KCCD Writer: Jonathan Hake
All over Kansas City, and the surrounding areas, fans are discussing the future of the Chiefs quarterback position. As fans we often try to compare players to others that came before so that we can better understand what to expect. Expecting Geno Smith to live up to RGIII is asking him to fulfill very large shoes that really don’t fit well.
Geno Smith is my top QB of the 2013 NFL draft but he isn’t Robert Griffin III. He isn’t Jason Campbell, Ben Rothlisberger, or Andrew Luck. These comparisons put unfair expectations on players and what they can or will do in their time with the team. The more important question is why are people making these connections?
Robert Griffin and Geno both got out to a very fast start their senior years. They have shown an ability to protect the ball and avoid interceptions. Both play in an up tempo spread offense that focuses on a lot of screens, options, and quick outs. They both have also shown an ability to punish a defense with the deep pass. These are the similarities but what are the differences?
Griffin will absolutely destroy you with his legs while Geno can scramble if it is the last resort or if the defense makes him an offer he can’t refuse. Baylor ran designed run plays for Griffin due to his ability to take any run to the house. Griffin has one of the best arms we have seen coming out of college and is a once in a generation prospect. Geno Smith has the potential to be in the elite QB category. He isn’t there yet and he isn’t nearly as close as RG III was coming out of college but the potential is there.
Jason Campbell is an understandable comparison and the worst case scenario for Geno. A player with the talent to start who needed a few seasons to put it together but never truly got a shot with a stable team. Campbell has been a player that has shown to be capable when shoved into the fire but never truly been “the guy.” He will run if you give him five yards and thank you for the free yards. Campbell has a strong arm and has enough accuracy to make almost any throw on the field. Campbell was missing a few traits that I believe Geno has: Geno’s release is quicker, he makes better pre snap reads, and he dissects a defense and punishes them for making mistakes. Campbell has always been a first read kind of quarterback especially coming out of college.
Ben Roethlisberger also was not the prospect that Geno Smith currently is. Roethlisberger has every bit the arm that Smith has but the way he made his throws coming into the draft needed improvement. Both Geno and Big Ben needed work with their footwork but Ben’s footwork was compounded by a slow release and a tendency for balls to wobble on him.
Geno throws tight spirals and a release that is only rivaled by Griffin’s in recent history. Roethlisberger had the added benefit of being huge and the ability to feel the pocket extremely well. He can bounce off of hits and give himself room to make those big plays. He needed the room because of the release and footwork but over the years he has become a much better technical passer.
Who does Geno Smith remind me of when I watch him play, Sam Bradford. They played in shotgun offenses in college, can make any throw on the field when given time, and are very good at recognizing and punishing a defense when they make a mistake. Bradford was a step ahead of Geno in his progression but the way they move in the pocket and the quick release they possess translates well to the NFL.
Bradford was a surefire prospect by many leading up to the 2010 draft. Bradford has had his challenges in the NFL, including injuries. He’s had to deal with multiple coaching and system changes which has led to him seeming uncomfortable in the pocket. He also has had very few weapons at his disposal in St. Louis. Bradford possesses a very calm demeanor he almost appears to not care. Smith doesn’t possess this quality. He is very animated when things go badly and equally as animated when things go well.
The key with drafting Geno Smith, Tyler Wilson, or Matt Barkley will be surrounding them with the right team and system. The team must be talented enough to support the QB and the system has to be catered to their strengths. Stability will become a necessity for at least the next three seasons. That is why a complete rebuild will need to take place this offseason.
If you allow Pioli to stay and hire another head coach then you must be committed to him for the next three seasons at least. Head coach, offensive coordinator, and the offensive system need to be stable and allow the new QB the opportunity to use his talents. Can Clark Hunt look at the talent on this team and the performance on the field and say that the GM has done a good enough job to warrant another hire. If that decision is made then the organization needs to be committed and allow the next hires a chance to succeed.