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Dixon’s AP Mailbag: a fixed NFL, the Chiefs’ draft approach, high salaries and This Is Us

It’s time to respond to the questions in this week’s mailbag.

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AFC Championship - New England Patriots v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images

Welcome to Dixon’s Arrowhead Pride Mailbag, where I’ll do my best to answer your questions about the Kansas City Chiefs — and anything else that’s on your mind. If you have a question, you can hit my profile page to e-mail me, or ask me on Twitter.

While you’re at it, please follow me on Twitter, too.

I have been hearing some (or all) NFL games are fixed. Tell me this is not true — that the NFL is not fixed like the WWE.

— Eric

Thanks for your question, Eric. Here’s the short answer: No, they’re not fixed.

Unfortunately, the idea that NFL games are fixed has been gaining strength in recent years. Even more, unfortunately, the NFL pretty much has itself to blame for it.

By the 1970s — when slow-motion multi-camera instant replay became ubiquitous — and especially by the late 1990s, when TV viewers (but not the officials) could see digitally-generated lines on the field — fans at home who possessed an NFL rulebook were in a better position to officiate games than the men (and now women) doing the job on the field.

(Last week, I wrote an article about the fascinating history of instant replay and how it led to the NFL’s recent change in allowing review of pass interference calls).

Then and now, though, officials had one big advantage over the fans on their couches at home: they are trained to do the job in real time — and that isn’t as easy as it looks.

But despite their training — which still allows them to get an enormous percentage of the calls right — sometimes, officials get things wrong, When they do, television cameras almost always reveal it. This inevitably leads to suspicion that they were called that way deliberately.

Two decades ago, the NFL wisely chose to allow replay review to fix officiating errors. But it was a half-measure that failed to recognize missed no-calls — that is, instances where officials missed throwing a flag — were as important as the ones where they did.

If the NFL had simply allowed all officiating to be subject to replay review, I doubt there would be so many people who now believe the NFL is rigged. Doing it that way would have immediately made officiating accountable — if not more transparent.

The league’s recent decision to allow review of pass interference — whether it is called or not — is a step in the right direction; this precedent will very likely lead to a future where all officiating is held to account.

But none of that addresses another perception: that the league — for reasons real or imagined — predetermines the outcome of games. That simply cannot happen unless there is a pretty large conspiracy — which by definition is virtually impossible to maintain. If the whole thing is a scam, enough people would know about it for word to get out.

That doesn’t mean there couldn’t be individual officials who are corrupt, which is a whole other kettle of fish. Let’s just leave that issue with this thought: the NFL can easily afford to have a corps of extremely well-paid (and well-trained) professional officials. It’s long past time for that to happen.

Does trading for Eric Murray for Emmanuel Ogbah change our draft approach?

— Jack

What is the most pressing need now? Cornerback or safety? Edge rusher? Would you move up the draft to get a premier talent? Or just stay put?

— Avik

Yes, Jack... I think it does change the strategy a bit. Thanks for asking.

As Craig Stout noted in his first-look film review of Ogbah, his acquisition puts the Chiefs in a position where they don’t have to get a top defensive end in the draft. With Ogbah and Alex Okafor, the Chiefs now have two veteran defensive ends who are at least rotational players — if not outright starters.

Does that mean the Chiefs won’t take a defensive end in the draft? No... not at all. But it might mean that they won’t need to trade up to get a specific defensive end that won’t be available at pick 29. It puts Brett Veach in a better position to simply trust his draft board — and that’s a good thing.

Now, Avik... on your related questions...

As a quick exercise, I went through our updated free agency recap (which is worth bookmarking as a reference), made a list of the players the Chiefs no longer have under contract and the new players that have been signed. Then I broke them out by position.

Players In and Out

Pos In Out
OL Murphy, Hunter, Senior Morse, Devey, Allen, Gordon
DB Breeland, Johnson, Wade Nelson, Scandrick
TE Bell, Wells Harris, Ellis
WR Coates, Crockett, Grayson Conley, Thomas, Benjamin
S Mathieu, Jones-Quartey, McQuay Parker, Berry, Murray
LB Wilson, Spaight, Davison, McCray Zombo, T.Smith
DT Walker, Ivie, Mondeaux Bailey
RB Hyde Ware, West
EDGE Okafor, Ogbah Houston, Ford
QB Manuel, Litton
FB Ripkowski

Looking at this list — and keeping in mind the other players the Chiefs still have from last season — you probably still see some holes. I do, too. But with the trade for Ogbah and Tuesday’s signing of The Belldozer — tight end Blake Bell — my hair isn’t on fire. And it was smokin’ in mid-March.

