Ah, that wonderful time of year has rolled around yet again. It's that time of year when Chiefs fans collectively come unglued after spending 17 or more hours per day checking AP to see if 'that' FA has been signed yet. Inevitably, when it hasn't happened, those same fans who so adoringly 'approve' of Clark Hunt, Scott Pioli and Todd Haley by landslide margins in the monthly approval polls, crater and begin wailing to the world about how Clark Hunt is 'cheap', Pioli just isn't getting it and Haley hasn't spent enough time making his case for player blah. It's all so predictable. It happens every year.
Fan angst is seen nowhere with more clarity than on a team's blog like Arrowhead Pride. It's here, in these virtual pages, that we can hoot'n holler, bemoan, complain, throw tantrums and basically GRIPE because the powers that be choose to run the team differently than we would if only (help me lord) we could call the shots.
Given that there is so much pent up frustration among the fans right now about free agency (which, I remind you, is not over by a long shot), I thought it might be interesting to take a look at what the Chiefs DON'T have rather than what they do. You know, looking at the additions that the subtractions have made, if you get my drift. Sometimes, an effort to build morale starts with an assessment. Sometimes when you find out where you are, you realize that you're not as lost as you may have thought you were.
Things the Chiefs Do Not Have:
A need for a quality NT.
Kelly Gregg is a clear cut upgrade over Ron Edwards and Shaun Smith. I thought that many were in agreement here that the musical chairs style rotation that we were 'trying' to make work at the NT spot was less than desirable. If that is the case, then what's with all the "I'm sick of being told to wait for the future in KC business"? The future is now. This guy has been in the league only one year longer than Edwards and a comparison of their stat lines is very lopsided in favor of Gregg.
In 10 seasons Ron Edwards has played in 128 games, had 192 total tackles with 138 solo and 54 assists, 15.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles and 3 fumble recoveries.
In 10 (he missed the 2008 season) seasons, Gregg has played in 127 games with 512 total tackles, 352 solo and 152 assists, 19.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 6 fumble recoveries.
I don't know about you, but Gregg having more than twice as many tackles in virtually the same number of games says that this guy is always around the ball. It takes a motor that never quits to be this guy and from all accounts his motor is still running just fine. This guy is a run stuffer who won't quit. Can you imagine what his ability in this area will do for Tamba, Gilberry and Studebaker with the occaisional Eric Berry safety blitz thrown in? Hey-Zeus McNamara! Can you say 'set the NFL record for team sacks in a single season'? Sure, I knew ya could (said in my very best Mr. Rodgers voice). Romeo has been in a reportedly good mood since camp started. I'll bet that having Mr. Gregg in town has a little something to do with that.
Don't forget Powe here either. All reports from camp that have mentioned him have been 'surprisingly' good so far. Surprising, I think, because he is showing signs of over powering his opposition. Rookies that impress in camp are the milk for Todd Haley's wheaties. That my friends is the long term future of NT in KC and so far, the smiles directed his way are growing bigger.
Had we lost Smith and Edwards and not had any kind of plan in place to cover the NT spot, I would be very disappointed. Thankfully, that is not the case...then again, with Scott Pioli in charge, did you really think it would be?
A glaring hole in the number two WR spot.
Not all that long ago it looked like we had made progress in this area with the signing of Chris Chambers. I was concerned somewhat by this signing because I had followed Chambers career for a time when I had him on a fantasy roster. I knew what he was capable of doing, but the fact was that he only seemed to do it when he needed to, rather than being a solid consistent player. Unfortunately for Chiefs fans, the slacker returned and we found ourselves right back in the same soup of having only D Bowe as a consistent down field threat. That made it as easy as shooting ducks on the water for opposing defenses to double up on Bowe.
With a sprinkling of Moeaki and one of the most prolific running games in the NFL though, the Chiefs were still able to win 10 games and a division title. Doesn't that make you feel GOOD about what's going on at Arrowhead? What's with all the Clark Hunt is cheap stuff? First of all, I'll bet that Pioli wasn't cheap. Clark made that decision early in his tenure. Secondly, do we really care how much is spent if a winner is being built? Aren't we generally first in line to make fun of those teams (ie Redskins and Cowboys among others) who fail after robbing Fort Knox to pay for their acquisitions in Free Agency? All of that mud slinging sort of implies that the Chiefs don't want to be that guy, right?
Pioli explained very clearly what his priority for signing players was and it didn't include getting pie eyed about the 'mirage' that is sometimes created by the more well known or 'household' name. Many fans (not those on AP of course, we are the best informed fans the Chiefs have don'tcha know) don't know the first thing about the quality of a certain player, but they've heard their name therefore they buy into the idea that the player 'must' be better than what we currently have on the roster. Many times this just isn't the case.
