The week began with an annual tradition: remembering Kansas City Chiefs running back Joe Delaney, who died 37 years ago last Monday while trying to save three boys from drowning.
It was a hot summer day at Chennault Park in Monroe, Louisiana. Three young boys wanted to take a break from the heat with a swim in the park’s pond. Minutes later, two of them — 11-year-old Lancer Perkins and 11-year-old Harry Holland, Jr. — would be dead. Lying with them was 24-year-old Kansas City Chiefs running back Joe Delaney, who gave his life trying to save them.
Monday marks the 37th anniversary of that tragic day. On Saturday, a monument to Delaney’s sacrifice was dedicated in the park.
“He didn’t worry about himself, he just worried about making the people around him happy. That’s just the type of person Joe was,” Delaney’s widow Carolyn told reporters after the ceremony.
After the weekend news that the New England Patriots were signing former Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, Monday was full of talk about how the signing would alter the Patriots’ chance to contend for another championship. We highlighted a Chiefs-centered take from FOX Sports’ Emmanuel Acho.
ACHO: “The Patriots with Cam are absolutely a threat to the Chiefs, but make no mistake about it, the Patriots were a threat to Chiefs beforehand. Let’s talk first before we get into the hot take noise, let’s just talk facts: the Patriots’ defense was one of the best defenses we have ever seen in the last 10, 20 years — top 10 in every statistical category. Top five in every major statistical category. When you talk about defense, you talk about limiting points. That’s what they do best, but now on the flip side, now you add in a game-changer. Now you add in a play-maker... Cam Newton. Think about how hard he is to prepare for. The job of the quarterback is to get the ball into playmakers’ hands... but a team like the Patriots, they are losing their playmakers. They have lost their playmakers, so if the job of the QB is to get the ball in the hands of the playmakers, what’s happened when the quarterback is the playmaker? And Cam Newton, because he is a playmaker, coupled with that Patriots defense, I do think they’re a threat not only to the Ravens, not only to the Colts, but to the Chiefs as well.”
Monday also included some unfinished business from the week before, when Fox Sports host Colin Cowherd had tweeted a graphic saying Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes wasn’t among the league’s top arm talents. Cowherd told his guest — former Chiefs offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz — that the graphic had misrepresented his original idea: that Mahomes didn’t throw “catchable balls.” But Schwartz wasn’t buying it.
“Any list of a positive quarterback traits that doesn’t include Patrick Mahomes is not accurate,” laughed Schwartz. “He gives everything. I mean, catchable balls? He’s on the back of his foot, throwing the ball to Tyreek Hill — obviously the throw here to Sammy Watkins. There was a throw against Baltimore this year where he’s backing up and hits a guy.
“Just from now until he retires,” Schwartz continued. “any list that there is — just like you put Wilson and Brady on every list you have — Mahomes is on every single one of them as well. I mean, this guy is unbelievable to watch him play. He can just fling it, man. Even last year — when his feet were messed up, his ankle was messed up and his knee — he still found a way to make it work. Obviously in the playoffs he was healthy and we see all the throws he made here. It’s incredible.”
Since it’s NFL Rivalry Week at SB Nation, our Ron Kopp compiled a ranking of what he sees as the greatest Chiefs rivalries — and how he sees them changing.
Strength of rivalry: Trending upward
The Broncos were my most hated opponent while he was their quarterback. Their dynamic offense neutralized what we considered an elite defense, dominating the Chiefs with a 7-1 record during his era.
But now, the tables have turned. The Chiefs are now the team with an unstoppable offense — and they’ve won the last nine matchups. In their two 2019 games, the Chiefs outscored Denver 53-9, which indicates the competitive gap between the franchises is large.
But I believe Denver has a franchise quarterback in former Missouri Tigers signal-caller Drew Lock — and they must believe it, too, because they have stockpiled young, dynamic playmakers at their other offensive skill positions. It won’t be long before Chiefs-Broncos games consistently become exciting shootouts that will be nerve-racking — but fun — to watch.
The AP Nerd Squad was in the process of recording their midweek episode of the Arrowhead Pride Laboratory podcast on Tuesday evening when Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones issued a thunderbolt from his Twitter account — one that suggested he might not play on the franchise tag if the Chiefs don’t give him a long-term contract. On Wednesday, Kent Swanson summarized their resulting conversation.