Do the Chiefs still need some talent? Yup. Cornerback would be nice. An edge rusher would certainly help. Maybe a wide receiver, interior offensive lineman or tight end.

So yes... the Chiefs have some draft needs. We can argue about which ones are more pressing, but with the free agency moves the Chiefs have made, I’m no longer too worried about which position the Chiefs will draft in the early rounds — or convinced that Veach has to move up to address a glaring need. That’s exactly where the team needs to be on draft day.

Will Tanoh Kpassagnon occupy a roster spot on opening day? Seems like a second- round bust.

— P.J.

That’s an excellent question — one to which I don’t have a ready answer.

Kpassagnon is a big, talented guy — which is why lots of people ask these kinds of questions about him. Under Sutton — and with Houston and Ford on the team — Kpassagnon couldn’t find his way on to the field; like Breeland Speaks, he seemed to be the wrong physical type for the jobs available to him in a 3-4 scheme.

But as things stand right now, the defensive end position for the Chiefs is wide open. We don’t know who’s even going to start — much less who’s going to be rotating in and out. With new coaches added to the mix, Kpassagnon is going to have a real opportunity to break through.

In other words... if he can’t become a real contributor in 2019, he probably never will.

Thanks for asking, P.J. By the way... is that a family name? I don’t think I’ve ever met anybody named Press Do Your Job.

If Chris Jones wants to stay in Kansas City his whole career, how about cutting the Chiefs a hometown deal?

— V.R.

This isn’t a question addressed specifically to the mailbag but is taken from a Twitter response regarding my Tuesday story about the possibility Jones’ new deal could cost at least $20 million per year.

I get it: NFL players in certain positions can make an obscene, mind-boggling amount of money. I don’t even know how to wrap my head around getting paid that much.

But the proper reaction to this phenomenon isn’t to get mad at individual players because they’re getting paid a lot of money under a flawed system they didn’t invent — one that egregiously overpays some while drastically underpaying others.

Neither is it to clamor for a hometown discount from a guy who probably never set foot in Kansas City before he was drafted by the Chiefs; I’m sure Jones likes living here (what’s not to like?) and loves playing for the Chiefs, too. But it’s just flat-out crazy to suggest that he should be paid less so that the team can afford to pay other players.

How would that go over if it happened to you? “Yes,” says your boss. “We’re glad to hear that you like working here. So we’d like for you to take a couple of million bucks less every year so we can pay more to these other people who work here.”

I could write 3,000 words about how dumb it is to try and apply pure free-market principles to a closed, regulated system — which is essentially what the NFL is. Don’t get me started.

Instead, I’ll just say this: The league and its players need to figure this out. Players need to be able to choose their own destiny and get paid what they’re worth. But it shouldn’t be — and in the long term, can’t be — at the expense of their teammates and their teams. It can’t happen overnight, but the league — indeed, professional sports in general — needs to figure out a reasonable, fair way for that to happen, and start moving in that direction.


So... what’s going on in This Is Us?

— Ed

My wife Terri has a really big pet peeve about movies and TV shows that bounce back and forth between time periods. She finds it really annoying. So when we watched the first episode of this show, Terri was like, “Oh, is this going to be one of those shows? OMG!”

But we stuck through the first episode, and have seen every one since. That Terri is willing to put up with the frequent time shifts is a tribute to how good it really is.

Note: spoilers ahead...

Tuesday’s season finale kept jumping through three distinct periods of time. Earlier in the season, we were teased with a peek decades into the future, where it appeared that super-couple Randall and Beth were no longer together. The finale returned to the future, showing that those two (apparently) remain together, but also implying that Kate and Toby do not.

Meanwhile, the third triplet — Kevin — has become such a successful actor that he lives in a palatial home, and Jack’s long-lost brother Nick has laid enough of his Vietnam demons to rest that he can enter the bosom of his late brother’s family. “Hey, Nicky,” says Randall to Nick, who is stationed at the dying Rebecca’s bedside in the last shot of the season.

And where’s Miguel in all of this?

But the thing I found most frustrating about this season was the first episode — where Jack and Rebecca go on their first date in Pittsburgh while Jack has just nine bucks in his pocket. Set on the day of Franco Harris’ Immaculate Reception in the AFC divisional playoff between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders in 1972, references to the game abound — including scenes in what appeared to be Franco Harris’ home before (and after) the game.

If you accept (as I do) that a good screenwriter (or director) never shows you something you don’t need to see, then why the scenes in Harris’ home? I spent the whole season wondering about those scenes, expecting to learn of a connection between Harris and the Pearson family; I kept the first episode in the DVR for months so we could go back and find the clues we missed when the secret was finally revealed.

Oh, well. Maybe that’s coming in Season 4.

Yeah... we’re hooked.

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