, more action than he’s seen to this point in his career, and I’m excited to see how he’s coming along. Obviously, Ricky, a first year player, he needs to be developing and developing at a good rate, which he is to this point. I’m encouraged.”

The way things stand in the first week of the pre-season does not mean the Chiefs roster is set in stone for the rest of the season. They were unusual from the start by bringing just three QBs to camp. Among the 32 NFL teams, 23 have four or more quarterbacks on their roster, including three that have five quarterbacks in camp – Indianapolis, Tampa Bay and Washington.

Haley was one of nine coaches with just three arms on the roster, joining Baltimore, Green Bay, Houston, New England, New Orleans, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle.

When it comes to QB playing experience on the roster, the Chiefs rank at No. 24 in previous starts with 45. All of those starts came from Cassel. Thanks to Peyton Manning, the Colts top the league in most starting experience with 215 starts. Pittsburgh (202), the New York Giants (194), Dallas (186) and the New York Jets (182) round out the top five.

While the Chiefs have limited starting quarterback experience, they aren’t among the teams at the bottom; that’s Arizona (14), Cincinnati (20), Seattle (22), Cleveland (26) and Tampa Bay (29).

Click here for a chart listing all the QBs in NFL camps with the 32 teams.

Over the last two seasons, the Chiefs have been a bit lucky with Cassel and his health. He missed the 2009 season opener against Baltimore recovering from as pre-season knee injury. Then, he missed the Chiefs game in San Diego last November when he was recovering from an appendectomy.

History and common sense would tell us that unless Palko and/or Stanzi play lights out against the Bucs, the Chiefs will be combing the countryside looking for a quality backup QB that could step in and keep up the level of play and allow the Chiefs to compete without their No. 1 QB.

As a draft choice, Stanzi will be given plenty of time and opportunity to build himself a starting career with the Chiefs. Palko’ time is running out; after getting chances with New Orleans, Arizona and Pittsburgh, he’s been with the Chiefs for two years now.

“I think Tyler understands this is a big year for him,” Haley said. “Tyler has worked really hard from the point he got into this league. I would like to see him continue to make progress and be a factor for us, even more so than he was last year.

“That’s the plan and I know that’s his mindset. He’s competitive, he’s tough and he’s trying to soak it all in right now. I know all of those quarterbacks are excited about working with Coach (Jim) Zorn and I think they all should see some positive results. We’ll just see how it goes.”

Palko has gotten an unexpected shot off the addition of Zorn as the QB coach. Like Palko, Zorn is a lefty.

“I’ve never had a coach before that saw things from my perspective,” Palko said. “It’s really been helpful to me because he can see little things that other coaches I’ve worked with couldn’t see.”

The difference between the Palko in last year’s camp and this year’s Palko is huge. His confidence level has increased dramatically. There is seldom any hesitation on his part on where he’s throwing the ball and his ability to escape the pocket continues to be a plus for him.

“It’s a second year, so I’m more familiar with the playbook, so I can react quicker,” Palko said. “I’ve got plenty of improvements to make.”

Stanzi has had a typical training camp for a rookie QB in the NFL. Even though it’s practice, the game is going too fast for them to process all the information. One day they can look pretty good, the next it’s like they are completely out of their element.

“He wanted to work on some things after practice,” Zorn said the other day at Missouri Western. “I asked him what specific things he wanted to work on and he said ‘everything’.”

The rookie has stayed on the field after every practice, throwing extra passes and working on timing with some of the young receivers. He’s been willing to do whatever he can to push to the next level.

“Each practice you can see yourself progressing and you start to feel a little more comfortable,” stanzi said. “The game slows down a little bit for you.”

Whether it’s slow Thursday night against Tampa Bay for Palko and/or Stanzi it provides them with another opportunity to keep their coach comfortable for another week.

6 Responses to “Back-up Bonanza … Game-Day Cup O’Chiefs”

  • August 12, 2011  - Arrowheadlines: Chiefs News 8/12 | Sports Feedr says:

    [...] Back-up Bonanza… Game-Day Cup O’Chiefs from Bob Gretz [...]

  • August 12, 2011  - aPauled says:

    Good article. The Chiefs were lucky that the outing Brodie Croyle provided against the Chargers last year didn’t knock us out of the playoffs. The backup has to be able to come in and provide a chance for the team to win a game or two.

  • August 12, 2011  - BayouCityChief says:

    I’m going to enjoy watching this nationally televised Chiefs game from my couch. Don’t get to do that very often.

  • August 12, 2011  - SG says:

    aPauled, when you see a guy who didn’t make it with several teams as a 3rd stringer suddenly our backup – you cannot be excited about it. We’re one toppled Cassel wall away from 3-13 again.

  • August 12, 2011  - el cid says:

    If any of the three QBs go down for a significant period of time, the team will suffer. Cassel and the other two have a huge job I doubt they are totally prepared for, additions at WR and OL it might not be the best. If one of the backups go down, doesn’t the offense have to go less aggressive because Cassel cannot risk injury. Thank goodness we will be a running team, at least for the first half. Your QB lives a lot longer if he is not the focal point of every def. rush.

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