Hey! Mom! You finally made it to a game!
Besides the inevitable changes in the roster, the 2008 Kansas City Chiefs will look and feel much different than the team from even a year ago. Here's a look at just exactly what we have to look forward to.
Let's not underestimate the importance of replacing first-year offensive coordinator Mike Solari with football veteran Chan Gailey.
It was obvious from the beginning of the season that Mike Solari was in over his head. Solari was a fine offensive line coach, a position he was recently hired for in Seattle, but as an offensive coordinator he defined the Peter Principle - the idea that employees are promoted to the level of their incompetence.
There's no need to go into the football Xs and Os specifics as to why Solari was an ineffective offensive coordinator. We can look at the stats.
Ranked 31st in total points scored. 31st in yards gained per game. The worst rushing offense in the league.
Arguably, this was the worst offense in franchise history.
To be fair, Solari's failures as a coach were a few of the many problems for the Chiefs' offense that we've discussed a number of times. His demotion back down to a positional coach speaks for itself though.
I'm not going to start singing Chan Gailey's praises here because I really don't know a lot about the guy beyond the stats and performances of his past teams. At the very least, Gailey is a veteran coach who has seen a lot of football and been moderately successful as an offensive coordinator.
The Steeler offenses Gailey commanded in 1996 and 1997 were #2 and #1 in the league rushing, respectively. The Cowboys' teams in the late 1990s that Gailey was the head coach of ranked in the top ten in rushing in the NFL.
Chan Gailey's offensive strategy relies heavily on a power running game and the Kansas City Chiefs are built for that type of game. Or at least we are building towards that type of game. Like last year, the offensive line will again be the season's wild card and hopefully a veteran like Gailey will be able to control the chaos better than Solari.
As Chiefs fans, we really were spoiled by the return ability of Dante Hall and the Chiefs' special teams in the early part of this decade. From 2003 to 2004, I got giddy when Hall caught a return because it was possible, each and every time, that Dante would be throwing up his X-factor hand sign in the end zone. It was return ability like that made an impotent Eddie Drummond as the Chiefs' kick returner that much harder to take.
Drummond has been cut and that alone is reason to rejoice. No more bathroom breaks during kickoffs or punt returns. No more (rumored) middle finger to the crowd. Whoever ends up returning our kicks - Kevin Robinson, BJ Sams, Jamaal Charles - it will be vastly more exciting than last year. Special teams could be fun again.
A healthy Larry Johnson is going to be another major difference between this year and last. LJ only started eight games last year, after starting sixteen the year before. His presence alone should lift the offense up.
Finally, even though we've talked about this ad nauseam, I'm very interested to see more of Brodie Croyle however well he plays. We've been watching him for two years now and 2008 will be his first full NFL season at the starting quarterback position. Watching him start six games in a toilet bowl season was difficult to watch and frankly we didn't learn much about him last year.
I'm eager like most of you to have a some major questions answered.
Is Brodie Croyle as prone to injury as many say?
What intangibles will come out this year for him? Is he a leader?
How well will he mesh with the rest of the offense?
All of those questions and many, many more will be answered this year. A year, at least by my account, will be much more exciting to watch than 2007. Even if it doesn't result in more wins.
Think about next season in these terms and I hope you can get excited about the Chiefs' again.