Friday, May 13, 2011

Not So Sudden Impact

Last year's draft class was special. It was a group of high character, high football IQ, sudden impact football players.

They were fast, they were good, and they helped win us an AFC West Championship.

Out of the players drafted, only one didn't get to play in a game last season (Cameron Sheffield after he was injured in preseason). The rest made great impacts for the Chiefs.

Eric Berry and Kendrick Lewis sured up the safety positions and strengthened our once weak secondary. Dexter McCluster and Javier Arenas made electrifying returns on special teams to put our offense in great positions when they came onto the field. McCluster even showed glimpses of stardom on his offensive plays early in the season. Tony Moeaki gave us another great receiving tight end (Tony G. Jr. anybody?). And Jon Asamoah got a little playing time during the season, but during that time, showed that he is one of our guards for the future.

The Chiefs class of 2010 will be talked about for a long time in Kansas City because of their sudden impact for the team.

The class of 2011, however, will not offer such sudden impact in my opinion.

Now, let me clarify. Sudden impact isn't a necessity in every draft class. Last season it was, some would say, and we got what we wanted and needed from our rookies. With that draft class, the Chiefs made major strides on both sides of the ball. Which is exactly why we don't necessarily need sudden impact from this year's class.

Players like Jon Baldwin and Justin Houston I suspect will be sudden impact. Usually a team doesn't take a wide receiver in the first round and be ok with that player not contributing immediately to the team. And Justin Houston many thought was a first round talent, so I suspect he will receive significant playing time this coming season.

But look at the rest of the players from this year.

Rodney Hudson is the only other player I could see starting games for the Chiefs, and that's only if Casey Wiegmann doesn't retire. But nonetheless, Hudson will be a good, maybe even great, center for the Chiefs when he does get the opportunity to start. And having a veteran to teach you the nuances of the game is an added bonus. So for Hudson's first year, I actually prefer him to not be a sudden impact player.

Both Allen Bailey and Gabe Miller are DE/OLB prospects for the Chiefs. With the drafting of Houston, plus the fact that we already have Andy Studebaker (and possibly even Mike Vrabel and Wallace Gilberry if the Chiefs wish for them to return), it seems that Bailey and Miller will be developmental players. I find it very hard to believe that with the depth we already have at the position, that Bailey and Miller will be sudden impact players. But once again, there is nothing wrong with that (unless we are going to try to develop them into Tamba Hali's replacement. Remember, all we did was tag Hali, we have yet to work out a deal and this could explain why we took three OLB prospects in the same draft).

And now I get to Ricky Stanzi. Stanzi is the definition of a developmental quarterback: he has the raw skills, they just need to be refined. And Stanzi will be given time to develop with Matt Cassel, fresh off his first Pro Bowl, returning. If Stanzi is asked to be a sudden impact for the Chiefs next year, then something has gone terribly wrong.

Jalil Brown and Jerrell Powe will both have their opportunities next season on subpackages for the defense. Brown as a CB/S hybrid player that can be good at the nickel position. Powe as a giant nose tackle on the defensive line. I have no doubt that these players will get playing time, but once again, no sudden impact. Both players will be able to sit on the sidelines for a year, watch the process, learn from Romeo and the players higher on the depth chart, and then be solid players the next year or the year after.

And then there's Shane Bannon, a man you can't help but root for. If he's a sudden impact, then God help the other AFC West teams.

Now let me make clear that I liked this year's draft. We got better as a team. We might not have gotten many sudden impact players like in 2010, but we didn't need to. We got players that are going to make us better over the long run. This is what good teams do: they build for the future. That is what I feel like we did last month.

Although their impact may not be sudden, it will be felt.

Friday, May 6, 2011

So . . . Are We Still Rebuilding . . . ?

Two seasons ago, the Chiefs had their worst season in franchise history, finishing 2-14. Coach Herm Edwards, who started a youth movement that season, had started many rookies in hopes of them gaining experience for the future. This strategy lead to that season's failure, and the end of a regime.

General Manager Carl Peterson resigned shortly after the season ended and was replaced by Scott Pioli from New England. Pioli then let go Edwards to bring in Todd Haley from Arizona.

If a 2-14 season isn't indicative of a time for rebuilding, cleaning house certainly is.

2009 wasn't much better (4-12) and just went to prove that the Chiefs had a very long way to go to be a legitimate contender once again.

Or so it seemed.

After finishing 10-38 over the past three seasons, the Kansas City Chiefs surprised everybody with a 10-6 season and an AFC West Championship.

All season, Chiefs fans were reluctant to believe because of the past three seasons, but the more the Chiefs won, the more Chiefs fans came out of the woodworks. And now, Chiefs fans expect the same kind of success next year. I imagine the players and coaches expect it as well.

So, are the Chiefs still rebuilding?

Leading up to the draft, analysts were talking about the Chiefs needing to improve and bolster at certain positions so that they can again contend for a playoff spot. That doesn't sound like a team that is rebuilding.

Todd Haley was the last person to admit that the Chiefs were a good team last season. But in the draft, he helped select a player that will help them win immediately (Baldwin). That kind of strategy is usually not reserved for teams that are trying to rebuild; that kind of strategy is used by teams that want to contend in the upcoming season (look at what the Jets did last offseason).

In a press conference back in 2008, before he was fired, coach Edwards said that the rebuilding process in KC was "85%" done. "But the hard part's done," he added. "All the foundation, all the work has been laid for what's going to transpire for years to come now if we keep heading down this path."

Maybe fans doubted that statement at the time. Looking back, however, I'd say coach Edwards was about right.

Some can argue that 2010 was a fluke for the Chiefs, but the fact of the matter is, an AFC West Championship erased all talks of the Chiefs being in the middle of a rebuilding period. And although the Chiefs aren't long removed from rebuilding, it finally seems that we are (as long as we don't screw it up in 2011).

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Number 88

When Jon Baldwin was drafted by the Chiefs, one of the questions surrounding his rookie season was what number he would wear.

He wore number 82 in college at Pitt. This, of course, is Dwayne Bowe's number so obviously not an option.

Then, on April 30th, Baldwin tweeted that we would be number 88.

I doubt that Baldwin is all that familiar with Kansas City Chiefs history, but the readers of this blog should be. That number used to be worn by perhaps the greatest tight end of all time and a Chief fan favorite: Tony Gonzalez.

Some Chiefs fans liked this idea. The number has a good history and could be a good omen for Baldwin as a player. I, however, was not fond of the idea.

Yes, I am upset that Tony Gonzalez wanted out of Kansas City so bad, and that he finally got his wish two seasons ago. But still, Gonzalez is one of the greatest Chiefs of all time and a future Hall of Famer. It would not find it right if any other player from the Chiefs organizations wore that number. That is why I was a little shocked that Baldwin would choose that number.

Well, today, the situation was resolved.

Baldwin once again tweeted today, but this time stating: "Hey guys due to the fact that 88 will be retired I'll be wearing a different #Gochiefs!"

So Tony Gonzalez's number is going to be retired. I find this not only a very classy move by the Chiefs organization but also the right move. Tony G. was a very important member to our team, and now his number will hang in Arrowhead next to all the other legendary names that have played on that field before him.

Just another sign that even though Gonzalez left us for the Falcons, he will always be known as a Chief.