They aren't playing in the Super Bowl thanks to the intervention of the football gods, who apparently have bestowed some sort of cosmic favor on Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, but it was hard not to be inspired by the play of the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game. Specifically, my eyes were consistently following the safeties Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Morgan Burnett who made one play after another.
Clinton-Dix had two interceptions of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, and he also finished with three passes defended.
Clinton-Dix was in the right place at the right time on one of those, but he also dropped another sure interception elsewhere.
Burnett was a beast on all levels and led the team with 10 total tackles that included two sacks, three tackles for loss and one interception. He was criticized for sliding rather than continuing to run it back on this play, but it's silly to overlook his total contributions for the sake of wanting to secure the ball, as he mentioned after the game.
Taken together, the Packers definitely made a mess of Pete Carroll's offensive plan in part because they got after the quarterback and also due to the ability of their starting safeties.
This brings up a serious offseason question for the Kansas City Chiefs as a team going through major reinvention at a spot that was once one of the strongest points on the roster: What should the team do at safety?
With the tragic news that star free safety Eric Berry has been diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, the immediate concern was for Berry's health and well-being as well as his circle of family and friends. At some point, however, the Chiefs must also pay attention to the on-field impact of the news.
There's no way of knowing what Berry's playing future would look like. In an ideal world, all is well and Berry returns to form with an inspirational story for the ages. But the unexpected nature of football just showed us one of the craziest endings to a football game ever, and that came days after college football crowned a national champ with a third-stringer at quarterback. At any level, a team should plan for the worst and hope for the best. That includes the Chiefs.
On paper, the Chiefs are pretty thin at safety. Free safety Ron Parker is an unrestricted free agent. So is Kurt Coleman, who really impressed in limited duty for the Chiefs. Kelcie McCray earned high marks for special teams play, but he's a restricted free agent who could be poached by a team with a bit more wiggle room under the salary cap. That leaves just two players ready to suit up for the Chiefs at safety: Husain Abdullah and Daniel Sorensen.
Abdullah is a good start to reforming the safety position for 2015. Dorsey made a low-risk bet on Abdullah in 2013 and it paid off in spades. Abdullah at one point was a promising safety who rose up the ranks to starter with the Minnesota Vikings, but that was before concussion issues knocked him from his starting spot in 2011. Abdullah then took a year off to make the holy pilgrimage to Mecca, a trip that must be taken in October to Saudi Arabia. Coming back to the NFL, he was suddenly a veteran free agent who needed to shake off injury concerns and conditioning worries.
Abdullah rewarded the Chiefs faith in him by signing a two-year deal on the cheap last offseason. That means Abdullah is in house for 2015 for a nice cap hit of $1.145 million (or 10.1 percent of what Eric Berry counted against the cap in 2014), a number that places Abdullah at No. 45 overall in the NFL in terms of cap hit among safeties, and that's before this year's round of free agents and draft picks fall in line.
It should also be noted that John Dorsey and the Chiefs coaching staff received solid returns on under-the-radar investments in both McCray and Coleman last year. It stands to reason that solid offseason work should yield similar results down the depth chart. That leaves starting strong safety as the primary concern.
Could Ron Parker be the right guy? The Chiefs have certainly invested a considerable amount in his development, and another full offseason under his belt at safety could provide greater dividends in 2015. After watching the Packers play, however, it'd be nice to see the Chiefs make a sizable investment via the draft at safety. There are greater holes on the roster, or ones more discussed at least, but the Chiefs should consider making a move for a high ceiling at the position.
Whether help comes on the free agent market with veterans like Dawan Landry or a fairly early draft pick like Virginia's Anthony Harris, the Packers have shown just how important it is to have great safety play on the back end of a defense with a strong pass rush.