You have questions, I have answers. Well, not "answers" in the sense that I can provide you with real, concrete, actual facts. (Those are for other columns.) But "answers" in the sense that I will answer your questions. Which, really, is all anyone can ask for, right?
Anyway, before I start questioning the value I bring any more than I already am after that opening paragraph, let's mailbag. Ya'll fine folk sent me quite a few questions this time, so we're diving right in.
@RealMNchiefsfan PLAYOFFS?!— Albright (@ryanalbright22) November 6, 2015
Well done. Not only did you manage to convey a genuinely thoughtful question -- is it insane that some people are actually considering whether the Chiefs can remain in the playoff hunt despite their poor record? -- in a single word, you did it in all caps AND brought back an old reference in a way that was funny. Again, well done. I'm almost afraid that I'm going to ruin it by answering. But we persevere.
Look, Chiefs fans are slightly crazy to be considering playoffs. They are 3-5. That's rough. They're a single loss from having a CEILING OF 10-6. That's not good. Generally speaking you have to get to 10-6 if you want a real shot at a wild card spot in the NFL.
And again, that's if they only lose one more game. And yes, they play the Broncos in Denver next. And even if they win they're STILL a single loss away from having to essentially run the table to have a solid shot at the playoffs.
It doesn't help that the Raiders (of all people) have taken a step forward this season. I'm still not as high on Derek Carr as some, but he's been more accurate this year (his major issue last season) and their offensive line is playing very well. Combine that with Amari Cooper being a stud and the defense not sucking, and the Raiders are a real threat to steal a wild card spot. Stupid Raiders. They can't even be bad at the right time.
Right now I'd give the Chiefs about a .001% chance at making the playoffs, with that going to .0000000000001% if they lose to Denver after the bye.
If they win? Well, that's another story. You could talk me into starting to believe again if they pulled that off.
@RealMNchiefsfan @ArrowheadPride What is your #1 focus this bye week going into Mile High?— Hammer (@Hammertime5050) November 6, 2015
The offense needs to figure out its identity. So far they've managed to look not terrible against a decent Steelers defense and unstoppable against a pathetic Lions defense. That's a start. Charcandrick West is a legitimate starting NFL back from all appearances, and that's been huge.
I could be wrong, but it's appeared to me that Andy has shifted his play calling just a little with Charles out and West in. I've seen a bit more commitment to the run early in games, and I feel like I've seen just a shade fewer draws and cutesy screens. It could be my imagination. That's to be determined.
But at the end of the day, the Chiefs need to be running their offense through Travis Kelce and Jeremy Maclin. They are fantastic receivers (I wrote about Kelce here and Maclin here, if you're interested), and when they've been targeted they've gotten stuff done.
Alex Smith is never going to be the centerpiece of the offense. BUT, he has shown a willingness to go to both of those guys. It's time for Reid to stop trying to outscheme opponents with cutesy stuff and start drawing up entire gameplans where nearly every play has Maclin and Kelce as the 1st / 2nd reads.
Do I think it'll happen? Eh, maybe. Reid has shown a willingness to tinker with the offense, but not completely blow it up. He also trusts his scheme over his players' talent (at least that's how it appears). We'll see.
@RealMNchiefsfan @ArrowheadPride what should we do in the draft— Tyler Ewing (@tewing96) November 6, 2015
You stop that right now.
If you guys need to get caught up in the draft to enjoy the rest of this season, more power to you. Me, I'm a guy who is very aware of how fleeting this all is. Next year is guaranteed to me. So I'm going to keep enjoying football this year. Until, like, Week 13 at least.
@RealMNchiefsfan @ArrowheadPride How hard did you laugh when @ProFootballTalk said Gabbert is like Alex Smth?— Royals are Champs! (@Sportswizard28) November 6, 2015
Eh, Mike Florio is known to say things just to say things. I guess the comparison of situation could be a fair one.
The problem is that the limitations Smith has shown are just RADICALLY dissimilar from the limitations Gabbert has shown. Any time you compare two players who really aren't at all similar I tend to roll my eyes.
That said, I think it was more of a "hey, we've seen a veteran develop after being in a bad position and not completely suck" comment. Of course, the problem is Gabbert isn't being coached by Jim Harbaugh or Andy Reid (as Smith was when things turned around) and isn't going to a better roster. The Niners are terrible, and it's a bad situation to be in for the guy. So even for the limited purpose Florio seemed to have, it seemed really far off
Sorry, transplant Niner fans. No disrespect to your team. They've just looked, well, bad. So have the Chiefs, so no judging here!
