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November 11, 2004

The Football Gods Hate the Chiefs, Continued; Plus Musings « Kansas City Chiefs »

Did you know that two teams have had the longest runs of their entire history in games against Kansas City this year? Sure, the Carolina Panthers haven't been around that long....but Tampa Bay?!?!

The Carolina Panthers also had one moment when Delhomme was being slung around for a sack, and he flung up the ball....and it just happened to land perfectly in some back-up's hands for a touchdown. That should not happen in the NFL.

And even though it is tough to stop a 1-yard line plunge leap over the pile at the goal-line, Kansas City played it perfectly and stopped it. But he landed on his feet and was able to roll forward and score a touchdown.


This year, it seems, every possible break that can go against Kansas City, does.

The defense isn't playing that badly. Excessive injuries to key players has kept them from having a fully-healthy squad on the field, and have forced inexperienced players into the starting lineup and sometimes into new roles (Biesel starting at MLB despite spending the whole preseason preparing for OLB).

...and yet, even though the defense isn't strong, they aren't exactly the problem. They held Edgerrin James to 34 yards on 10 carries and made the Colts abandon the run. They stuffed Jamal Lewis and made him a non-factor. They got critical stops in each of the wins. They've missed the critical stops in the losses, yeah, but the plain fact is: when the offense underperforms expectations, KC loses. When they play up to their level, we win. It's just that simple. The Chiefs' offense has not met expectations in 5 games this season, and that's just wrong.

I'm looking toward next year, now. Yeah, the Chiefs aren't mathematically eliminated from winning the division, but it would take a near-miraculous 2nd half just to make the playoffs at this point.

I'm thinking Dick Vermeil is done. If not, he should be. I'd bet that the nature of disappointment of not even challenging for the playoffs will be a bitter enough pill that he leaves coaching.

If so, who takes over next? I don't know, but whoever it is should be able to build on what Vermeil has built and take us to the next level.

Furthermore, despite complaints about Peterson's drafts and free agency moves, they have produced some impressive successes:
Trent Green, Priest Holmes, Monty Biesel (played to near-pro-bowl levels at times), Jared Allen (slowly building a case for Defensive Rookie of the Year, his stats aren't far off Julius Peppers' pace from a few years ago: on pace for 9 sacks from a 4th-round draft pick not expected to ever be a starter ain't bad), Tony Gonzalez, Willie Roaf, Casey Wiegmann, Jason Dunn, Dante Hall, Brian Waters, Scott Fujita, Derrick Blaylock...all are players any team would love to have as at least a starter-level back-up, all are players that any team could have had, and the only one that cost any significant price at all was Tony Gonzalez. Of all these players, the only ones that might be just about done are Priest Holmes and Willie Roaf, and Priest Holmes has decent replacements. Not sure about Roaf's back-ups, but then, he's good enough to keep almost anyone on the bench, isn't he?

Plus, KC has a good nucleus for the future at several positions for at least the next 3 years. To tell the truth, this year's draft and Rookie FA class may result in several eventual pro-bowlers. I can't wait to see what more experience will do for Keyaron Fox, Kawika Mitchell, Monty Biesel, Jared Allen, Junior Siavii, Benny Sapp, Kris Wilson, William Bartee, Shaunard Harts, Greg Wesley, Kevin Samson, Brett Williams, Derrick Blaylock, Chris Horn (a steal as a diamond in the rough), Willie Pile, Samie Parker, Jordon Black, Scott Fujita, Mark Boerigter, Montique Sharpe, Jeris McIntyre, Richard Smith, Aaron Golliday, and Scott Connot. That's almost a team right there, and even the practice squadders have shown enough flashes of ability to be solid starters, if not stars. Some of the current starters may reach pro-bowl level soon.

If Peterson keeps hitting good base hits on most of his picks and free agents like the last two years, we'll challenge almost yearly for the next decade. But at this point, I'm just about thinking the problem is coaching. Whatever mix we have isn't getting it done. I don't think the problem is Vermeil, necessarily, or Saunders, or Cunningham, or any of the position coaches. But the totality of their abilities isn't meshing well. What I mean is, without Vermeil's vision and his ability to make a family of his team, we wouldn't have even gotten this far! Evidence: Trent Green, who few believed would play at this level, and Lionel Dalton, who struggled under Shanahan's Mind Games technique, but thrives in Vermeil's Family Style. But Vermeil needs the right assistants to get it done. He is an excellent coach, but he has only one Superbowl win, and even that came when his coordinators had excellent seasons; both are Head Coaches now. Meaning, offense alone doesn't cut it, and Vermeil doesn't seem to realize that. If we are going to challenge for the Superbowl this year, we may have to lay off the offense side of the ball a little and see if we can't stock the defense.

I understand why they took Larry Johnson: no one knew for sure about Priest Holmes, and Derrick Blaylock hadn't emerged yet. And I can't fault them for adding Kris Wilson, because I still think he would have been a monster in our offense, feasting off of TG double-teams until it forced teams to lay off TG more, allowing him some monster games. I think if Wilson hadn't been hurt, we'd be 7-1 right now...
...and yet, we've got a #1 draft pick at third string running back. Imagine what an equivalent pick spent on a defensive player could have gotten us, particularly at linebacker where we could have gotten a strong speed-rusher who can blow up running plays and cover on pass plays....particularly one who wouldn't blow an assignment on a running play that allows a team to have their longest run of their entire history.... That might have won 3 of the games right there. Not to mention that if they were so correct on Jared Allen with the 4th pick, couldn't we have gotten a solid back-up on defense with the pick we spent on Samie Parker (a player who still doesn't have even one catch!)?
And I think you can chalk up the very first loss to the Broncos directly to going into the game with only 4 active WRs. I've thought about it 18 different ways, and there is no reason Chris Horn shouldn't have been on the team and active that night. And that judgment has been borne out by what Horn has done in extremely limited playing time. He never makes the highlight reels because he's such an unheralded unknown, but it seems to me like he's made one highlight-reel-worthy catch in every game he's seen significant action, including each of the last 3 games.

So I'm looking forward to the future. The team isn't good enough this year, but the right coach and a decent offseason of draft- and free-agent- acquisitions should let us contend for the Super Bowl for several of the next handful of years.

As always, we'll see...

Posted by Nathan at 09:42 AM | Comments (0)
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