In a new Series of articles, Nick Athan, Senior Chiefs Correspondent will break down each position as we approach the first pre-season Game on Monday Night August 4th against the Green Bay Packers.
For the first time since Len Dawson patrolled the huddle back in the 60's and 70's, the Chiefs have a competent and talented quarterback. No disrespect to Joe Montana but Trent Green has a presence and an aura around him that breeds confidence. It also breeds confidence throughout the organization when they sign you to a long-term contract with an $11 million signing bonus.
Last year, Green led the high powered Chiefs offense to new heights. Not since the Hank Stram days have Chiefs fans been so royally treated to offensive explosions that contained big plays and quick scores. The scoring strikes were possibly too quick at times, but this was new territory for KC fans.
After a terrible inaugural season with the Chiefs in 2001, Green surpassed any realistic expectation and rid himself of the interception bug. Now that Green has weapons like Priest Holmes, Tony Gonzalez, Marc Boerigter, Eddie Kennison, Dante Hall and a motivated Johnnie Morton to throw the ball to downfield, the team is confident that he'll find all of them for touchdowns in 2002.
In 2003, Green and company hopes that he can surpass the 26 touchdowns he threw last year. Though his interceptions were down from 2001, Green still forced a few balls on out patterns that had some questioning his arm strength. But most of the 13 interceptions were late in games when the Chiefs defense had squandered big leads or the offense was ineffective until one final charge with the clock winding down.
For Green to be effective in 2003, he must be even more patient and get the ball into the hands of Tony Gonzalez. With that said, Green was the fifth highest rated QB in the NFL last season with a rating of 92.6%.
He also showed that he was fully recovered from the knee injury that was caused in 1999 by the cheap shot from cornerback Rodney Harrison back when he was with the Rams. That injury led to the emergence of Kurt Warner and a Super Bowl victory for the Rams. But that also led him to the Chiefs before the 2001 NFL draft. But Green was still suffering from the injury in his first season with KC and he showed no ill effects of the injury in 2002.
In fact, Green rushed for 225 yards and scored a game winning touchdown against the Buffalo Bills with his feet. He proved to be elusive in the backfield and turned some sure sacks into positive gains. He also had no fear in the pocket. Chiefs' fans will never have to worry about Green's happy feet like they did with Elvis Grbac.
Backing up Green this year will be Todd Collins. Collins was once the starter in Buffalo for the Bills. He played solidly in the Chiefs pre-season games in 2002 and in mop up duties for the Chiefs last season.
Collins is a favorite of both Dick Vermeil and offensive coordinator Al Saunders. Each coach has confidence that if Green goes down with an injury, Collins has the arm strength and the knowledge of the offense to run the ship in a hurry.
Chiefs' management felt the same way because they rewarded Collins with a three year contract in the off-season. Collins has a strong arm but sits behind a quarterback in Green who has not missed a starting assignment in 32 games. But Collins is very involved in the offense on the sidelines and is always prepared to step in if needed.
Former Jacksonville Jaguars back-up Jonathan Quinn, will hold the final clip board spot for the Chiefs in 2003. Quinn has some abilities and was once considered by many as the heir apparent to Mark Brunell in Jacksonville. But Quinn fell out of favor with Jaguars head coach Tom Coughlin and the Chiefs signed him as a free agent before the 2002 season. Quinn showed some good instincts in the pre-season last year and could supplant Collins as the #2 quarterback if he has a tremendous pre-season.
Regardless, the Chiefs hope the back-up quarterback never sees the playing field in 2003. But it's virtually improbable to think the Chiefs will not have to get one of these two guys into a game this season. If they do, the Chiefs need to have them ready. The ability to get them ready will be aided by the fact the Chiefs will play five pre-season games.
That should give Collins and Quinn plenty of field time in the event that Green goes down sometime this year.
Green already appears to be mentally stronger in camp. He refutes any talk of the Super Bowl, instead shooting for a goal of the playoffs. Green understands that's the first step.
It's a step the Chiefs have not taken since the 90's. It's a step that Green and the Chiefs expect to make this year.