Is KC Wolf the worst mascot of all time? https://t.co/It6BZDA5zA— Jared Coffman (@Sweet_Jerry87) November 6, 2015
No, but only because it has been saved by an even worse mascot; a bridge.
Like, an actual bridge.
I went to high school in a TINY town in North Dakota named Valley City. The only thing notable about our town is that it was in, you know, a valley. The railroad tracks had to get across said valley (one of only a few notable valleys, or hills, or any geological feature whatsoever in eastern North Dakota), and so one of the longest railroad bridges in America was built. It even has its own Wikipedia page. See?
Anyway, whoever named the school's team decided to somehow incorporate the bridge. Apparently when that idea was raised, no one made the obvious point that it's a bridge. A BRIDGE. How hard is that to point out?
"Ed, I feel like we should really just talk about the fact that we're planning on naming a sports team after a bridge. Doesn't seem legit."
"Well, what do you suggest John?"
"Anything that allows an actual mascot, maybe?"
Nope, that conversation never occurred (apparently). And so the "Valley City Hi-Liners" were born.
You know what's worse than a wolf that looks like a cross between a rat and a racoon? Nothing. I mean, having literally nothing. Which is what we had as a mascot. Because no one in their right mind would dress up as a freaking bridge.
So no, KC Wolf isn't the worst mascot out there. And you people thought North Dakota had nothing to bring to the table.
@RealMNchiefsfan @ArrowheadPride do you think we can shed the Peyton Manning monkey next week?— Brandonn Winsky (@b_winsk) November 6, 2015
Someone else responded to this tweet and I'm going to paraphrase what they said; at this point, it's not really about Manning.
Honestly, it wasn't even about Manning last season. The 2nd time the Chiefs and Broncos squared off Manning was awful. C.J. Anderson and an anemic offense torpedoed the Chiefs.
This year, it was the Chiefs that killed the Chiefs (what with the roughly 900 turnovers. Excuse me, I need to go kick a puppy) at Arrowhead. Manning was terrible the vast majority of the game, and SHOULD have thrown a pair of pick-sixes (only threw the one thanks to a very generous drop by Fleming).
Peyton Manning isn't the problem any more. Now the problem is one of the best defenses I've seen in years. They've got a great team pass rush, a fantastic secondary, and solid inside linebacker play. There really isn't a weak spot on that defense, as Aaron Rodgers just discovered. Wade Phillips is a terrible head coach but a phenomenal defensive coordinator.
So it's more getting this Denver monkey off our back, not Manning. We'll see what happens, but unless Manning suddenly regains the arm strength of a high school quarterback, that team is definitely no longer about him.
@RealMNchiefsfan What path does a Minnesotan take to be a Chiefs fan?— KayCee Wolf (@KCStripSack) November 6, 2015
I've written about this before, but the short story is that I happened to live in Kansas City at a young age during the Joe Montana era. The Monday Night Football comeback against John Elway and the Broncos took me hook, line, and sinker, and I never looked back.
@RealMNchiefsfan @ArrowheadPride is there a qb coming on the market at the end of the year you could see the chiefs grabbing?— kody (@NordricWarrior) November 6, 2015
@RealMNchiefsfan @ArrowheadPride Should the Chiefs trade for Kap or Stafford? I know it's not realistic, but it's fun to play madden GM.— Chiefs Apologist (@TheJohnDillon) November 6, 2015
I figured I would throw both of these together for the sake of ease, since they're pretty much related.
The thing with this quarterback issue for the Chiefs is that Alex Smith's contract makes any move from him largely unrealistic. I'm not a big fan of using sunk cost as an excuse to not move on from a player, but NFL teams have shown they generally operate that way. So as a practical matter, I think the odds of them moving on from Smith are slim to none.
As far as trading for Kap or Stafford goes, I think you're very possibly in the same boat with either one of them. Both Kap and Stafford are limited quarterbacks, just in different ways than Alex Smith. So it kind of lands on what type of limited, OK quarterback you're looking for.
Kap is a great athlete with a cannon for an arm who can run a SCARY read option attack... who has shown no ability to operate consistently from the pocket or read defenses in any way whatsoever.
