AFC West: Byron Leftwich
A day after the Denver Post reported Broncos linebacker Von Miller (who has been fined at least $84,250 in his short NFL career) was fined $21,000 for a low hit on Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, the league said several other players from the division were fined.
Kansas City linebacker Tamba Hali was fined $25,000 for a helmet hit on Steelers’ quarterback Byron Leftwich in Pittsburgh on Monday night. Fellow Kansas City linebacker Justin Houston was docked $7,875 for unsportsmanlike conduct when he led a group celebration after a touchdown that was reversed by a challenge.
In his first game off the PUP, Oakland linebacker Aaron Curry was hit with two fines from the Baltimore game for a total of $23,625. One occurred on defense and the other happened on special teams.
Oakland linebacker Philip Wheeler was fined $7,875 for a facemask violation.
A look at an unexpectedly close "Monday Night Football" game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs:
What it means: This game was the Chiefs' season in a nutshell. They played the Steelers close but made way too many mistakes in the end. On a rainy night, the Chiefs fell early in overtime to the Steelers and former head coach Todd Haley, the Steelers' offensive coordinator. Kansas City is 1-8 and is still on pace for the No. 1 pick in the draft. Kansas City coach Romeo Crennel is 0-9 lifetime against the Steelers. His first eight losses came as Cleveland’s coach.
Cassel bad when it counts: Matt Cassel wasn’t terrible in regulation and he made a huge play on fourth-and-15 in the final seconds that set up a field goal that sent the game to overtime. But in the first seconds of the extra period, Cassel threw an inexcusable interception. The pick resulted in a game-winning field goal just 55 seconds into OT. It was the Chiefs' first turnover of the game but their NFL-high 30th of the season.
So many mistakes: The Chiefs outplayed Pittsburgh but had too many dumb mistakes, penalties and drops. The Chiefs did it all. Yes, there were some questionable calls, but the Chiefs looked like a team that is supposed to be 1-8.
Embarrassing streak is over: The Chiefs took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter and extended it to 10-0 in the second. It was the first time Kansas City led during a game all season. It tied the 1929 Buffalo Bisons for the longest such drought in NFL history.
Can’t take advantage of Roethlisberger’s injury: Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger went down with a shoulder injury, and the Steelers had to play much of the game with backup Byron Leftwich. Despite the major downgrade, Kansas City couldn’t take advantage.
Defense plays well: In the first game since Crennel replaced himself as defensive coordinate with linebackers coach Gary Gibbs, the defense played pretty well. It was suffocating at times. This unit has had its moments this season and it clearly has talent. Linebacker Derrick Johnson had a tremendous game with 13 tackles.
Chiefs run game shows life: Jamaal Charles had 100 yards on 23 carries and Peyton Hillis ran hard, adding 30 yards on 10 carries. The Chiefs have to rely on these players.
Baldwin hurt: Kansas City receiver Jon Baldwin suffered neck and head injuries going for a ball late and he did not return.
What’s next: The Chiefs host Cincinnati on Sunday.
Who is going to be Manning's backup?
Denver could always opt to keep Tebow, but ESPN has reported the team will try to trade him. They may even release him if they don’t find a trade partner.
The matter of Manning’s backup is significant. Manning passed the Broncos’ physical and he has been cleared to play in 2012 after missing all of last season with a neck injury. But there has to be a backup plan.
There aren’t too many great options out there. The top backup options are Byron Leftwich, Matt Leinart, Charlie Batch Donovan McNabb, Vince Young, Billy Volek, Josh Johnson and Dennis Dixon. Of that group, I think Volek -- who was released by the Chargers last week -- could be the best option. He is a serviceable player in a pinch.
Denver could always draft a quarterback to groom behind Manning. Manning, who turns 36 Saturday, probably has at least three solid seasons remaining in him if his neck holds up.
It might be a little early to draft a quarterback in the early rounds and I think Denver is now out of the Brandon Weeden mix. Denver has closely scouted him, but he will be 29 during the season. There is little chance Denver will take a quarterback who may not be in the position to start until he is well in his 30s.
