Thursday, September 29, 2011

Personnel Preference

Just like the previous three weeks, my Personnel Preference includes some injuries. Both cornerback Brandon Flowers and tight end Anthony Becht were injured in the game against the Chargers. Brandon Flowers appears to have suffered a high ankle sprain, which is typically 2-3 weeks out with injury. However, Flowers has practiced some this week, although gingerly. Backup Travis Daniels did a good of a job coming in to replace Flowers after he suffered the injury following an interception return (that about sums up our injury problem this year). So if Flowers isn't completely ready by Sunday against the Vikings, don't be too surprised to see Daniels or rookie Jalil Brown opposite Brandon Carr.

As far as Anthony Becht is concerned, he's apparently not as valuable as Flowers. Becht injured his hamstring during the game, and was subsequently released, for the second time, on Wednesday. To replace Becht, the Chiefs brought back tight end Jake O'Connell, who was released following week 1. Becht tweeted yesterday that he hopes to be back and that the release was injury, not performance, related. So, don't be surprised in a couple of weeks if we release O'Connell and bring back Becht, for the third time.

Although the injuries are mounting up for the Chiefs this season, it looks like Jonathan Baldwin, the Chiefs first round pick this year, might play this Sunday against the Vikings. He's missed the first three games and most of the preseason with a hand injury reportedly suffered in a locker room brawl with running back Thomas Jones. With the recent emergence of the Cassel-Breaston connection, and the longstanding Cassel-Bowe connection, you have to wander if Baldwin is really going to make a difference this season for the Chiefs, especially with the lack of down field passing plays called by whoever the heck is calling plays these days for the Chiefs. Lesson: never fight Thomas Jones.

Here's a little tidbit in case you were interested. If you were hoping the Chiefs would claim Steve Slaton on waivers from the Texans, then you were disappointed when you learned that he was claimed by the Dolphins instead. You might be even more disappointed when you hear, according to a league source, that the Dolphins were the only team that claimed Slaton. I was a little unclear about how the waiver would work between the Dolphins and Chiefs, since both teams are 0-3, but it looks like it didn't matter at all.

Monday, September 26, 2011


There are few ways to phrase the situation without being rude, but to put it kindly, Matt Cassel is a frustrating quarterback.

I was a Matt Cassel fan when he was brought over from New England. I was a Matt Cassel fan in his 4-11 (he didn't play against the Ravens in the opener) season of 2009. I was a Matt Cassel fan before the Chiefs were considered legitimate in 2010. I was a Matt Cassel fan when he was selected for his first Pro Bowl. I was a Matt Cassel fan when he let wide receivers live with him this offseason so they could practice together during the lockout. I was a Matt Cassel fan at the beginning of this promising season.

Three games in, it seems Matt Cassel is doing everything possible to cause me not to be a fan anymore.

Three games is a small sample size to judge a quarterback's season, but Cassel might just be an exception. In a season that has quarterbacks putting up career numbers (looks like the lockout was harder on defenses than it was offenses), Cassel is being the odd man out. Through three games, Cassel has 428 yards passing, 3 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. To put that into perspective, Tom Brady had more yards and touchdowns in the first game of the season. To put it into even more perspective, running back Darren McFadden has almost as many yards rushing (393) as Cassel does throwing through three games, and he has just as many touchdowns.

So far, Cassel is having an awful season. With the game on the line Sunday, Cassel did what he could not afford to do, and that is throw an interception. But it was the way in which he threw the interception that left many Chiefs fans amazed. He made a decision a rookie might not even make, and threw the ball on a screen play to a defender covering the screen. And not only did he throw it to a defender, but he threw it right into the hands of a defender that was being blocked; a remarkable skill if you ask me.

Now I'm going to give Cassel credit. He was the reason the Chiefs went to the playoffs last year; even if you disagree with that sentiment, he didn't hinder the Chiefs from going to the playoffs last year like previous quarterbacks had. He had two touchdown throws Sunday, and seemed to rekindle some of that chemistry he made with Dwayne Bowe last season, and also seemed to become introduced to Steve Breaston for some nice throw and catches.

Maybe the fact that Matt Cassel has never had the same offensive coordinator for more than a year is catching up with him (Alex Smith has been using that excuse for years)? Maybe Cassel was the victor of a strong running game last season and a victim of injuries and poor play-calling this year? Or maybe Cassel has peaked and what we are seeing is his weakness being exposed on a weekly basis? Like I said earlier, three games is a small sample size.

But no matter the reason, it's clear that we can no longer continue down this path. Either Cassel improves to his previous form that we all came to love (or tolerate) last season, or we have to find another solution. I'm not saying that Cassel can't be the answer to his own problem, but he can't be the same Cassel we've seen in the first three weeks of the season. Like it or not, the quarterback position is the most important one on the field, and your quarterback has to be one that either manages a game (like Cassel did last season) or puts a team on his back (a Tom Brady type). When you don't have one that is effective at either, then you don't have a quarterback.

Should our backups get a crack at the job? Probably not. For you Ricky Stanzi fans out there, keep on dreaming. Not only is he not even the backup, but he's been inactive the first three weeks of the season. And if there's any Tyler Palko fans out there, then I hope you realize that Cassel is still better.

