What does the rest of the AFC West think of the Kansas City Chiefs? Did they bristle when they heard we signed Pioli? What do they think of Todd Haley? What'd they think of the Chiefs draft haul? And what about that trade for Matt Cassel?
We spent some time questioning our writer friends/rivals over at their respective sites covering the Raiders, Broncos and Chargers and asked them those things and more. We asked each the same five questions and they were kind enough to get back with us.
First up is the best team in the division over the last few years - the San Diego Chargers. And it seems that will continue this year with a revitalized running game, a new pass rusher in Larry English, the return of Shawne Merriman, etc. Of course, a Norv Turner coached team... hehe
John, head writer from BoltsFromTheBlue.com, was kind enough to take some time out to answer our questions. You might not like what you read, but this gives us an idea of what the perceptions are outside of Chiefland if nothing else. Questions and answers after The Jump.
Q: Before any of the housecleaning took place, so to speak, what was the perception toward the Chiefs as to their legitimacy within the division (i.e. how concerned were you guys about the Chiefs within the division in the foreseeable future)?
A: I wasn't concerned at all, but then again I knew that we wouldn't be lucky enough to have Herm Edwards to stay around for another couple of years. While it's true the Chiefs were a thorn in the side of the Chargers last season, it didn't look like they were going to be competing for the division without an overhaul.
Q: Now that the dust of the offseason has largely settled, has that perception changed? Why or why not?
A: Kind of. On one hand, the Patriots and their regime do a good job of putting the fear of God into most Chargers fans. The thought of possibly having to deal with a Patriots-like team four times a year (when you include the Broncos adding McDaniels) is not a pleasant one. On the other hand, we've calmed ourselves down after looking at the record of Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel after they left New England. That, plus the record of first-year NFL head coaches and first-year 3-4 defenses, did not lead to favorable results for Chiefs fans.
I'm a little terrified to see what Scott Pioli can do in Kansas City, but Todd Haley is the neutralizing factor for me. I think he's too inexperienced and too immature for that position. Also, his offenses were not that great. He had great players that made highlights, but he was never clever enough to get the running game going and couldn't develop a Heisman Trophy winner at QB. Maybe I'm biased against him for some reason, but I see a couple of sub-.500 seasons in his future before he's replaced by someone with experience (Cowher?). I'd be worried about how good the Chiefs could be in two or three years from now, but I have no idea what the rest of the division or NFL will be like then so it's pointless.
Q: What was the one or two moves the Chiefs pulled this offseason that upset you the most?
A: None of them upset me at all. I think taking Vrabel was a bit of a sucker's bet. KC is not the right kind of team for him and he's on the downward slope anyways. Switching to the 3-4 is always a bit of a roller-coaster. There's a handful of players that I think will really suffer in that switch.
I like Cassel as a passer, but he's screwed in Kansas City and not just because he's still unsigned. Did you realize that with the exact same offensive line Brady had in 2007 (3 Pro Bowlers, 21 sacks allowed), Cassel was sacked 47 times? That's ridiculous. Now he's coming to a team with a lesser offensive line to begin with, and Waters wanting out is just going to make things worse. I think he holds on to the ball too long and he's going to have a real tough time staying healthy in KC.
I guess the Tyson Jackson pick upset me, but not for the reason you'd think. I don't think he'll be great on KC. I think the pieces around him are going to hurt him in the beginning of his career, honestly. However, I would've loved the Chargers to take him at 16. With a stronger structure to support him, and at a better value, he would've had a better chance at being a solid 3-4 DE.
Q. What are the primary one or two things, from your perspective, that still need to be done?
A: That question is coming from the wrong direction completely. The question shouldn't be what still needs to be done, but rather what is taken care of. I'll answer the question your way though. Without a real knowledge of what Cassel, Haley and Haley's staff can accomplish during the regular season, I'll leave them alone. Here's where the roster could use upgrades:
RB: Get rid of LJ before he starts a fight with Haley. Jamaal Charles is a hell of a football player and backups are not hard to find (Edge James would work).
WR/TE: Yeesh. Who is going to replace Tony G's 100 catches a year? Cottam? Bradley? One of the rookies? I don't think so. I know Haley likes to throw the ball, but Bowe is going to have his plate full trying to carry the offense on his back. Sign Matt Jones.
OL: I like the Colin Brown pick a lot. Pioli's main job as the GM is to do what he did in New England: quietly fill each offensive line spot with a young, talented player. The line needs to grow together. The Chiefs current line looks like patchwork.
DL: Nothing. I like their defensive line.
LB: They're going to hurt the D-line. You need at least 3 pass-rushing OLBs and 2 patient ILBs to play the 3-4. I don't think Hali or McBride is fast enough to make an impact as an OLB. After Vrabel had one very good year at OLB, he fell flat on his face in 2008. He's 34 and can be handled. This odd crop of LBs is going to lead to an underwhelming pass-rush in 2009, I think. Thomas needs to be replaced eventually because he was awful in Dallas last season.
DB/S: Nothing. The secondary will be keep the defense from crumbling in 2009. This is the type of secondary that Jim Johnson (Eagles D-coordinator) dreams about. They can play man, they're tough and the safeties love to hit. The young secondary, plus Tyler Thigpen, almost beat the Chargers twice last season.
Q: Finally, what do you predict for the Chiefs over the next two NFL seasons?
A: 5 wins in 2009, 6 wins in 2010. Nobody can deny that the Chiefs moved in the right direction this offseason, but Kansas City fans must be patient. Rome was not built in a day. There are still questions to be answered (Cassel, Haley, LJ's attitude) and gaping holes in the roster (OL, WR, LB). I've watched Pioli do unbelievable things through the draft and free agency, but it will take him a few seasons to right this ship.