Mort: Vermeil questions "ethics" of Grbac, agent

Chris Mortensen archive: stories

Chiefs should narrow QB search down to three

No matter what you hear about the Kansas City Chiefs, let's make a couple of things clear. Todd Collins is not the answer at quarterback. Same for Gus Frerotte and Trent Dilfer.

The only three names that can be contemplated are Trent Green, Troy Aikman and Steve Beuerlein.

I mean, Dick Vermeil did not re-enter the NFL at 64 to see if he can make the Chiefs a .500 club. He came back to do the improbable -- take three different teams to the Super Bowl, having already accomplished the task in Philadelphia and St. Louis.

Trent Green
Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil must weigh the cost of trading for Rams backup QB Trent Green.
Green was in Kansas City on Monday to have his surgically repaired knee examined. He recently had arthroscopic surgery to clean out some scar tissue from his reconstructive surgery in 1999.

He can't pass a physical, but he is considered low-risk from a health standpoint.

There's a deadline for the Chiefs to make a decision about Green. It's Thursday. That's when he is due a $500,000 roster bonus. If the Rams make that payment, they are likely to be less flexible in dealing Green. The Chiefs will pay through the nose, which already has been bloodied by Elvis Grbac's decision to seek a new home in Baltimore.

The Rams are asking for at least first-round and third-round draft picks for Green. It is a unique situation because Rams president Jay Zygmunt has admitted to Chiefs president Carl Peterson that there are no other takers for Green. Advantage, Chiefs? No. The Rams really are not anxious to deal Green, who gives a Super Bowl contender the best possible insurance in case of injury to Kurt Warner. And both quarterbacks are quite affordable under the salary cap.

So if the Chiefs just pulled the trigger and surrendered what the Rams want, Kansas City will have dealt first-, second- and third-round picks to St. Louis for Vermeil and Green. That hurts. But it also means the Chiefs will have landed their top choices for arguably the two most critical components of a team -- a head coach and a quarterback.

The Chiefs might have some wiggle room with the Rams if they decide to go for Green before Thursday's $500,000 deadline. Vermeil and Peterson desperately desire a running back in next month's draft and don't want to surrender their No. 12 pick overall. The Rams are not likely to budge, but perhaps they are willing to talk about giving the Chiefs the second-round pick that they were awarded by NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue in the Vermeil case. Actually, there are a number of creative ways to get the deal done.

Green is the safest option for Vermeil in the Chiefs. At 30, he is the younger of the two other viable options, Aikman (34) and Beuerlein (36). Moreover, he has a total grasp of the scheme Vermeil will install under offensive coordinator Al Saunders, who spent the previous two years as receiver coach for the Rams.

But what if the Chiefs and Rams can't agree on a deal? Aikman is a real temptation. He's free. There is no draft pick compensation. He's also Troy Aikman. He has three Super Bowl rings. You can't be around Aikman and not feel the presence of integrity and greatness.

Physically, he is still one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the NFL, and Kansas City's offense demands accuracy, which is why Warner has been such a hit in St. Louis. Warner is not a scrambler, so Aikman's lack of mobility is almost moot.

Aikman also understands the basics of Kansas City's offense. Remember, it is the offspring of Rams coach Mike Martz, who was tutored by Norv Turner and Ernie Zampese. Aikman's brightest NFL seasons have been under Turner and Zampese.

Not only that, but the Chiefs are a splendid fit for Aikman. They have big, gifted receivers in Derrick Alexander and Sylvester Morris. They have Tony Gonzalez, who is a more athletic Jay Novacek, the tight end who was so vital for Aikman's Super Bowl years. They also have an outstanding offensive line.

One of the most stunning stories that has barely registered on the NFL screen is the decision by the Carolina Panthers to either trade or release QB Steve Beuerlein.
All that's lacking for the Chiefs on offense for Aikman is an Emmitt Smith at running back; by signing Aikman, the Chiefs can use their No. 12 pick overall to take a shot on one of three premier runners in the draft: Deuce McAllister, LaDainian Tomlinson and Michael Bennett. Then again, those three players could be off the board because Cleveland (No. 3), New England (No. 6) and Chicago (No. 8) are in need of running backs.

Then there is the UCLA connection. Aikman was a Bruin. Vermeil was a Bruin. Chiefs president Carl Peterson was a Bruin. Vice president of football operations Lynn Stiles was a Bruin.

Ah, but we do know that Aikman comes with a risk. He has 10 or 11 concussions, depending on who's doing the count. The Chiefs' O-line may be top notch, but quarterbacks get hit. In fact, Warner got hit a lot in St. Louis.

Those who know Aikman personally want him to retire. Roger Staubach has said it. Zampese celebrated his 65th birthday on Saturday with friends and expressed similar sentiments. His agent, Leigh Steinberg, wants him to take the same step, so Aikman can begin his promising post-career life.

For me, the greatest cry for Aikman to retire came from the Chargers. One day after he made himself available as a free agent, the Chargers signed Doug Flutie, who is four years older than Aikman.

Aikman was a natural for San Diego. His best days and best coach relationship was under Turner. He could have connected so well with Michael Vick as a rookie quarterback. Vick will be coming to a 1-15 team as the first pick in the draft. Aikman quarterbacked a 1-15 team in Dallas as the first pick in the draft. Aikman is the consummate professional. What an example for Vick. It all made too much sense.

That's why San Diego's decision to go with Flutie was such an indictment on Aikman's desire to play more football. So, if not Green or Aikman, what about Beuerlein?

Frankly, one of the most stunning stories that has barely registered on the NFL screen is the decision by the Carolina Panthers to either trade or release Beuerlein. This guy was a bona-fide Pro Bowl QB two years ago. His numbers dipped in 2000, but he had few receivers, a weak offensive line and an offensive-coordinator switch during the season. Yes, he's been banged up, but who wouldn't be in last year's Carolina offense ?

Beuerlein also is a terrific leader. Carolina players are crushed by the news. I guess George Seifert knows what he's doing (he's starting a youth movement), but subtracting Beuerlein temporarily takes the breath out of the Panthers.

The Chiefs can wait on Beuerlein. He almost certainly will be free by April 1, when he's due a $1.5 million bonus. But the question is: Do the Chiefs want to wait? The Oakland Raiders have climbed to the top of the AFC West with a brilliant young coach in Jon Gruden. The Denver Broncos have arguably the best coach in the league in Mike Shanahan. In Seattle, Mike Holmgren is loading up for his big run in 2001. San Diego has hired a new general manager in John Butler, who has been busy rebuilding a team that could easily turn things around.

This is hardly time for the Chiefs to make a mistake. Do they really gamble that Todd Collins can be transformed into Kurt Warner? I don't think so. Get the guy you really want. If that's Trent Green, then pay the price.

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