Hey guys, this is my first post on Arrowhead Pride about the Chiefs. I posted it here because I believe the best Chiefs content is on this site and the most in depth discussions. Sorry if it is long, but I think it is a good conversation to have. Without further ado, this is my LONG review of where we have come in the Pioli/Haley Era and the moves that I believe we need to make from here on forwards to get this team to win a Super Bowl.
I first would like to say that good teams find ways to win games and bad teams find ways to lose games. We have now become one of the teams in the NFL that is somewhere between below average and the worst team in the playoffs due to a very easy schedule. The problems that we debate as Chiefs fans have gone from “Is this ever going to work?”, “How bad is our defense?”, and “How can we evaluate our offense while leading the league in drops and zero protection?” in 2009 to “Is Cassel’s problems holding us back from blowing out teams?” and the carry split between Jones and Charles. We are becoming greedy and expecting more, which is a very good thing. All in all, I think that the bottom line is that we are 2-0 right now and in my mind, out of the lower echelon of the NFL.
The way we did this is by filling a ton of needs thru a combination of coaching changes, a few timely free agent pickups, and most importantly, draft results.
Let’s first start by saying how the coaching change, especially on the defensive side of the ball with Romeo Crennel has completely changed our team. The “development” of in house talent like Derrick Johnson, Tyson Jackson, Glenn Dorsey, Jovan Belcher, Andy Studebaker, etc. can directly be contributed to the addition of one of the best defensive minds in the business. I think he has single-handedly turned this unit from a laughing stock to one that the team is going to rely on in 2010.
Secondly, the saavy free agent pickups that Pioli has made stopped the bleeding in some serious holes. While not many, the additions of Chris Chambers in 2009 and Casey Wiegman in 2010 has given us solid players at two positions of need. I liked both these moves because I think fans are very smart and when both of these players hit the market, fans began clamoring for them to be signed, which they were. The crown jewel of free agents for us has been Ryan Lilja. I will never really understand why the Colts let him go but I am incredibly happy that Pioli pounced because he is more than a stopgap, he is a proven veteran who is young and talented enough to start for a very long time.
Lastly, needs were filled by two of Pioli’s draft classes but especially this 2010 draft class. Because of it, we have a secondary that we can lean on for years and long term options that seem to be keepers at tight end, guard, and anywhere Dexter Mccluster lines up. The 2009 class obviously can’t compare to the 2010 class (which is one of the best draft classes in the history of our franchise) but I think we are hard on it. Tyson Jackson has come a long way in one year. I don’t think Andy Studebaker develops as well as he has without Mike Vrabel. Ryan Succop is just a very good kicker and Donald Washington is developing into a solid backup and extra defensive back who has seen crunch time minutes like covering Gates in the game against the Chargers. Last but not least, people forget that our starting MLB Jovan Belcher was also a member of that class even though a pick was not used on him.
My thesis moving forward is taking these points to the next level.
Let me start by saying that I think Scott Pioli is a visionary and is ahead of the curve in may ways. He sees that this league is a pass oriented league, where we will have to shut down the great passing offenses of the best teams to win. Hence, the drafting of Arenas in the second round, which I absolutely was not on board with at the time. The fact of the matter is that against most of the better teams, defenses are going to be in the Nickel package a lot and our current Nickel package has Flowers, Carr, Arenas, Berry, and Lewis as its secondary with an average age of 22.6 years old playing and growing together. I believe in Pioli’s vision to fill needs that a lot of us thought didn’t see to take us from the cellars of the league to the middle of the pack.
However, I think moving forward, we need to turn into a team that can pass at will and score points. And I do not think Matt Cassel is the answer. He will have this year to prove himself, but I think he has to do more than proving himself. I think he needs to throw for minimum 3500 yards and look very good doing it. This isn’t a thread bashing Cassel, I think he has done his part to get us over the initial hump, but going forward towards playoffs every year we need more. I do not think that we are going to be a team that has a defense so incredible that we can win with a “game manager” quarterback. Haley keeps saying how our "margin for error" is small because of the talent of our team, and my thoughts are "They really wouldn't be if our offense was airing it out and putting up points consistently."
