This would normally be where I do The Matt Cassel Report Card, but that no longer seems important with the news that he is most likely done for the season. What does seem important is where this team is headed long term. Who should lead the way on and off the field?
Well, this is how I see it:Regardless of how this team finishes record-wise, Todd Haley and Scott Pioli should stay exactly where they are. Let's not forget how bad this team was when those two arrived. The Chiefs had a very weak roster and a coach who looked as though he died five years ago on the sidelines.
Granted, some of the good players were already here, but many of them were not. Some of the ones that were here (Jamaal Charles, Dwayne Bowe, and Derrick Johnson) had been underachievers considering the amount of talent within them. Todd Haley showed up and the team dropped over 700 pounds collectively while two of those aforementioned players went to the Pro Bowl in subsequent years ( and Johnson should be going this year).
It's been a disappointing year for the entire organization. Crippling injuries and bad losses devastated what many expected to be a promising year. However, I really don't see a reason to panic.
This team needs Eric Berry, Tony Moeaki and Charles to return next year and be who they've been. I understand that's a somewhat big "if" (especially for Charles), but if that happens this team will be ready to roll. The front office needs to retain Brandon Carr and Bowe. Outside of them, Kansas City has no key free agents.
The most interesting piece is the draft. The Chiefs seem destined for a pick somewhere between slots five and 10. Will they take Matt Barkley if he's available? I personally would but it'll be interesting to see if Pioli pulls the trigger.
Whether it's in the draft or through free agency, Kansas City desperately needs to pick up a right tackle. Barry Richardson is a turnstile against speed-rushers. It's a major problem.
Defensively this team has to upgrade the front seven. I still can't figure out whether Jovan Belcher is good enough, which means he isn't. The Chiefs also need to improve at outside linebacker and nose tackle. Jerrell Powe might be the answer, but if he isn't it's time that position is taken care of once and for all.
This team isn't far away from being really, really good. The biggest hurdle is bringing in a quarterback who can utilize his weapons to their full potential. With the additions this season of Jonathan Baldwin and Steve Breaston, the receiving corps might just be the best in football. Todd Haley didn't forget how to coach all of a sudden and Pioli didn't forget how to evaluate talent.
Kansas City is still a very talented team that simply took a step back this year. Don't lose focus on the big picture.