So, is there anyone still out there that are Matt Cassel fans (I'm still undecided), or is everyone on the #Suck4Luck bandwagon? Either way, we still have 13 games left this season and just enough time to turn things around or get a lot of people fired. The choice is Cassel's.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Are You Kidding Me? Chiefs - Chargers Game

SD - 20                          KC - 17

The comeback was on in San Diego. After being shutout in the first half, the Chiefs offense had collectively rallied and fed off a strong offensive showing. The Chiefs defense stopped the Chargers on 4th and inches, giving the ball back to a offense that had gained momentum in the second half. Cassel completed a deep pass to Leonard Pope that had us near field goal range. With around a minute left, and with all the football gods seemingly giving us their blessing, the Chiefs looked like they could tie this game up if not win it. And then . . .

Cassel softly landed the ball into the hands of Chargers safety Eric Weddle . . . on a screen pass.

Call it poetic justice or poetic injustice; call it irony or bad luck; call it ******* Cassel is the worst ******** quarterback in the NFL. Call it what you want, because it happened and even as I write this, I can't quite comprehend what happened.

However, there is a silver lining to this loss (or maybe I'm just a madman). So here I breakdown the game:

Things the Chiefs Did Well

  • The Chiefs defense looked like it did last season. For the most part it controlled the line of scrimmage (first decent games out of Tyson Jackson and Glenn Dorsey this year), it created turnovers (2 interceptions, and one near fumble recovery), and it only gave up 20 points to a high powered Chargers offense. The defense kept the Chiefs in the game, and if not for a couple of bad plays (mostly by the same player), they could have held the Chargers to fewer points. Wallace Gilberry and Tamba Hali would both record sacks as well.
  • The offense awakened for the first time all season in the second half, scoring more points in two quarters than they had in their first two games. Cassel was 17/24 for 176 yards and 2 touchdowns. Bowe had one of those touchdown receptions, and also had 67 yards on four receptions. When Bowe went down with injury, Cassel started getting a connection with new Chief Steve Breaston (maybe Cassel should continue looking at Breaston after this game), having 3 receptions for 55 yards. 
  • Although our running game never really got up and going, Dexter McCluster looked decent, going for 45 yards on 9 carries, and adding another 17 yards catching. And although most of McCluster's carries and catches came on draw plays or screen passes, it looked at times that McCluster was getting carries that Jamaal Charles would have been getting if not injured. 
  • All-in-all, we improved in every facet. 
Things the Chiefs Could Have Done Better
  • First half play-calling. Once again, Bill Muir was calling plays, and once again, we couldn't score. Not only could we not score, but we didn't get one first down the entire first half, going 3 and out on all of our possessions except the one on which we missed the field goal (which was only 3 plays anyway). But something changed at halftime. Play-calling started becoming more dynamic compared to the stupid simplicity of the first half. This change in procedure, plus a short shot of Haley looking at a play sheet and talking in his headset (which could mean anything), leads me to believe that Haley started calling the majority of the plays in the second half. If this turns out to be true, given the second half success the offense had, then it would be inexcusable for Haley not to continue calling plays in the future. 
  • Piscitelli is awful. He misjudged a pass that should have been an interception; he missed tackles; he blew coverages; he was awful. If we had the Eric Berry and Kendrick Lewis combo compared to the Piscitelli-McGraw combo we were forced to live with, this game could have been different on defense. 
  • Once again, Matt Cassel could have been better (how many times am I going to say that?). Cassel didn't have a single turnover on the game, which was much better than the first two games, until the last offensive play of the game. A screen pass aimed at Dexter McCluster fell right into the hands of the Chargers, and the comeback dream was over. What upsets me the most is why Cassel threw it. McCluster had yet to turn around, the pass was about 3 yards off anyway, and there was no reason to try to force a screen pass that had obviously been blown up anyway. It was probably easy for the Chargers to recognize that screen pass since that was the play the Chiefs ran about 10 times that game.  Also, Cassel was once again held under 200 yards passing. Cassel is becoming little more than a game manager, a bad one nonetheless, if he's not one already. 
  • Ryan Succop missed a 38 yard field goal. This was his third miss of the year. We ended up losing by 3 points, so you have to believe that field goal was very important. If you miss three field goals in three games as a kicker, you usually don't stick around too long. Succop could be gone very soon if he's not gone this week. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Chiefs vs. Chargers: Turning Point?

Tomorrow marks the first of two times the Chiefs will face the Chargers this season. This game also marks what could be the turnaround to an abysmal season thus far.

I'm sure everyone already knows that the Chiefs have been outscored 89-10 in their first two games. It took the Chiefs till week 7 of last season to give up that many points on defense (and the Chiefs scored more than their total this year in week 1 of last season).

The Chargers have been a difficult matchup for the Chiefs since Philip Rivers has been there, and it hurts that our two of our most valuable offensive players against the Chargers (Jamaal Charles and Tony Moeaki performed well against the Chargers last year) are out for the season.

