Pretty much every conversation about the Chiefs' playoff potential centers around their offense.
Even the most cynical fans and analysts see the Chiefs have built a very good defense with a legitimate shot at being scary. There's no doubt they'll make some quarterbacks miserable, and there's a decent shot the run defense shores up enough to keep teams from abusing them on the ground.
But there are a lot of question marks with the offense. After Jeremy Maclin the Chiefs boast a series of "well, if..." players. Those are guys who you have to always say, "well, if..." prior to any sentence about them contributing to the team. You know, like so...
Person A: Man, I don't know what the Chiefs are gonna do at receiver this year besides Maclin.
Person B: Well, if Albert Wilson builds on what he flashed last year he could really help.
See what I mean? IF De'Anthony Thomas develops more of a full route tree, or IF Chris Conley's splash in OTA's were a preview of things to come, or IF Albert Wilson can play well as a full time starter... well, fantastic. But again, it's a "well, if" situation. Can't be counted on.
The offensive line situation is the same deal. The Chiefs brought in Ben Grubbs, who will be roughly a 10 million percent upgrade over what we saw at LG last season. However, they lost Rodney Hudson to free agency. There are a lot of moving pieces on the offensive line right now from center to right tackle, and we won't know how good (or bad) it will look until a few weeks into the regular season.
And then, an analyst decided to lightly troll Chiefs Twitter with this line:
SD looks like the best team in that division. Chiefs have a CFL-worthy offense. https://t.co/fJVb2sUN65— Cian Fahey (@Cianaf) June 24, 2015
For those of you who don't do Twitter, Cian is one of the more outspoken film analysts around. In my occasionally humble opinion he does a solid job and knows the game. I disagree with him about some things and agree with him about others (which you'll find with any analyst, it's part of reviewing film and its subjectivity). But he's also a guy who sometimes stirs the pot for fun.
And boy was it stirred.
I tend to stay out of Twitter wars (for obvious reasons), but my understanding is that Chiefs Twitter spent an hour or so tearing itself apart, renewing old Alex Smith War rivalries, and generally going bananas. Good times!
However, amid the furor, a few very obvious thoughts went by and large unnoticed (though former Arrowhead Pride contributor Matt V pointed out one of them) that I thought I'd take the time to point out to those who are panicking over the idea of the offense holding the team back in 2015.
1) Over the course of his entire career, Andy Reid has managed to nearly ALWAYS field offenses that are, at the very least, competent.
Andy Reid has habits that drive me crazy. But his play designs and game plans are generally very good, and at times are absolutely amazing. The Patriots beatdown from last season was a direct result of Reid absolutely spanking Bill Belichick in the coaching chess match.
Andy Reid is a guy who can take limited rosters and coax points out of them. Which leads us to point number 2...
2) Despite severe roster limitations last season, the Chiefs didn't suck on offense.
Yes, the offense struggled at times down the stretch and wasn't as good as we wanted it to be. However, it was still, statistically, an "OK" offense, ranking 15th in the league in offensive scoring per teamrankings.com.
Is that number good? No. Is it bad? No. It's middle of the pack. And that's with Mike McGlynn single handedly destroying multiple plays per game and a wide receiver group (remember, the group that played most of the season was Frankie Hammond, Junior Hemingway, and A.J. Jenkins. The pair that CLOSED the season was Albert Wilson and Jason Avant, who were noticeably better) that was abysmal.
Oh, there was also the whole "Travis Kelce not getting half the snaps until midway through the year and (according to him) never really feeling completely healthy" thing. And the whole "Dwayne Bowe and Alex Smith just don't fit as a QB / WR combo" thing.
But Reid still managed an offense that was at least average. There's no reason to believe he can't do the same in 2015 even if nothing has improved personnel-wise. And while we're on that topic...
3) The skill personnel HAS improved from last year
It's pretty simple math...
Jeremy Maclin >> Dwayne Bowe
No-Lingering-Injury-Full-Time-Two-Years-In-Offense Travis Kelce > None-Of-Those-Things Travis Kelce or Anthony Fasano
Albert Wilson > Hemingway, Jenkins, Hammond
Avant > Hemingway, Jenkins, Hammond
2015 De'Anthony Thomas > 2014 De'Anthony Thomas (for most of the same reasons as Kelce)
The skill position personnel situation is better than it was last year. Is it a great deal better? Maybe not. We don't know. But it is better on paper. So again, to assume the whole thing will just collapse seems... well, it takes more stretching to assume Reid will suddenly forget how to coach, or be negatively effected by better skill position players, than it does to assume he can keep things at a competent level.
Finally, two of the most obvious response to the idea that the AFC West belongs to the Chargers over the Chiefs at this point came from someone other than me. The first point requires a hat tip to Matt Verderame, our old friend, who kindly pointed out...
4) The Chiefs had a negative turnover margin in 2015
If you're asking me why on earth I'm quoting a bad stat as a good thing, let's talk about turnover margins. By and large, they've been shown to be somewhat random over time. For example, in 2014 the Packers had the NFL's best turnover margin per game at +0.9 per game (meaning on a per game basis the Packers got nearly one more turnover than their opponent, a HUGE advantage).
They must really "emphasize takeaways" (to steal a quote you hear coaches using constantly) in Green Bay, amirite? Except... if you look back a single year (same coach, largely same personnel), the packers had a slightly NEGATIVE turnover ratio per game of -0.1.
Some teams sustain for a year or two, but by and large turnovers even out over time. One thing the Chiefs have going for them in this area is a quarterback who just does not turn the ball over as often as other quarterbacks. The averages and Smith's (yes, at times maddening) cautious ways make it very, very likely the Chiefs will see a more positive turnover margin in 2015 (in 2013 the Chiefs had the 2nd best margin per game in the league at +1.2).
Better turnover margins almost inevitably leads to more points. It's science.
The final point was basically someone taking off their shirt and chucking it into the crowd after a dunk.
5) Well... read the tweet
Does this REALLY address whether or not the offense will hold the Chiefs back? No. Frankly, I believe the division crown still goes through Denver, and the Broncos have had the Chiefs' number for a few years now.
But it's still fun to point out that despite all the hand-wringing over the offense, the Chiefs were able to sweep the Chargers (a supposedly superior offensive team despite, you know, scoring fewer points than the Chiefs did last season).
Will the offense hold the Chiefs back? The only honest answer, again, is "I don't know." But there are plenty of reasons to believe it won't be quite the anchor some seem to fear.