I don’t have a crystal ball.
That’s an unfortunate truth that has a rather large effect on both my personal an professional life. If I had a crystal ball, for example, I could predict exactly what my wife would want to eat in advance of date night, rather than having an infuriating conversation in which she says she’s “OK with anything” but then shoots down 10 ideas in row.
Professionally, if I had a crystal ball I could anticipate results of cases and give clients better advice. OR I could’ve just skipped the Chiefs game against the Cowboys. Which would’ve been nice, to be honest, because that game was gross to watch.
Well, maybe “gross” is too mean a word. How about ... uninspiring.
I think that’s the most accurate word I can find. The Chiefs went out and played generally uninspired football. They looked slow to the ball (though the run defense was better), left receivers open, didn’t finish, blocked poorly, and Alex looked all out of sorts. In short, there was almost zero fun to watch in this game. Which is a real bummer, as the Chiefs have almost always been fun to watch in recent years (except against Pittsburgh, but I digress).
It took me a while to figure out exactly why I found the Chiefs losing on the road on a short week to a playoff contender bummed me out so much. On the surface, things look OK. The Chiefs are 6-3 after an absolutely brutal schedule to start their season, have a mult-game lead in the AFC West, and are absolutely a good team. Why am I so bothered right now?
Then it hit me ... yes, the Chiefs are a good team. But they’re not a great one, and I don’t believe they’re particularly close.
Perhaps it’s greedy of me, but for whatever reason, good just isn’t doing it for me right now. Particularly the brand of good but flawed that we’ve seen over the last month.
I’ve done “good” with the Chiefs. A lot of times, actually. Since Andy Reid came to town in particular, there is no doubt whatsoever that the team has been good year in and year out. We’ve seen WAY more winning than losing over that span (49-24, which is fantastic in today’s parity-driven NFL). We’ve seen the team go to the playoffs every year but one. Heck, we’ve even seen the first playoff WIN in more than a full generation. Overall, yes, the Chiefs have been a good football team.
But not great.
That was the one thing lacking during Reid’s tenure as coach. I never felt like the Chiefs were a “great” team, one that was a serious threat to win the Super Bowl. They were always, like I said above, good but flawed, with some serious issue (often on offense but last year featured an appearance by the run defense) holding them back. They were good, but never great.
Well, at least not until this year. This year, for five weeks, the Chiefs were great. And I think that’s where my problem is stemming from. After five weeks, the Chiefs looked like they were a GREAT team.
They had gone to New England and blown out the Patriots. They had duked it out with a tough, physical Eagles team and walked out on top. They held off a talented division rival that always plays them tough. They came back and won in thrilling fashion against the Redskins, proving their mental toughness. They badly beat Houston on the road in a game that wasn’t remotely as close as the final score indicated.
Alex Smith and Kareem Hunt were 1 and 1a in the MVP race, with Alex playing BY FAR the best football of his career. Justin Houston was back to terrorizing quarterbacks. The defense had some issues but was good enough in the clutch to help win games (doesn’t it feel like forever ago that the defense got huge stops against New England, Philadelphia, Washington and San Diego?). Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce looked like the scariest inside-outside duo in the league. It was all coming together.
Now? Well, since that Houston win, the Chiefs have dropped three of four, with their only win a rather unsatisfying one against a toothless Broncos team that is in total disarray. They’ve been humiliated by Pittsburgh (again), gave away an inexcusable game against the Raiders (how different would we feel right now had that last drive gone differently?), and now looked lost in the fourth quarter against Dallas (I hate to play “remember when” again, but remember when the Chiefs OWNED the fourth quarter?).
Overall, I don’t think anyone believes the Chiefs are a bad team, or even close. They’re competitive and balanced (somewhat), and they’ve proven they can compete with any team in the league. No doubt about it, they’re a good team.
But not a great one.
And I guess for me, after getting a taste of what it feels like to believe your team is legitimately great, the best in the NFL, good just isn’t cutting it. Especially the version of good we saw against Dallas, that was overall pretty ... well, like I said, uninspiring. There was no doubt in my mind after the game (or during it, really) that the Cowboys deserved the win and the Chiefs deserved the loss.
Hey, losses on the road to playoff contenders happen. They really do. Even great teams lose games. But they don’t generally lose three of four. They don’t display some gigantic weaknesses on both sides of the ball. And they (with rare exception) come out completely and totally flat in a game they kinda/sorta/really need to win.
Yeah, the Chiefs are a good team. And I’m guessing after a couple of weeks they’ll come back looking solid. They’ll make the playoffs barring a total collapse. After all, that’s what good teams do. And the Chiefs are a good team.
I really thought they might be something more this year, though. We’ll see (there is, after all, almost half a season left to play), but that possibility seems more and more remote every week. Until I see a reason to hope for more, it’s hard to note just believe that this year will be another good, but not great, season to be a Chiefs fan.