Originally posted on Fox Sports Kansas City  |  Last updated 2/25/12
By Conrad Brunner FOX Sports Kansas City In four seasons as the head coach in Cleveland, Romeo Crennel had six different players start at quarterback, so it should come as no surprise how he responded when asked what he learned from his experience with the Browns. "Try to avoid quarterback controversies, for one," he said Saturday while addressing the media at the NFL Scouting Combine in Lucas Oil Stadium. "I think that's key, and we were able to do that toward the end of last season. If we can get a guy in place that everybody feels good about and everybody can rally around, I think that gives us the best chance." Incumbent Matt Cassell is coming off an injury that cost him the final seven games of last season -- including all three under Crennel's stewardship. Kyle Orton, who started the final three games after Crennel took over from Todd Haley, is a free agent. So there is, at the very least, some uncertainty about the most critical position that has led to speculation the Chiefs would be interested in Peyton Manning, should the Colts let their star quarterback hit the open market. Crennel did little to dispel that notion. "I'm not supposed to talk about anybody else's players and he's still a player with Indianapolis," he said. "But with a talent like that, I would be crazy not to consider it if he were available. I'll leave it at that." Brian Billick has a word of caution for teams that may want to get into the Manning derby. Chief among his concerns: uncertainty about the thoroughness of his recovery, the need to completely re-format the offense to suit his needs, and the weighing of potential short-term gain against the long-term sacrifice. "When you bring in Peyton Manning, it's 'OK, Peyton, bring me your playbook because that's what we're going to put in.' Why would you not put Peyton Manning in an environment where he's most comfortable?" Billick said. "So you're going to wrap your entire offense around what he wants to do and then for whatever time you rented him -- is it two years, is it three years -- hopefully he's very productive, you then have to go back and start over. "Because, believe me, what Peyton Manning does is unique to Peyton Manning. I'm not just talking about what he does on the field. Anybody who's watched Peyton Manning practice, he runs that entire practice. You've got to buy into that hook, like and sinker. If he's physically OK, great. You've got a great upside." Washington and Miami are the two teams most commonly linked to Manning. Given his status as one of the most productive quarterbacks in NFL history, Manning would attract league-wide interest should the Colts let him hit the market. Any team with less than a franchise quarterback in place could be in the market for a future Hall of Famer. Even before the Manning discussion began to percolate, Crennel and General Manager Scott Pioli sent the message that all positions, including quarterback, would be open for competition as the Chiefs try to return to the playoffs after falling short at 7-9 last season. "Matt's our starting quarterback," Pioli said. "I think everybody knows that. We've said that. There is going to be competition. I know there's been a lot of attention focused on the quarterback competition. But I want to be clear on this: what we've said is we're going to have competition at every position, including the quarterback position. "When we talk about that, it's not just exclusive to the quarterback position or Matt Cassel. In order to get better as a football team, you need to keep bringing in competition at every single position. What that forces is depth. It also either pushes players to become better or it pushes players to fall by the wayside." The Chiefs have had conversations with Orton's agent about bringing him back. The only other quarterback under contract is Ricky Stanzi, a fifth-round selection in 2011 who did not play as a rookie. Two veteran free agents, Jason Campbell and Chad Henne, have ties to the Chiefs. Quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn worked with Campbell for two seasons while in Washington, and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll was in Miami with Henne last season. The strongest connection among those names appears to be between Crennel and Orton. "Probably, if it were not for Kyle, I wouldn't be standing here, so I'm very appreciative of what he's done," Crennel said. "But until we get another quarterback on the team, Cassel is the guy. Now, if we get Kyle on the team, if he comes back to us, then we're going to see how it works out and we're going to play the best guy. But until that time it's all speculation. Kyle did a good job for me, we've talked to him and his people and we have to let this free agency thing play out and see how it works." The presence of both Cassel and Orton on the roster would leave open the door to a quarterback controversy. Among the many things offered by Manning, assuming he is physically sound, is the elimination of doubt. Where he goes, he will be the man.
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