Another week, another blow-out loss. This team was 10-6 last season! Can three players make this big a difference? I doubt it. I’m sure there are many of us who know exactly what is wrong with the Kansas City Chiefs, or at least think we do. I’ve got a few ideas.
First, while the team’s record last season was 10-6, the team wasn’t quite as good as the record might indicate. Because of the hoopla surrounding the official re-opening of Arrowhead on opening night last season, the team was emotionally fired up and focused on the task at hand, beating the Chargers. Mother nature lent a hand, supplying rain to slow down the Charger’s passing attack. The Chiefs were able to exploit the Chargers’ one glaring weakness, their special teams. Dex’s 94 yd. punt return was the difference in the game. The team played over their heads, and rode the emotion of that win for the next 14 weeks. In week 17 of the season, the Raiders came to town with a no-nonsense attitude. They essentially told the Chiefs that if they were going to beat the Raiders, they’d have to do it with someone not named Charles or Bowe. They stacked the box, and doubled Bowe. I’m surprised no one thought of this earlier in the season. The net result was that we scored only one TD, but hey, we’d already clinched the AFC West, so not to worry. Our other embarrassing loss up to that point came at the hands of the Chargers, who, on a day Cassel didn’t play, physically dominated our OL, and completely harried Croyle. After the loss to the Raiders, we hosted the Ravens in round 1 of the play-offs. The loss was very similar to the week before. Similar game plan, and, for the Chiefs, similar offensive output; one TD in the loss, and so the season ended. Many fans assumed that the Chiefs were just on the verge of becoming a very good team. Perhaps the team wasn’t quite as good as we fans hoped. After all, we were beating up on other teams who had finished at or near the bottom of their divisions the previous season. Oh well…with another productive off-season we would be stronger, right?
What happened? The first thing that comes to mind, besides the fact that the team may not have been quite as good last year as we fans thought, was the striking chronological convergence over Charlie Weiss’s official announcement that he was leaving the organization, and our offense’s rapid decline. In the Chiefs’ last four meaningful games, they have averaged less than a TD per game. One can only wonder if there is some sort of cause-and-effect thing going on. It is also worth noting that Weiss was replaced as OC by an OL coach. An offensive line coach’s area of concern does not include how to attack the opposition’s entire defensive scheme. Therefore, I’m wondering just what Bill Muir knew that made him the best possible OC candidate.
Then we came to the off-season itself. The draft went as expected. The team went for a WR to help free up Bowe, some interior line help, and some speed at OLB. It is worth noting that OT was not addressed, and NT wasn’t addressed until late in the draft. At the time the logical assumption was that Pioli was waiting for free agency to shore up OT and NT. During the lock-out, many teams held player-run workouts in place of OTAs. As far as I know, the only remotely organized workout held by Chiefs’ players were passing drills organized by Cassel. If someone knows of other team drills during the lock-out, I’d like to know about it.
After the CBA was settled, things happened fast. There was a one week FA signing period. For the interest of the Chiefs, it is worth mentioning that there were two excellent veteran back-up QBs on the FA market, Carr and Lienhart. Pioli apparently made no strong effort to sign either. Then camp started. Fans got their first clue that HC Haley was taking a unique approach to how he was running camp when stories broke that the Chiefs’ braintrust had supposedly talked to some people who had been involved in the league during the last work stoppage about how to handle this camp. The next clue came on the night of the Chiefs’ first preseason game, against the Bucs. Haley treated the game as a practice. I assume that meant that any emotional preparation and/or mental focus was expected to come from the players themselves. If the entire camp was run without emotional preparation, it would be easy to understand how our first two blow-out losses happened. On a side note, there must have been some sort of emotional involvement; I assume that the altercation between Baldwin and Jones involved some emotion. From the results of the Lion’s game, the emotion may be coming back, as evidenced by the number of personal fouls. The focus hasn’t returned as of yet, however.
At this point I was going to mention some questionable personnel decisions by Scott Pioli, but I think that can wait for another post. I just finished watching the Giants and Rams. Do you realize the Giants lost half of their starting defense for the season due to injury? We’re only down three starters as of now. This seems to suggest that whatever is wrong with this team is very wrong, and higher up the food chain than the players themselves.