Garafolo is not optimistic that a long-term deal will be done — and neither am I. Since the Indianapolis Colts made an aggressive trade to acquire DeForest Buckner from the 49ers and pay him a massive contract, I’ve believed Jones will be playing on the tag this year. The Chiefs do not look remotely close to meeting the $21M APY number that Buckner earned. You would have to think Jones is looking for similar.
Things appear to be a little toxic in negotiations with threat of holdout, and at this point, anything is on the table for the end result. I wouldn’t be stunned to see a trade occur in the next two weeks to a team willing to pay Jones — a place I did not expect to be at this late in the offseason. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Jones sit games out and show up just in time to get his year of service.
However, a long-term deal seems like the least likely outcome.
Then Pete Sweeney continued with another offseason tradition that not even a pandemic can stop.
Las Vegas Raiders: LB Cory Littleton
If the Chiefs were in a better position with their salary cap, Littleton might have made sense, but he instead signed with Las Vegas on a three-year, $36 million deal. As evidenced by Tuesday night’s developments, the Chiefs couldn’t have afforded that.
The Chiefs would have counted on Littleton’s athleticism as a plug-in player at weak-side linebacker, and if they had secured him, they would have had more time to develop rookie Willie Gay Jr., who may need to be called upon earlier than the Chiefs want if injuries strike.
For about an hour, a report from a sports business publication made it look like we’d be hearing television announcers saying “GEHA Field at Arrowhead” this season — that is, until the Chiefs issued a statement that unequivocally denied a deal was in place for 2020. But the team’s announcement also left the door open for the same deal in 2021.
Unlike many other NFL teams, the Chiefs have never sold the field-naming rights to Arrowhead Stadium. But in the last decade or so, the team has been reported to be interested in finding the right partner to hold those rights. It now looks like GEHA — the Government Employees Health Association — will be the first.
GEHA already has sponsorship deals with the Chiefs and quarterback Patrick Mahomes, so it’s no surprise that the organization would be in line for this deal. It is expected to be in place for the start of the 2020 season.
On Wednesday afternoon, we received reports that the NFL was preparing to cancel the first and fourth games of the coming preseason. But by Thursday morning, it was looking more like all of the league’s 2020 exhibition games were headed for the dumpster.
There has been no decision on the upcoming NFL preseason as some members of the NFL Players Association are in favor of playing no preseason games ahead of the 2020 NFL season, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo and Tom Pelissero reported Wednesday evening.
Previously, the expectation has been that the NFL would cut the four-game preseason schedule to just two games, however, the NFLPA has yet to sign off and there are some within union leadership who continue to question whether it’s a smart move to play any preseason games at all, Garafolo and Pelissero added.
But it is unclear whether the union actually has a say in the matter. According to an article from Washington Post NFL correspondent Mark Maske, the league doesn’t need the NFLPA’s approval — and is holding firm on its plan.
With the the uncertainty surrounding the defensive tackle’s availability for 2020, it seemed appropriate to wonder how his potential absence could affect the team. On Friday, Ron offered some ideas.
In 2019, Jones accounted for 20% of the team’s total sacks. He has 24.5 sacks in the last two seasons — which makes up 46% of the sacks by players that are still currently on the roster. Despite missing three regular-season games, Jones led the Chiefs with 58 pressures in 2019. All other interior defensive linemen had 31 pressures combined.
To sum it all up: Chris Jones has an irreplaceable impact on the Chiefs’ ability to rush the passer.
His absence will force defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo to get more creative with manufacturing pressure from the interior. Jones’ ability to penetrate from the 3-tech position will not be replicated by his direct substitute — but Spagnuolo could have a few ways to counter that.
If you’ve been following the Summer of Spags, you’ve seen Craig Stout lay out uncommon ideas to manufacture pressure. With the absence of Jones, these strategies become even more important to utilize: Amoeba fronts can eliminate the need to have an interior defensive lineman on the field. A well-executed coffeehouse blitz by rookie linebacker Willie Gay Jr. will attack the pocket from the inside without pressure from a defensive tackle. Miami pressure gives the defensive front an automatic numbers advantage over the five-man protection of an offense’s empty formation.