Stafford has an incredible arm and has shown a willingness / ability to move around the pocket decently with his eyes down the field. He also hasn't improved at all in years, has spotty accuracy, and makes about 5-6 really dumb throws a game.
Smith is a very solid athlete who generally throws accurately, will run the offense as the coach calls it, and takes care of the ball better than anyone in the league (yes, that's a skill)... who suffers pretty serious happy feet, will miss (or ignore) riskier throws that SHOULD be made, and won't make things happen on his own the majority of the time.
Really, are you accomplishing anything by taking any one of them over the other? I'd probably rank them (in order of QB's I'd take): Stafford, Smith, Kap. But the margin is really close.
Long story short (well, shortish), I think Smith is the Chiefs QB next year. I just can't wrap my head around Reid or Dorsey doing something as bold as eating that much contract (despite having some flexibility after this season, it would still hurt to move on from Smith).
@RealMNchiefsfan @ArrowheadPride What has fueled the recent turnaround more: the re-tooled O-line or the resurgence of the defense?— Jacob Reed (@Squish78) November 6, 2015
Against Pittsburgh it was absolutely the turnaround in offensive line play. It was night and day out there. The offense was finally giving the defense some breathing room and moving the ball, as well as at least putting SOME points on the board.
The defense actually righted the ship weeks ago against weaker opponents, we just didn't notice because the offense was still treading water out there. But the offensive line going from putrid to decent against PIT made a massive difference. It wasn't as good against the Lions, but the Lions are a flat-out bad football team so it didn't matter as much.
If the offensive line continues to play decently the Chiefs offense will continue to show some signs of life. No idea if that'll be enough, but at least the games will be watchable again.
@RealMNchiefsfan Which KC player(s) do you think will be most crucial to a miraculous playoff stretch run?— Frank (@CFSBRF) November 6, 2015
Excluding Alex Smith (it's always the quarterback), I'd say the most important player will be Travis Kelce. With Charles out I'd peg him as the most talented player on the offense (no disrespect to Jeremy Maclin, a VERY good wide receiver). They have to continue to find ways to get him the ball.
And really, he needs to get fed more, and in different ways. We only see him targeted up the seam a couple of times a game, if that. It's such a waste of a phenomenal talent. Fewer bubble screens, more drag / seam / crossing routes. Reid seems to have fallen in love with how Kelce can be used in a unique way. The problem is it's gotten the offense away from going to him in traditional ways. That needs to stop.
Kelce going full Zeus the rest of the season would be huge for the offense and make life easier for everyone. He's talented enough to be the cornerstone of an offense, and if the Chiefs manage to claw their way into the playoffs I imagine he'd be one of the primary reasons.
@RealMNchiefsfan When the Chiefs win the super bowl will more than 800,000 show for the parade?— Aaron Brake (@AaronBrake1) November 6, 2015
Excellent use of the word "when" there. Much respect.
And yes, absolutely. As much as Kansas City has shown up for the Royals and as much as people love them in KC, we all know the Chiefs are the primary team in that town. A Super Bowl win, especially after ALL THESE YEARS of playoff futility, would essentially break the town for a few days. I bet banks would close and court would be canceled. It would be that huge.
@RealMNchiefsfan @ArrowheadPride Non-football question: What is your favorite Super Mario game? Mine's probably Super Mario World— Gary McKenzie (@Super_G_Chiefs) November 6, 2015
It might be a boring pick, but I have to go with Super Mario Brothers 3 on original Nintendo.
That game had everything. It was the first time I'd experienced the idea of really leveling up a character to make him more powerful. Yes, previous games had the fireball, but that didn't hold a CANDLE to all the suits in 3. The first time I made Mario fly my brain almost exploded. It was beyond my comprehension that he could do that. It changed the entire game. That frog suit? Ridiculously great. You could TURN INTO A STATUE USING A TEDDY BEAR COSUME. Too much, man. Too much.
It was really hard without being too hard. Warp whistles allowed you to jump around if you preferred different levels. Giant World (or whatever it was called) broke my brain. World 8 was the scariest thing I'd encountered up to that point in my life. You could hop into a little sack and crush fools that way. You could throw hammers. I just remembered the sun world. Remember the sun world?
I'm gonna call it a day and find a way to download Super Mario Brothers 3. What a fantastic game.
Oh, and, um, go Chiefs! We took quite a left turn in this mailbag. I regret nothing.