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Chiefs Mailbag: Gaines, Past vs. Future, and Sportswriting

Kyle Rivas

So I got a late start on the mailbag this week. Basically, it was a case of "writing a really long film review about why Eric Berry did a great job against the Jets took a lot longer than a normal column-itis." Gotta hate that.

Also, Mrs. MNchiefsfan had some errands to run, and apparently part of being what's known as a "good father" involves occasionally watching the kids on my own. Huh. Not sure that's what I signed up for, but whatever. She's much better looking than I am, so my obedience keeps her pacified. That's the price you pay for marrying up.

Anyway, that's a long road to a short thought. We've only got a few mailbag questions this week. Let's get down to it. As per usual, you can always get me mailbag questions by emailing or tweeting to @RealMNchiefsfan. Also, I'm one follower away from 1,100. Someone help my OCD and get me away from 1,099. It's killing me.

All right, mailbag.

This question actually came to me last week. But I thought I'd wait another game to have a bit more of a sample size by which to gauge the rookie.

Phillip Gaines had a rougher outing against the Jets than his previous two games, giving up his first touchdown as an pro corner. What happened on that play was actually pretty simple: Gaines got hung up at the goal line by a pick play and didn't properly switch his coverage, leaving the receiver who picked him wide open for a touchdown.

It was a really, really basic rookie mistake, and one that's easily correctable. Frankly, the entire Chiefs secondary has struggled with basic switches during pick plays over the last several years. I have no idea whether it's because the secondary coach (the undoubtedly great Emmitt Thomas) played in a time where WR's couldn't get away with pick plays (since secondary players were still allowed to lay them out). But for some reason it's been a struggle for Chiefs players.

The fact is, though, that Gaines was absolutely forced to watch that particular play about a dozen times, with his coaches saying something to the effect of, "You guys have to communicate and switch on this play. Don't let it happen again."

Outside of that play, Gaines was solid once again on Sunday. He remains sticky in coverage, particularly down the field. The Jets tried to test him with the deep ball a couple times, and he consistently remained stride for stride with whichever receiver (or tight end, on a couple occasions) he was lined up against. You can read a lot more about Gaines against the Jets here (a wonderful article by the indisputable king of defense here on AP, Craig Stout).

Gaines has continued to play well and belongs on the field. It appears Chris Owens may return tomorrow, and that would be phenomenal for the defense. But hopefully Gaines keeps seeing time. He's light years ahead of what I expected from him, and his man coverage has been borderline exceptional.

All the hype Marcus Cooper received last year will continue to keep me from getting too excited about Gaines, but each week he plays well makes that more difficult. He's already faced a good quarterback, and last week he was forced to match up against a tough-to-cover Percy Harvin (who did not make his big plays against Gaines), and he stood tall against both tests. I'm gonna stick with "we'll see" for just a little while longer.

The one thing that makes this question tough to answer is the difference in the NFL today. Remember, Neil Smith and Derrick Thomas dominated in a time where corners were allowed to be extremely physical with wide receivers. This presented a pass rushing situation where QB's were less likely to be able to get rid of the ball in 1.5 to 2 seconds the way they often do in today's NFL. The game was just easier for defenses back then.

Also, Justin Houston and Tamba Hali are really, really, really, really good. They're a nightmare.

That said, it still wasn't that hard a decision to make. DT and Smith are the clear choice for me in a one-off game against the Broncos.

The reason actually relates to the timing issue I referenced earlier. While Houston and Hali are both incredible pass rushers, neither of them possesses the pure speed rush of Derrick Thomas at his peak. That gives him an edge as a rusher in that he didn't just get to the quarterback, he did it really quickly.

Against Peyton Manning, you have to be able to get there insanely fast or it's not going to affect him all that much. He's the most gifted quarterback at pre-snap reads who has ever lived. When he knows a pass rush is coming, he just gets the ball out more quickly. That's why every single line Manning has played behind has been considered good. But it's not the line. It's Manning.

DT's ability to get to a quarterback in about a tenth of a second (give or take) is really the only way to negate that ability. Hali is an incredible hand-fighter and destroys tackles on a consistent basis, but it nearly always takes him at least 2 seconds to get there. Houston has a versatile array of moves and is faster than Hali, but he's still not generally a pure speed rusher (though he does flash that move at times).

And that's leaving out the fact that Neil Smith, at his peak, was a force of nature all by himself. If he were noticeably weaker in that area than Hali or Houston that would change things, but his ability was right up there with theirs.

Derrick Thomas and Neil Smith are the choice. Maybe they could talk in-his-peak James Hasty to join them?

We'll finish with a two-parter.

If you could go back and live in any time period/setting, where and why? (Ex. Wild west, ancient Rome, industrial revolution, etc.) You are the man. Keep the film breakdowns coming. In fact another mailbag question: How long until you quit your day job and just work for Joel? -Christian

The time travel is simple. If I could pick absolutely any time period to live, it would be now. It's not even close.

I know that's a really boring answer, but think about it for a minute. You're sitting on an overstuffed couch reading a device that magically creates images out of coding that's pulled out of the freaking air (people who know technology are undoubtedly laughing at that summary, but oh well). You have a month's worth of food in your cupboards that you're not eating at the moment because you keep eating out. Your poop magically went away when you pulled a lever.

We might be a bunch of jerks in modern times, but we've got it exponentially better than any other time in history when it comes to material comforts. You think they had something called a Z-man in the past? Of course not. I'm taking modern age all day. I wouldn't last two minutes in the past, and most of you wouldn't either.

The second question is one I get various versions of at least once a month. A lot of people are interested in the path to writing for a phenomenal site like Arrowhead Pride.

Those of you who have been around AP since 2010 know that my "path" is a pretty boring one, and one that mostly involved luck. I was a member who write fanposts, an unpaid contributor spot came open, I applied, and I got accepted. That was pretty much it. The rest (AP and SB Nation growing exponentially) had nothing to do with me. I was essentially along for the ride.

Which leads me to a more direct answer to the question; never. I've already got a day job (something about persecuting people or thereabouts), and it's one I enjoy. Although,I do have a running agreement with Mrs. MNchiefsfan: if I'm ever offered six figures to write about football for a living, I'm allowed to quit doing the lawyer thing and do nothing but write.

So, uh, if you want to start some kind of community pool or something, that'd be terrific. In the meantime, I'm perfectly happy being a guy who does this as a hobby. It's a lot more fun than golf.

Here's to a big Chiefs win tomorrow, and many happy bits of film to review!

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