According to The Kansas City Star, rookie quarterback Ricky Stanzi may start for the Kansas City Chiefs instead of incumbent Tyler Palko this Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium against the undefeated Green Bay Packers.
Stanzi led Iowa to three straight bowl wins, including an 11-2 season in 2009 that culminated with an Orange Bowl victory over Georgia Tech. He finished his Hawkeye career with almost 7,500 total passing yards and 53 touchdowns, including a 3,000 yard, 25-touchdown senior season.
After the Chiefs drafted him in the fifth round of the 2011 draft, Stanzi has faced his share of struggles, including a spot on the inactive list for the majority of the season. Coach Todd Haley, who was fired this past week after a 5-9 start, favored Pittsburgh alumni Palko after starter Matt Cassel’s season-ending hand injury. Chiefs brass claimed Kyle Orton off waivers, only to see him dislocate a finger on the first play of the game.
Stanzi was promoted to the active roster to supplant Palko, yet never sniffed any game action despite how badly Palko stunk. The lefty was abysmal, failing to lead the Chiefs to an offensive touchdown for multiple games. His accuracy wayward and pocket awareness paltry, Palko wasted valiant defensive efforts week after week, his lone highlight coming in a lucky 10-3 win over the Jay Cutler-less Chicago Bears when a tipped Hail Mary pass landed in the fortuitous arms of Dexter McCluster. It seemed as if Haley thought Stanzi was terrible and unprepared for the NFL’s rigors, which is odd considering how somebody thought he was good enough to waste a draft pick on and he couldn’t look any worse than the horrific Palko. Or else Haley was afraid to harm a valuable prospect’s development by throwing him into the NFL too soon, forever shaking his confidence and future health a la David Carr for the early Houston Texans.
But defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel is now the interim coach, and it appears as if the winds have shifted toward a Stanzi salvation. I doubt fans will determine the trajectory of Stanzi’s professional career based on his first start, as a rookie, against the Packers, an offensive juggernaut led by likely NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. Rookie quarterbacks, from Carolina’s Cam Newton to Houston’s TJ Yates, have taken the NFL by storm this season. But Newton is a once-in-a-generation talent, and Yates had a playoff team around him from the start. Stanzi will have no such luxuries in a depleted supporting cast, and he will be going up against the best team in the NFL. He needs all the luck Hawkeye fans can wish. Either way, it is cause for excitement that his baffling benching below a blatantly terrible Palko is finally over and he will get his chance to prove his NFL mettle.