Former Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Mike Solari took most of the heat for the Chiefs losses this year and deservedly so. Those clamoring for his removal, myself included, were rewarded yesterday when Solari and three other offensive coaches were let go. Today, we take a look back at a tenure that resulted in some of the worst offensive performances in Chiefs history.
Mike Solari was promoted from offensive line coach (1997-2005) to offensive coordinator in 2005. In February 2006, right after he took over for former OC Al Saunders, Solari said, "We'll make a few changes, but when I say a few changes I truly believe you won't notice it. There's not going to be a lot of changes. This is the Kansas City Chiefs offense, and we're going to do what we do. We want to move forward and improve."
Mike Solari took over an Al Saunders' offense that in 2005 ended the season ranked first in yards and sixth in points. In 2006, the offense had worsened to sixteenth in yards and fifteenth in points. Finally, in 2007, the downfall was complete. The offense finished the season ranked 29th in yards and 31st in points. Truly a 180 degree turn in just two years.
A drop off in offensive production was to be expected in 2006. The Chiefs lost Trent Green during the first game of the season and also lost Willie Roaf to retirement earlier in the year. Still, Larry Johnson rushed for nearly 1800 yards and the Chiefs made the playoffs. The same points and yards weren't there but there were excuses. We were less talented on the offensive line and were playing with a backup quarterback. Regardless, the Chiefs still made the playoffs. Mike Solari's success rode into 2007 on the back of an overworked Larry Johnson.
Something was different in 2007 though. It was obvious from the early minutes of the season opener in Houston, TX, that the offense had something wrong with it. It was like an unloaded gun. You'd pull the trigger and nothing would happen. The Chiefs offense, for the most part, looked like the team that helped Larry Johnson rush for nearly 1,800 yards in '06.
Solari and Herm Edwards displayed an inability to adjust to their opponents during games and an unwillingness to stray from their conservative, establish-the-run-at-any-cost philosophy. With the state of the offensive line as terrible as it was, these decisions became obstacles too large to overcome and set up the Chiefs to fail each and every time.
The Solari experiment is a great example of the Peter Principle, which states that, "In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence." Solari was a fantastic offensive line coach, coaching one of the best units ever for a number of years. But leading an entire offense was beyond his level of competence. It's not that Solari isn't one day capable of serving as an offensive coordinator, even though I seriously doubt he'll never coach in that position again. It's that the skills that were relevant to coaching an offensive line were not relevant in the position of offensive coordinator. Mike was in way over his head and it really began to show as the 2007 season wore on. Without Larry Johnson rushing for 1700 yards, Solari's bad decisions had nowhere to hide.
Herm Edwards repeatedly voiced his approval of Solari over the last two years, even in the face of great criticism. He also repeatedly made mention of Solari needing to learn on the job and becoming more and more comfortable in his role. And that's what we'll ultimately remember about Mike Solari's offense. His tenure was a failed experiment where his skills never materialized. He didn't learn on the job fast enough. Solari was unimaginative and lacked the experience to understand what was truly wrong with our offense. I'll continue to say it until next year starts - The inability of Mike Solari and Herm Edwards to recognize the failing talent on the offensive line was the single biggest mistake the Chiefs made in 2007. Everything starts with the offensive line and Mike Solari just didn't know how bad it was. That is sad, considering he was the offensive line coach for so many years. Its coaching moves like that that make me think the guy had no idea what the hell he was doing. It's almost as if Solari stopped having any influence over the offensive line when he took over as OC.
Solari leaves behind one of the league's worst offenses and probably the worst offense in Chiefs franchise history. His legacy is one to learn from, not emulate.
Goodbye Mike Solari. You served the Chiefs organization well but unfortunately the position of offensive coordinator proved too much for you to handle. Here's to a new offensive coaching staff and a fresh start in 2008.
May I suggest an offensive coordinator who has actual experience being an NFL offensive coordinator? Crazy, I know.