The 2012 Indianapolis Colts were, by almost any standard, one of the greatest turnaround stories in NFL history. A 2-14 team that appeared to be tanking (even when it wasn't) had, 12 months later, gone 11-5 and become a difficult playoff out for the eventual Super Bowl champion. And the key factor to that turnaround was, without question, the play of quarterback Andrew Luck. His 4,374 passing yards broke the rookie record, and his clutch play and leadership helped galvanize a team playing inspired football.
There's your storyline: Weak roster pulled to new heights by a great young quarterback.
And that's how it works in the modern NFL, right? Any team can be great if its QB is that good.
Except for this fact: Luck wasn't great last season. In fact, he wasn't nearly great. There were great moments, clutch plays and glimpses of his certain stardom. But overall, Luck was about league average. He ranked 26th in passer rating, 31st in completion percentage, tied for second in the NFL with 18 INTs and took way too many sacks (41). Luck was 11th in Total QBR, but that was strengthened by his quietly exceptional running skills, which QBR smartly factors in.
This isn't a shot at Luck. He'll be, in my opinion, a superstar for the next decade; it just serves to make a point: The Colts didn't experience an incredible turnaround in 2012 because Luck was Aaron Rodgers, they experienced an incredible turnaround because Luck was pretty good a year after they got the worst quarterback play in the NFL.
If you get disastrous quarterback play in the NFL, you will fail, often miserably. A well-built roster with terrible QB play is like a mansion over a sinkhole: impressive, and completely uninhabitable.
The Chiefs would know. Last year, a team with six Pro Bowlers won two games. That's because Chiefs quarterbacks combined for a QBR mark of 31.9 (that's bad) a passer rating of 63.8 (ugly) and a TD-to-INT ratio of 8-to-20 (KC fans can step outside for a smoke at this point).
Now the Chiefs have Alex Smith, the definition of a quarterback who draws mixed reactions. But Smith for the Chiefs can be very much like Luck was to the Colts. Really.
The team won't become good because Smith will be great. Like the Colts with Luck, the Chiefs will experience a rebound because Smith won't destroy them. In a league where the definition of a league-average QB just won a Super Bowl, that's not a small distinction.
And history is on Kansas City's side.