The Plight of the Kansas City Chiefs
Written by Curt Popejoy on 09/28/2009
I tweeted during the Kansas City Chiefs opening weekend loss to the Ravens not to panic that the Chiefs would not go winless this year. That was due to the texts, emails, tweets, smoke signals, carrier pigeon messages, and hieroglyphics I was getting. The Ravens are a really good team, probably the frontrunner for the AFC North and this was KC's first game with what was basically a completely re-worked roster. 33 players from the Herm Edwards/Carl Peterson era are gone, and the Extreme Makeover NFL franchise edition was in full swing. They got their franchise QB from the Patriots in Matt Cassel and were looking to turn themselves into a combo of the Arizona Cardinals and New England Patriots, right?
Uhm, not so fast. 3 games in, this team looks to be knotted up in a heated battle with the Cleveland Browns to see who will have the no. 1 overall pick in next year's draft. And let's be serious here, the reasons are pretty obvious. Let's look over the positional units.
Quarterbacks-The strength of the team by a longshot. Cassel can play, Croyle showed as an injury fill in, he can move the ball with this rag tag bunch as well.
Running Backs-After an offseason that saw Larry Johnson throw the entire city of Kansas City under the bus in an attempt to get traded, and then when it didn't happen, see him turn into the biggest fan of KC BBQ on the planet. The fact is, LJ's skillset has diminished. He's not the player that he was in 2005 and 2006 no matter what his attitude about playing is. He's not as quick to the hole, doesn't work as hard to break tackles, and you can just see he doesn't play with the fire he did then. This is a position the Chiefs must address this upcoming offseason, and they must cut ties with Johnson. Aside from him, the cupboard is pretty bare. They cut Jamaal Charles, leaving Dantrell Savage and Quinten Lawrence as the primary backups. Seriously?
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends-Tony Gonzalez wanted out and because he handled it with some professionalism he got shipped to Atlanta. Good for him, but really really bad for the Chiefs. I'd have let Johnson go for a bag of balls before I delt Gonzo for any draft pick. And to have done nothing to replace him is even more reprehensible. The Wide outs are another position of total disarray. Dwayne Bowe is a really solid talent, but problems with lapses in concentration and injuries mean that ultimately he cannot be counted on to be a consistent no. 1 wide out in this league. beyond him, you have Mark Bradley who came to the Chiefs last year as a FA when no one else wanted him, and has proven to be serviceable when he's able to stay on the field. The no 3 wide out is currently Bobby Wade, who was out of work two weeks ago. So that means your third best wide out was unemployed two weeks ago, and last week he started. A common trend on teams that Haley, Pioli and Cassel have been a part of are elite play from their wide outs. They are getting nothing from this group.
Offensive line-This group has been much maligned and I suppose to a degree rightfully so. But just looking at the 4 offensive units, I'd put offensive line at No.2 behind quarterbacks, but well ahead of the running backs and wide receivers. The Chiefs basically have 3 guys who can play and 2 who can't and no depth at all. I like Branden Albert a lot although I'm not sure his future isn't at the right tackle or left guard instead of the left tackle. I think Rudy Niswanger is a decent player, especially with his size holding up in the AFC where there are a lot of big nose tackles. Add in free agent pickup Mike Goff from the Chargers and that rounds out the 3 guys I'd build around. LG Brian Waters is well past his prime, unhappy, and oft injured. There must be an upgrade here, even if it's moving Albert inside. At RT, Ike Nduwke looks lost out there. I know he can play, but so far he's just not doing much of a job. Perhaps in time he'll come around but right now I'm now sure he knows what to do out there.
So overall looking at the offense, there are at least 4 spots, where the level of talent is just not up to NFL quality much less starter. Getting a top flight RB, a WR, a TE and at least one new offensive line have to be musts this upcoming offseason. Or they can just check the waiver wire, since they seem to think they can find talent there.
Moving to defense as much as it pains me to say it, the situation is more dire.
Defensive Line-2 first round picks and a fourth rounder make up the starters. last week against Philly their combined stat line was 1 solo tackle. I didn't forget anything, that was it. Now I fully understand the role of the 3-4 dline, so I am not asking for huge stats, but when you play a team that runs the ball 27 times you'd like to see more than one tackle by the defensive line starters. I won't comment on Tyson Jackson because I've already made my point clear But the fact is, this team has no nose tackle. They must bring in a fireplug for the middle of that line to command some double teams and help out the linebackers. Speaking of the linebackers...
Linebackers-This is a group sort of thrown into the 3-4 with no prior experience so obviously there will be some growing plains. Tamba Hali has shown a glimmer of potential but that's about it. Derrick Johnson is still unable to stay well enough to have any real impact on the game including being a starter. Demorrio Williams is a solid 4-3 linebacker who's a fish out of water in the 3-4. Too small not physical enough to play inside. The old man in the sea, Mike Vrabel keeps finding a way to start and then we come to Corey Mays. I think it's great how hard he plays, but Chiefs fans will know what i mean when I say he reminds me of Kawika Mitchell. More effort than ability. In the 3-4 it all starts and stops with the linebackers, and to be honest, there's really only one guy(Tamba Hali) who look to be young enough and skilled enough to have any impact. There must be upgrades at 2 spots minimum.
Defensive Backs-Far and away the strength of this defense. The Brandon's(Flowers and Carr) are rock solid corners. Granted they have zero depth behind them, but when they are on the field, this defense is better. At safety, I happen to like Jared Page a lot. I think he's pretty underrated. But Mike Brown all that vet input aside, isn't a great fit, and doesn't play a role that is different enough from what Page does. A ball hawk at safety would be huge. Just look at the impact Troy Polamalu has on the Steelers 3-4 defense.
Ok, now is the time in the article where I talk about the new head coach, Todd Haley, his playcalling, the coordinators, the ownership and all that other "stuff". But I'm not going to. Ya know why? Because the players on this team aren't very good. It's really that simple. There are by my count 9 starters on both sides of the football for KC, that wouldn't start for the vast majority of teams in the NFL. When 40% of your starters couldn't win starting jobs anywhere else, it's not about coaching or playcalling. If KC wants to win this year, they are going to need to find a team on their schedule and catch them on the right week, and to be frank get more than a little lucky. Circle these dates, Chiefs fans. October 18th and December 20th. Those two games, at Washington and home for Cleveland are going to be their best chances to bust up the donut. In fact that December game against Cleveland could have the no. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft on the line.
Don't despair Chiefs fans. It's always darkest before the dawn. You have a really good new GM and a really good head coach. What you don't have are good players, but this is a mess that Herm Edwards and Carl Peterson started, so you are going to have to be patient in letting this new leadership turn it around. But it's not going to happen this year and well it may not happen next year. But it will happen. They've started a major overhaul, with mixed results to this point, but another year of changes to this roster should reap some huge benefits. Until then, just stay fans and root for your team win or lose.
Last Edited: 09/28/2009