I liked what I saw early in the pre-season. The conditioning drills and the exemplary tone in the locker room and on the practice field indicated the Chiefs were building stamina to stay sharp well into the fourth quarter and late into the season. It's a good plan. It was a needed plan. But it also assumed the belief was that we would be sharp in the first place. As it turns out, that was a wrong assumption.
The issue is this: Being sharp isn't about talent. It's about coaching. It's about the schemes that you run and the plans that you implement. It's about being a professional football team, even if that football team isn't really that good. I remember watching Princeton in the NCAA basketball tournament (different sport, I know) and they were always outmatched talent-wise. They didn't have any of the top recruits, the size, the sheer level of ability. But they were well-coached.
The key is that teams like that controlled the things they could, like turnovers and clock management. They slowed the game down when they didn't have the talent to keep up the pace. They played smart, close to the vest and refused to beat themselves. If they were going down, it wasn't going to be because of internal errors or lack of focus.
That's the sharpness level to which I'm referring. It's what killed us in the first Raiders contest that should have easily been ours. It's the miscues in the Cowboys game against a team that was equally as sloppy. There's no margin for error with these Chiefs. Every game is already an uphill battle. Yet in the NFL, any game is winnable as long as you play smart, look sharp and execute your plan. Instead, we've watched several games already this year where we look anything but sharp.
This week, the Chargers clearly displayed the fact that they're in a different class roster-wise than the Chiefs. But the score should not have been that far apart. And the game should have been much more interesting. But it's the same story as many other games this season, and it's something we shouldn't forget in the midst of the Pittsburgh hangover. It's the dropped passes by our receivers. The botched snaps by our center. The missed tackles on defense. They're all signs of a team missing the level of sharpness needed at this level.
Haley is learning along with his players. And the beginning stages are always rough to watch. But there's an element still missing that isn't about not having the right players on the field. It starts with proper execution and mastering the things that you can.