Watching the national media, the local K.C. press, and most especially, the Internet savvy fan base not only swallow the seemingly never ending onslaught of assumptions, but actually begin parroting it as fact has completely ruined my week. What happened to journalism? What happened to fact checking and making sure you get the story RIGHT, instead of just reporting it first?
Just 3 games ago the Chiefs were developing a media buzz. The talking heads on the radio and various sports channels couldn't say enough good things about the Chiefs, their coach, their GM, and even the lowly Matt Cassel. When the Chiefs finished the regular season with a playoff birth there was SERIOUS talk of Todd Haley earning the coach of the year award. Jamal Charles was argued by some as better than Chris Johnson. Dwayne Bowe had apparently put his history of the dropsy's behind him; and Derrick Johnson had finally lived up to his first round potential after a hard nosed coach made the decision to bench both Johnson and Bowe, and thereby motivate them to play their very best football. Matt Cassel went 27 and 7 and earned a back up pro bowl spot by fan and player votes. And Tamba Hali suddenly went from a mid-tier pass rusher to the best in the AFC.
Haley's off season program's goal of making sure the players were in shape, first and foremost, before even letting them on the field to learn the system was pointed to as being a huge part of the teams turn around. That same off season program was touted to when fans and writers alike tried to pinpoint a reason for the relative health of the Chiefs squad as compared to other NFL teams. In short, Todd Haley and Romeo Crennel were 'the man' in the eyes of the fans and the media for their ability to coach players that had previously never lived up to their potential.
Scott Pioli and Todd Haley's approval polls have been through the roof for the last year, and very few had many complaints. There was no talk of firing Haley, or dumping Pioli, or trying to lose as many games as possible so that the team could have the number 1 overall draft pick. In fact, Pioli was praised by most, not only for drafting Eric Berry, but for doing it when the media's overall opinion was that Pioli would never take a safety in the first round.
And now, three games later?
If you believe the media, the fans, and the unsubstantiated assumptions and rumors swirling around the Chiefs then these things are all accepted as truth:
- Todd Haley is a fool, and a belligerent ass. The sole reason he fired Gailey and that Weiss left the Chiefs was because Haley's ego is so huge that he couldn't get along with anyone but a figurehead as an O.C.
- Todd Haley's off season program's goal to make sure players are in shape, first and foremost, was the worst decision ever made by any NFL head coach in history. It's the only reason Moeaki, Cassel were hurt. Further, his insistence to limit the first team's snaps the preseason games until he felt they were in football shape is the sole cause for the bad play, bad timing, and overall bad losses in the first 2 weeks.
- Matt Cassel is a horrible dead armed QB that will never lead a team to victory in the modern NFL
- Dwayne Bowe can't catch.
- Scott Pioli is an awful G.M. without a big enough sack to stand up to his owner and go out and sign the players the team needs.
- Clark Hunt is such a cheap bastard that he lets his frugality overshadow his desire to win. After all, Hunt doesn't really care about football, except for the European version that we call soccer. If Hunt would just open up the purse strings a little bit the Chiefs would (apparently) have won the last 3 Super Bowls.
- Everyone hates Todd Haley. Players won't play for him or join the team specifically because he's the coach. Coordinators won't take a job with the Chiefs if it means working with him. Even the current players on the KC squad think he's a jerk. The team would be much farther along if they had kept a 'players coach' like Herm Edwards.
What I'd truly love to see is any evidence that any of those things are true. Instead, I see evidence to the contrary.
- Todd Haley is not a fool. He was an offensive play calling genius in Arizona that helped take a downtrodden squad all the way to the Super Bowl. Further, he and Gailey parted ways because they had completely different philosophy's about how to run the offense. Right or wrong, Haley wanted to play his own system. Weiss had issues with busing a handicapped child to and from school, AND he left for a head coaching job that would bring him even closer to his family.
- Haley's off season program took one the the most out of shape NFL teams to a level of conditioning that allowed them to remain explosive from the first quarter to the fourth quarter, and from the seasons start to the seasons end. Further, THIS years off season was going to be completely unconventional no matter what Haley chose to focus on. In a year where camps were barely 2 weeks long, the draft came before a free agency period that was compressed into just 2 weeks, and players didn't have the kind of 2 a days or padded practice they normally have in the past EVERY team had an unconventional off season program. The injury bug bit the Chiefs just days before the season started, and has burrowed into the spine of the team since.
- Matt Cassel led the Patriots to 11 wins, and the Chiefs to a playoff birth just a few short months ago.
- Pioli has quietly gone about locking up key young players that make up the core of the Chiefs team to long term deals. If he'd waited until their contracts expired before signing them to a new one, you can bet the team would pay a lot more money for the same players. Sometime the players a team needs the most are guys that are already on the roster.
- With Baldwin yet to take the field, Charles and Moeaki out, the team playing from waaaaaaaay behind, and Cassel throwing some off target passes while attempting to force a ball to Bowe to get points on the board - our opponents have been able to focus on taking Bowe out of the game. Breaston hasn't been targeted very much, and Pope is a better blocker than route runner.
- Hali, Johnson, Flowers.. none of them seem to be complaining about Hunt being cheap.
- Breaston came here knowing Haley first hand. Bowe sings Haley's praises. Fitzgerald has credited Haley as a major reason for his success. And of course.. Herm Edwards couldn't effectively coach the players he had on the team. Johnson was a bust under Edwards, Jamal sat on the bench, Bowe really couldn't catch..etc. There's more than enough evidence to suggest that Herm's teams were out of shape and the teams' records under Edwards speak for themselves.