Steve Breaston is just about as well known a name as Fitz is, and he is a huge upgrade for us at WR. It is true that he has only had one 1,000 yard season in his four year career, but if you look at the circumstances it should encourage you about the Chiefs chances this season. His 1,000 yard season was in 2008 with our very own Todd Haley as his OC. Since that time Breaston's number have fallen back into the 700 yard range, but with the QB issues they have had, all of their WRs have slowed down. Matt Cassel is primed and ready to have a receiving corps to throw to. This increases our chances for success in the passing game by leaps and bounds.
I have posted before that by bringing in Breaston to push Bowe and Baldwin, we may just have created a monster. Bowe is in a contract year. Do you think he may have something to prove this year? Baldwin is the running tree I have been wanting forever in Chiefs Red. At 6'5", he will be a target that Cassel will love. This doesn't even begin to discuss the possibilities of throwing to Charles or McCluster out of the backfield. The killer B's (as some are calling Bowe, Baldwin and Breaston) will give us street cred in the down field passing game. Can you imagine what Charles will do with some honest-to-god holes to run through that were created simply because the other team has to respect the pass? Good God people, if the prospects of watching that group go downfield and score repeatedly doesn't raise your blood pressure, you must be asleep!!
An urgent need at RB. (update McClain agrees to one year deal with Chiefs)
(It will be interesting to find out how much he has been paid)
I know, I know, it's all the rage right now for fans to be on the LeRon McClain band wagon. I am not arguing against taking a look at him, but once again fans are drawn to a guy that is a relatively well known name simply because they feel like TJ was less than adequate last year. A preponderance of the evidence on this may just change your mind. You all know that I am a champion of TJ. The guy still has the werewithal and smarts to carry the ball 245 times last year for 896 yards and average 3.7 yards per carry. Add to this the fact that he did so with an offensive line that was cobbled together out of some long in the tooth vets (Waters, Weigman), a very solid LT (Albert) that is not playing in his natural position (is that joke worn out yet?), A RT (Richardson) who many wish had been traded instead of Wade Smith, a RG that is a solid player who has now been asked to change sides yet again in his career (Lilja), and a rookie TE named Moeaki. Once again I will ask, Doesn't this make you feel GOOD about what is happening in Arrowhead?
The fact that Charles and TJ were able to LEAD THE NFL in team rushing stats with a passing game that no other team respected and a cobbled together collection of spare parts for an o-line is a liability? There must be some magic in there somewhere, right?
Oh and Mr. McClain? His claim to fame goes back to the 2008 season. Baltimore was suffering from RB injuries like crazy. McClain was called on to fill the role as a primary (at least more primary than typical for a FB) back and he rose to the occaision--or at least everyone says he did. He had 242 attempts for 902 yards and a 3.9 yard average. Isn't that ridiculously close to TJs numbers last year? So what's the BEEF Chief's fans? You love McClain because he's not on our team and you've heard his name, yet he turned in stats only one time in his four years in the league that are a little below the AVERAGE of what TJ has been able to compile in 11 YEARS? And before we get back to this dropping off the edge of the table argument about TJ again, please refer to the lack of a credible passing game, the cobbled together o-line and the fact that TJ and Charles lead the league in rushing. If you still think that LeRon McClain is so essential an upgrade as to pay crazy money to bring him in I'd like to talk to you about some swamp land I have for sale in Phoenix. The point is, what we got just ain't that bad. ***Picking up McClain has now provided some very nice insurance.***
Last year was the first time since 2006 that we got to see what it looked like to see the the Chiefs in the playoffs. That happened only one year after this team could only win 4 games. The real point to all of this is to recognize how hard this organization is working to give KC a championship. They are doing a lot to accomplish that goal. Obviously there are still things that can be done and moves to be made to improve our 2011 product. Don't forget that all of this has been done in the short term against the back drop of work stoppage that nearly cost us part of the season. For my part, I think the Chiefs have done well in a short period of time with the signings they have made. Maybe, just maybe, we may also see a diamond in the rough in some of those UDFAs that were signed. Joel has alluded to as much in some of his posts. Pioli has also made mention that the Chiefs will be watching very closely as rosters are trimmed back to the 45 players allowed. I know it's a bit early for Halloween, but who knows what kind of overlooked piece of candy we may find in that bucket?
Yes, the schedule appears tough this season. No, we didn't go out and get Mr. Football (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) in Free Agency (again!) this year. What we DO have is the knowledge that we are soon to be in year three of the Pioli/Haley era and some of that leadership simply has to start showing through in terms of solid play and tough wins. We still have many rookies to contend with and a few spots that need some care, but for the most part I am very happy with what will take the field in September. If you think about it a little more, maybe you will be too.