tl;dr: key points are in bold
Vince Lombardi is not credited with being one of the greatest coaches in history for no reason. He understood the concept of winning better than most, if not every coach that has ever lead his team. One of the pointed-to pearls of wisdom that show how extraordinary a competitive mind he was is the "Winning is a Habit" speech. The recent performance of the Chiefs reminds me of the great Vince Lombardi and his poignant speech. The words are a stark photo negative of what I have seen on the field for as long as I can remember. "We don't win once in a while," Lombardi said, "We don't do things right once in a while." Sadly, the Chiefs do.
When the Pioli era started, the team moved in very slow, methodical steps. On the surface, this seemed like a smart way to progress. We didn't want our team to flail around like some loser team would; taking desperate chances that could realistically leave the team worse off in the long run. Pioli took measured chances, betting on the shortest odds in the hopes of getting more winners than losers. Again, it seemed smart at the time. The course was even validated by a playoff appearance. Things were looking up.
But we were also required to suspend our disbelief. We had to ignore that in the midst of that playoff season, our hated foes, the Raiders, were allowed to beat us twice. After all, it was the last game in the regular season, and it wouldn't affect the playoff picture, so it didn't matter. Ignore that in that last game of that 2010 regular season, a journeyman defender exposed the left side of our offensive line; that our quarterback could only function with the best protection, in a low-risk, low-reward offense. We believed that defensive linemen in our scheme are not supposed to pressure the quarterback, only eat up blocks, so there's no reason they would get a sack, even by accident. We believed that the problems with our defense were because it is a bend but not break defense, or that it is designed to stop this, but not that. Ultimately, we believed a winning team was being built; not in a week or a season, but over time and for all time.
Then came abject failure, and thus, excuses: it was the short preseason, or the injuries to our best players, or our wacky head case/coach. We told ourselves that this is a good team with bad luck. We were just one blocked kick from going to the playoffs. But more and more of us began to realize that we weren't really viewing the building of a team made to win. What was being built was a team made to not lose. And now we witness what a team built to not lose looks like. It is a team that when down by three touchdowns with half the third quarter gone kicks a field goal instead of trying for a touchdown. It is a team that has put up more than half of its points after a game is decided. What I give credit to Todd Haley for, you can agree or not, is that every time he had the team go for it on fourth down, he was telling his team that trying to win, even against the most desperate odds, is still better than trying to mitigate the depth of the loss.
There are plenty of reasons for the losing. We run to the left too much instead of running off our all-world right tackle. We use our Mike Alstott clone more than our playmaker speed back. Our quarterback can't see the field, isn't terribly accurate, and can't perform under pressure. Our offensive line allows our quarterback to be pressured. Our defense is built to stop the run more than the pass, is hobbled by injuries, and is coached by a guy trying to wear too many hats. But just describing the problem, doesn't change the outcome. Again as Coach Lombardi said "Winning is a habit, and so is losing."
When I first heard about the charges some of the Bills' offensive line was making about Tamba Hali, I was dismayed. We have a classy team, in contrast to our west coast rivals, we don't play dirty. But then I realized, that this is an example of what a player does when he is not okay with losing. He get's frustrated. He gets desperate. He does everything he can to win. That is what we need: a defense that is willing and trying to rip the opposing teams arms out of their sockets. We need a defense with players that opponents are afraid of.
Offensively, our team needs to know that every time they step on the field a touchdown is the only acceptable outcome. That it's their job to score points; not the special teams', not the defense, theirs. Fumbled footballs, dropped passes, panicked interceptions, missed blocks, and above all punts are intolerable. They are evidence of weakness. They are the fruits of failures. Any player who seems okay with these things should be benched immediately and replaced with someone who wants to win. When we run out of people to put on the field, cut them and sign someone else.
This may seem drastic, or hyperbolic, but we're trying to kick a habit. Les Brown once said that people change when they finally say "I've had it!" In the same way that the Redskins said "I've had it," with lackluster quarterback play. In the same way that The 49ers said "I've had it," with bad coaching.This team needs to get mad, like Howard Beale. They need to get mad as hell, and stop taking this mediocrity. They need to remember that there is no "moral victory" column; that there is no such thing as a quality loss, a good loss, or any other qualified loss.
I admit, right now I feel like a Debbie-Downer, woe-is-me, chicken-little fan; that what I'm saying is easier said than done, and there is no way I could ever do what these guys do as good as these guys do it. But I am a Kansas City Chiefs fan. I want to believe. Not just believe we can still make the playoffs this year. Not just believe we have a solid team. I want to believe that the franchise I love and support is committed to kicking this habit of losing. It isn't going to start with getting to the playoffs. It's not going to start with a first round QB draft pick next year. It starts now. It starts in practice. It starts with a wholesale dismantling of the Saints on Sunday. I don't care about excuses, rationale, or reasons. Winning isn't about what's most reasonable. It's about results. "I believe in God, and I believe in human decency. But I firmly believe that any man's finest hours, his greatest fulfillment to all he holds dear, is the moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle victorious."
Thanks to anyone who makes it this far for reading my rant.