Further, I think that the league has changed in that teams need to be able to put up a 21 plus total to win 3 or 4 games against the best teams in the league to win a World Championship. I really don’t see an AFC team beating the Chargers, Colts, Ravens, and Saints to win a Super Bowl if they don’t have the capability to put up a ton of points. So as I said, Cassel looking “average” and “not bad” doesn’t do it. I think he has to look GREAT to not make a change. And I think the difference between “not bad” and GREAT or even very good at the QB takes this team from an average team to a guaranteed playoff team and maybe a contender.
I don’t blame Scott Pioli for the Cassel deal. He was starting a new regime and needed a new quarterback on both sides of the ball and he worked a deal where he got both. I wouldn’t be giving him such a free pass if in one year he didn’t fill needs at almost every position to the point where I really don’t know what to look forward to in the draft besides a quarterback. Safeties have been filled with two young guns, MLB with a 23 year old, tight end and guard with a value picks from the 3rd round. Developed players have stepped up and seem to be long term options at DE, MLB, Offensive Tackles, and Studebaker at OLB. We even have our long term options in the slot and nickel. Right now our needs seemed to have shrunk and we are going to be more concerned with depth going forward because I am doubtful that a lot of rookies will be able to unseat our starters in 2011.
Our free agency options will also open up due to two things: a character foundation and a better record. Let’s face it, not many players are going to be attracted to Kansas City because 1. it’s not Miami or NY (home to Karlos Dansby and Antrell Rolle, not to mention Lebron James) and 2. we haven’t had the best record as of late. Add that to the fact that we are looking for the “right” players at a bargain and you have mostly second tier free agents who will even THINK of coming. Luckily for us, Wiegman’s family is living here and Lilja is a hometown boy or we’d probably be minus both of them. However, now the foundation of our team is set. The Patriot Way has been replaced by Chiefs Will. This year where a guy who could have helped us like T.J. Houshmanzadeh, Dez Bryant, Terrance Cody, or Albert Haynesworth will not be pursued because he might disrupt chemistry and values, I think the entire pool of players will now be open ala Randy Moss in New England after the identity was already established.
Due to all of this, I think the biggest necessity in our future is a quarterback from the ultra-strong 2011 draft class. And not just any quarterback- I believe that we should trade up to number 1 overall to draft Andrew Luck of Stanford.
Mark my words, HE WILL be the number 1 pick of the draft IF he comes out. Besides the fact that he looks better than anyone in recent memory, runs a pro style offense, and has JIm Harbaugh as his coach, I think these factors make a move to number 1 at pretty much whatever cost more understandable. Honestly, even though 2 number 1’s and a number 3 sounds like a lot, if he turns into Eli Manning let alone Peyton (who he is being compared to) we will all be indifferent towards the ransom.
First, our shrinking needs make us less desperate to fill a lot of positions. I did not want us to trade a 3 and a 4 for Anquan Boldin this offseason because I felt like we had too many needs. However, now I do not because of the filled needs mentioned above.
Second, the fact that this is a QB driven league as mentioned above and to become elite I believe we need to develop one. And while you can find a gem late, its much easier to find him when you have the entire draft pool to choose from.
Don’t believe me? This is my third and final point. Look at the recent first round of quarterbacks chosen.
Recent first round draft successes (Overall Pick in parenthesis)
2010- Sam Bradford (1), Tim Tebow (25)
2009- Matt Stafford (1), Mark Sanchez (5), Josh Freeman (19)
2008- Matt Ryan (3), Joe Flacco (18)
Besides Tebow, which was arguably the most divisive pick in the last ten years of the draft, wouldn’t you take all of these over Cassel? Further, I think 5 of the 7 are on their ways to being stars in the league. I think we can say that the “risk” of drafting a QB has gone down lately for one reason or another. And I think Andrew Luck looks much better than any of these did in college and that he will continue to prove it.
Scott Pioli is a visionary and I don’t think he is too big to move on from a mistake, especially when we are operating at the second lowest payroll in the league. He has done an incredible job taking us from a bottom of the league team to a 10-20 team, but this has to be done to put us in the top 10. Here’s to hoping that mediocrity is not what he wants and that great rewards are never had without great risks. This is one worth taking.