KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Two weeks of training camp has settled nothing with regard to the Chiefs and their decision on a No. 2 quarterback. So the battle between Brady Quinn and Ricky Stanzi begins in earnest Friday night when the Chiefs open their exhibition season against the Arizona Cardinals at Arrowhead Stadium.
“When you talk about evaluating guys and the competition is close, then I think that’s what you kind of need to do is see guys in game situations,” coach Romeo Crennel said. “We don’t know exactly who the number two is because there’s good competition going on between the two guys.’’
Starter Matt Cassel will open the game. Quinn, listed as the top backup on the depth chart issued by the Chiefs this week, will at some point replace Cassel, with Stanzi to follow.
“I want to see aggressive (decision-making),’’ quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn said. “The fine line about quarterbacking is when to be really aggressive in your decision-making with the ball and when to not so much back off but make a decision that keeps those chains moving instead of trying to risk it all.
“I think that’s a great competition. Right now I see both guys taking pride in the position and (seeing) the importance of getting better. They are fighting it out. They really are, they are duking it out. There is no clear number two yet. The preseason will help that, but they are great kids, and they are not only helping themselves, they are helping our football team. In our quarterback meeting room they are attacking it pretty well.”
Identifying a capable backup for Cassel is one of the biggest issues of camp and the preseason for the Chiefs. Cassel missed at least one start in each of his three seasons with the Chiefs. He sat out the final seven games last season after breaking his finger.
The Chiefs were woefully unprepared last season at quarterback without Cassel. They started Tyler Palko, now out of the league, for four games before plucking Kyle Orton off waivers from the Broncos.
Orton left for the Cowboys as a free agent. The Chiefs then signed Quinn, who was drafted in the first round in 2007 by the Browns when they were coached by Crennel.
“Everyone’s trying to be the starter,’’ Quinn said. “You guys are the ones that are making this seem like a battle. What we’re working for is to try to get better and better so when we go in there and play, we play well for this team. That’s what matters most.’’
Stanzi, a fifth-round draft pick last season, didn’t play in a regular season game as a rookie.
“All you can do is take the reps you have, try to do your best with those reps, make everybody around you play better and then try to move the ball,’’ Stanzi said. “That’s all you can worry about.’’
Crennel indicated that Stanzi and Quinn might swap spots on the depth chart next week, leaving Stanzi as the first quarterback off the bench in the Aug. 18 game against the Rams in St. Louis. But Quinn could change those plans by playing well Friday against the Cardinals.
“The plan is to evaluate them and see who can take a step forward,’’ Crennel said. “And then if a guy takes a step forward and we feel like he’s going to continue to go forward, then you continue with him.”
The Chiefs’ decision could come down to the final preseason game on Aug. 30 against the Packers in Green Bay. But the comments of Crennel and Zorn indicate the Chiefs would prefer to make a decision sooner.
If one quarterback outplays the other by a wide margin Friday, he could leave little room for his competition to catch up.
“They both have to play and they both have to compete,’’ Zorn said. “But I don’t know if there’s a fairness factor in this. There’s a performance factor. I always tell them it’s not how many plays you get but what you do with those plays that count. That’s the key thing for those guys.’’