So what am I saying? Am I suggesting that everything is just peachy keen in K.C. and that the Chiefs are a Super Bowl team right now under Hunt, Pioli, and Haley? H E Double Hockey Sticks NO! What I'm suggesting is that the fans and the media alike are more interested in pointing the finger than fixing the problem; even if that means pointing at a ghost, or making up a story to fuel the fire.
After saying all that, let me toss out a few of my own unsubstantiated assumptions about the Chiefs. There's not any more proof for my claims than those of the media, but there's a lot more logical thought.
Offensive Coordinator: The only proven successful OC currently on the Chiefs coaching staff is Todd Haley. In 2 seasons Matt Cassel has had 4 OC's (Gailey, Haley, Weiss, and Muir). It stands to reason that a QB is in the best position to perform when there are a limited number of voices in his head. Ideally, a QB would have only 1 coach to turn to when it comes to game planning and play calling. I believe that the Chiefs have too many cooks in the kitchen in that regard. Jim Zorn was an utter failure of a play caller in Washington, and Muir has no history of success calling plays. Todd Haley has spoken in consecutive press conferences asking the press to lay all the blame on his shoulders. If Haley is ever going to step up and be the leader that the Chiefs players seem to so desperately need, now is the time. Todd Haley should stop worrying about bruising the egos of Muir or Zorn, and just take over play calling duties himself. Not only would this limit the voices in Cassel's (as well as Palko and Stanzi's) head, it would send a message to the team as well as the fans. Todd Haley is not just whistling dixie when he suggests that the buck should stop with him. By taking over the play calling Haley would be putting the best play caller in charge, (removing confusion and doubt from a system that sends plays from the booth, to the QB coach, to Haley, and finally to the QB) and at the same time adding credence to his words about where to place the blame. Sure, it would put Haley at risk. If the team continues to play as badly as they have in the first 2 games there would be nowhere to point the finger, but Haley's going to be judged based off the teams success weather he's calling the plays or not. If he can turn the squad around while calling the plays there won't be any room for doubt about his ability to run the offense. It's in the teams, as well as Haley's, best interest for Todd to take over as the only play caller.
Quarterback: Matt Cassel is one of only 10 QB's to ever throw for 400+ yards in consecutive games. He did it with the Patriots, and a bevy of receiving talent around him, so we know he has the ability to succeed through the air. Matt Cassel was second to only Tom Brady in TD/INT ratio's in 2010, so we know he can protect the football. The questions that remain are weather or not the Chiefs have enough talent on the field to throw the ball to; and weather or not Matt can read blitzes and go through progressions quickly enough to get the ball out. We all know that Cassel doesn't have a cannon for an arm (sorry Matt. I love ya, but it's true.) He's not going to throw the ball 40+ yards down field 10 times a game and light up the deep pass. But, he doesn't have to. He's just got to be able to lead a receiver, and throw his teammates open. Those have been 2 tremendous failures in the last 2 games. Matt's passes have been behind, back shoulder, short, too high, and just flat out ugly. Every route CAN'T be a come back or an inside curl. If Cassel is ever going to be successful in a short to mid range passing offense then he absolutely HAS to hit receivers in stride. Matt needs to put his receivers in the best possible position to pick up yards after the catch, and forcing them to run a come back, or turn around and wait for the ball just ins't going to work in this offense. We may have seen Matt's ceiling as a starting QB last season. I haven't seen anything to suggest that he has great strides forward still packed away in his wallet. On the other hand, even if 2010 was his ceiling it was enough to get to the playoffs. He's not playing anywhere near the level he played in 2010. Matt needs to step it up to the levels he's already shown he can achieve.
The Draft: The season is far from over. Sure, statistics say that 0-2 teams are a major long shot to make the play offs, but I'm not giving up yet on my Chiefs. The worst possible idea anyone ever had is for the team to lay down and give up. I don't care if Andrew Luck is the next Joe Montana, Dan Marino, and Tom Brady all rolled up into one package. You DO NOT throw in the towel and play to lose in the name of next years draft order. I would have zero respect for an owner, coaching staff, or a team that chose to lay down and die after only 2 games. If there were anything that could ever turn my interest away from the team I have rooted for since I was old enough to walk, giving up in the name of next years draft would be it. Even the idea of it disgusts me, and I cannot believe that a single person that calls themselves a Chiefs fan would seriously suggest it as a viable course of action.
If the team decides to throw in Palko or Stanzi or any other number of rookies AFTER they have been mathematically eliminated from the play offs I would not disparage them one bit. I certainly see the value in getting young players on the field to gain experience for the future. However, as it stands right now the Chiefs are 1 game behind in the division race with 14 games to play. Tossing in the towel would be an insult to the fans, as well as the players. 53 guys on this team want to WIN. They may or may not have a job with the Chiefs next season, so asking them to tank the season for a 2012 draft pick is insulting. As a fan, you should be insulted if the team you love and support just decides to piss into the wind for the next 14 weeks trying to get as much of the wet stuff dripping off their uniforms as possible so that they can be first in line for a new jersey.
Me, I'll be watching the Chargers game in hopes we can break the streak and move into a tie for the division lead this coming weekend. Go Chiefs!