Both teams are expected to add a quarterback during the offseason. Let’s take a look at the current unrestricted free agents, who could intrigue either team. The list doesn’t include the Colts’ Peyton Manning. But once he is cut, expect both teams to at least consider signing him with the Chiefs being the more likely of the two teams.
Jason Campbell: I could see the former Raiders starter in Kansas City. He played for Chiefs’ quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn for two years in Washington.
Dennis Dixon: He could be a backup option in Denver if the Broncos are looking for a mobile quarterback.
David Garrard: He may be rusty after sitting out the 2011 season and he won’t be a top option. But he is an experienced backup that could fit in with either team.
Chad Henne: There has been talk Denver will be interested and he could push Tim Tebow. Kansas City could also be interested. He played for new Kansas City offensive coordinator Brian Daboll last season.
Shaun Hill: I could see him being on Denver’s list as a backup.
Josh Johnson: Denver could look at him as a backup to Tebow.
Byron Leftwich: Like Garrard and Hill, he is an experienced backup who could be interesting for Denver if other options don’t develop.
Kyle Orton: If he doesn’t get a better option, Orton could come back to Kansas City and try to take Matt Cassel's job.
Brady Quinn: I doubt he returns to Denver, but if other options don’t pan out in Kansas City, he could be looked at as a backup. He played for Chiefs’ coach Romeo Crennel in Cleveland.
Sage Rosenfels: Put him in the Garrard, Hill, Leftwich category for Denver.
Vince Young: Giving Tebow a similar backup would be compelling and you never know, maybe the light would finally come on for Young in Denver.
Kansas City radio personality Bob Fescoe tweeted that he has heard that Manning’s agent and the Chiefs have already talked twice and signing Manning is a good financial fit for the Chiefs.
Here we go.
Well, first, the league has tampering rules, so if Manning’s agent has talked to the Chiefs, that will get the Chiefs in trouble. Plus, I’m not sure the Chiefs -- or any team -- would talk about any about a contract until a team can take a look at Manning’s physical state. He has yet to be cut by the Colts, so the Chiefs cannot get a look at Manning’s neck.
However, I do think the Chiefs and Manning would be a good financial fit and there are plenty of football reasons why it is a good fit. So, I think he should stay tuned.
But it is impossible to think this potential pairing is close to being a reality.
In other AFC West news:
- Oakland owner Mark Davis will accept a prestigious award for his late father, Al Davis on Friday.
- Could veterans Sage Rosenfels and Byron Leftwich be in the Broncos’ future? If so, they're headed to backup city. Neither player has shown in recent seasons that they can be a legitimate threat to be a starter.
- AFC North blogger Jamison Hensley wonders why Baltimore’s Terrell Suggs goes out of his way to criticize Denver quarterback Tim Tebow.
- Mike Greenberg and Marcellus Wiley discuss, in a podcast, what kind of season the Raiders and Carson Palmer may have in 2012. In this podcast, they wonder if Philip Rivers or Norv Turner has more pressure heading into 2012. I say Turner does. Rivers won’t lose his job if the Chargers fail this year.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
Next up on the AFC West draft rewind is No. 7, which is held by Oakland:
Williamson admits he is not a huge fan of Garcia. Still, he said he understands why the Raiders felt compelled to sign him.
Williamson: "Garcia has some issues he will never address. That's why he has played for so many teams. Teams decide pretty quickly that Garcia is not the answer. That's a bad sign. In the end, people think they can do better than Garcia. But considering Oakland's situation, it is not a bad fit. The problem is, he is a very different quarterback than JaMarcus Russell. He doesn't have a strong arm like Russell does and he is much smaller than Russell. Oakland would have to dramatically change the playbook if Garcia became the quarterback.
"I think Byron Leftwich may have been a better fit because he is bigger and has the big arm like Russell has. But Garcia has had more success. In the short term, if Russell gets hurt or benched, Garcia is a capable guy. Overall, I'm not a big fan of Garcia."