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What's missing for the Chiefs: aptitude or attitude?

Most fans would agree this team is close, but what is it that's keeping them from getting there?

Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

I remember thinking about this during the 1-5 start. This team has lots of pieces, but something isn't right.

Then came the Chiefs frustrating playoff loss to the Patriots. Looking back at that game, they weren't dominated. They didn't 'give away' the game. They just were outplayed.

Watching the Super Bowl was equally as frustrating. The Broncos, whom the Chiefs dominated for all but two excruciating minutes this season, found a way to win the whole damn thing. I couldn't help but think that the Chiefs would have had a very good chance to win this game, had they gotten past New England. But, of course, they didn't.

Each offseason, we as fans try to prioritize "needs" and "upgrades" for our favorite team, from an outside perspective, as we try to predict what personnel moves they'll make. These moves assume the team has an "aptitude" problem, in that they need better players in order to win.

One could argue that the Chiefs have many (or nearly all) the major pieces a team would need to get to the level of a Super Bowl contender.

What's in place?

  • A great defensive line that can control the line of scrimmage
  • Elite edge pass rushers
  • Very good cornerbacks
  • Versatile safeties that can enforce in the run game and cover tight ends
  • Solid-to-very good quarterback
  • Solid-to-very good head coach
  • One elite inside linebacker
  • Offensive weapons: a very good tight end, very good wide receiver, others that can make plays
  • Strong running game, with multiple running backs that can grind out a game
  • Very good special teams
  • Strong fan support and homefield advantage
  • Ownership and GM willing to invest to improve the team, with a draft-and-develop philosophy
  • Strong locker room chemistry

What is missing?

  • A great offensive line
  • Depth at pass rusher
  • A slot corner, and maybe another outside cornerback
  • Another playmaker at wide receiver
  • A defensive coordinator who makes better adjustments
  • A head coach who manages the clock better and/or calls a more aggressive offense
  • An elite quarterback
  • Luck? (No, not Andrew.)
  • Championship attitude, a.k.a. the "killer instinct"

What can be done this offseason?

  • They can add to the offensive line specifically right tackle. In today's NFL, with elite edge rushers coming from both sides of the line, right tackle is just as important as left tackle. It'd be a great time for the Chiefs to add a bookend. That said, none of the teams in the Championship round had a great OL, so is it even that important?
  • They can add another pass rusher, so the whole defense doesn't miss a step if Tamba Hali and/or Justin Houston are injured. Yes, they have Dee Ford, and he can make plays with Hali and Houston, but when both guys were out, it was Dee with Dezman Moses or Frank Zombo, and they struggled to get to the QB.
  • They can add a CB, and/or hope that Steven Nelson develops. Nelson didn't play much this year, but when given the opportunity, he showed some ability.  Whether Sean Smith is back or not, it's clear that the Chiefs would want to continue to build the position, so there isn't one guy on the field that can be picked on.
  • Another playmaker at wide receiver will likely be a priority for 2016. Jeremy Maclin was everything the Chiefs hoped he'd be, and was certainly missed when he was injured. Albert Wilson and Chris Conley have showed some promise, but they weren't ready to keep the passing game going when Maclin was out.

The remaining items

  • The coaching staff isn't likely to materially change anytime soon. Andy Reid has very solid job security, and he's pretty loyal to his coaches.  Other than the coaches that get hired away, I wouldn't expect to see major changes to this staff.
  • Elite QBs, like elite head coaches are very hard to find. Perhaps it's time for the Chiefs to draft a top QB prospect? With two to three years left on Alex Smith's contract, how many chances will they have to take a franchise QB? Since Dorsey has been here, one could argue they've only had two real chances in the draft (Carr, Bridgewater). If the right QB is available this year, next year or the following year, they have to consider taking him, in the hopes that they can take the next step.

But, what about the attitude? From all appearances, the team's confidence and attitude seemed to take a huge turn when they started winning. The question is: is that a cause or effect of the team's win streak? Some key questions to consider:

  • What is it that makes teams like New England and even Denver come up big in big games?
  • How is it that Brady to Edelman/Gronk works every time, even though teams know it's coming?
  • How is it that Denver's pass rush was able to get to Brady and Cam, and take over the game, but at times, teams were able to get the ball out quick enough to neutralize the Chiefs pass rush?

Are the Chiefs just unlucky? Injuries are in some ways "unlucky." Jeremy Maclin, Justin Houston, Jamaal Charles, Spencer Ware and Tamba Hali all essentially missing the Patriots game certainly didn't help. Yet every team has injuries. It's part of the game. You can't just go into 2016 and hope that key guys aren't hurt at the wrong time.

Some part of it is game planning. Another part is injuries, and yet another is having elite talent and depth. As for the rest, it's mental. Perhaps there were too many guys on the roster that hadn't tasted success yet, and needed that playoff win to really understand what it takes.

Guys like Jeremy Maclin, Travis Kelce and Marcus Peters bring a competitive fire and confidence that may have been lacking in prior Chiefs teams. Perhaps that attitude will continue to spread to the rest of the locker room. I'd guess that John Dorsey is looking for highly competitive guys who are mentally tough and won't back down from anyone. Adding a couple more from the draft might help the gradual shift in the locker room.

So what do you think: is this team lacking in aptitude or attitude? How can they fix it?

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