Last year, the Chiefs split the matchup 1-1, but those two games are tales of very different results. The Chiefs squeaked by in week 1 on Monday Night Football helped in part by a dominating defensive and special teams performance (also the rain). Week 14 was much different, having the Chiefs get blown out 31-0 with a habitual loser (Brodie Croyle) as quarterback.

Before the season started, many contemplated (including myself) that the Chiefs were a team on the rise and the Chargers were a team on the down-slope. While only one game separates these two teams in the standings, a lot separates these two teams' performance on the field. But if the Chiefs want to prove everyone wrong, if Todd Haley wants to silence the critics, if the team wants to collectively gather their pride and win a game, then it all starts here.

Game Notes:

Philip Rivers: 62/88 713 yards, 4 TDs 4 INTs                        
Matt Cassel: 37/58 252 yards, 1 TD 4 INTS

Ryan Mathews: 24 carries, 109 yards, 1 TD
Dexter McCluster: 12 carries, 93 yards

Vincent Jackson: 12 receptions, 203 yards, 2 TD
Dwayne Bowe: 7 recpetions, 118 yards

SD Total Offense: #3 in NFL, 438.5 yrds/gm
KC Total Offense: #30 in NFL, 240 yrds/gm

SD Total Defense: #17 in NFL, 345.5 yrds/gm
KC Total Defense: #24 in NFL, 387.5 yrds/gm

Friday, September 23, 2011


The Suck For Luck campaign is in full swing in the Kansas City area after two blowout losses to start the season (other campaigns include: Fire Todd Haley/Hire Josh McDaniels; start Ricky Stanzi/Stanzi City Chiefs; so on and so forth).

The way this season has started, these notions may be completely reactionary, but the Suck For Luck campaign is the one I find the most interesting, because I have mixed feelings on the issue. If you're not sure who the 'Luck' that I'm referring to is, Andrew Luck is the quarterback from Stanford and is the first consensus franchise quarterback since John Elway in 1983 (by the way, has anyone ever considered that the Broncos are a John Elway away from complete irrelevance?). The reason why Luck is so highly regarded is because of his on-field intelligence and his extreme accuracy. He would have gone number one overall in the 2011 draft to the Carolina Panthers (who then settled for Cam Newton) if he hadn't decided to go back to Stanford for one more year so he could graduate. 

Now, without further ado, I present to you my thoughts on the Suck For Luck campaign:

Why I don't like Suck For Luck
  • It's only two games. Theoretically (work with me here), the Chiefs could go 14-2. So, in other words, it's way too early to declare this season a disaster and even consider being the first overall draft pick (which is what we would need to be in order to get Luck).
  • Speaking of the first overall draft pick, the Chiefs have never had it. Never. In all the horrible years of the late 70s, 80s, and mid 2000s, the Chiefs have never drafted first overall. There is a first time for everything, but we have history on our side and a young group of talented players who might have overachieved last season but are so far underachieving this year.
  • I can't and won't root for the Chiefs to lose. While Nick Wright might have helped kick off the Suck For Luck campaign in Kansas City, his reasoning was for the fans to actually have something to cheer for when we're getting blown out. If we're getting blown out, I can't cheer for anything. I don't even want my fantasy team to do well if the Chiefs lose badly. I've been around for some horrible Chiefs football in my days, and it doesn't get any easier from one season to the next as far as losing is concerned. 
  • And if the Chiefs do regress this season to a couple-of-wins team, than there is no guarantee that Todd Haley will be back in Kansas City the following season. I am a Haley fan, and I think he will rally the troops (see post below this). But by rooting for a failure this season, it would be like rooting for Haley to be fired. That I can't do.
  • And here's the kicker: worst-case scenario Chiefs go 0-16 (hurts even considering it); I have a gut feeling that Scott Pioli (here it comes) wouldn't even draft Andrew Luck. This is completely a gut feeling on my part and has no evidence to back it up, but I just get the vibe that Pioli wouldn't take him. Matt Cassel is in the middle of a six year deal that Pioli himself implemented when he brought him over from New England. Even though Andrew Luck is a "once-in-a-generation" sort of quarterback, drafting him would almost make it look like Pioli made a mistake with the Cassel move. Afterall, Pioli chose to go the route of Cassel opposed to drafting a quarterback in 2009 (Mark Sanchez and Josh Freeman would have both been available). 
  • Besides, it's not like Andrew Luck is going to be the only quarterback available in the first round, and it's not like Andrew Luck is going to be the only franchise quarterback that comes out of that draft. With Matt Barkley and Landry Jones also probably entering the draft, either are first-round talent and both are highly regarded. You don't have to be the number one overall pick to be a Super Bowl winning quarterback. 
Why the Suck For Luck campaign has me slightly excited
  • Although it's theoretically possible for the Chiefs to go 14-2, it's also possible the Chiefs don't win a game this season, which the scores would lead you to believe is all but a certainty. And since I know I can't enjoy watching the Chiefs lose no matter the circumstances, a Suck For Luck campaign offers a light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel kind of feel that could possibly numb some of the pain. 
  • By the way, that light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel feeling, that's what the prospect of having the organization's first true franchise quarterback feels like. The Chiefs have never had a drafted quarterback that has turned out to be anything at all, and although we've had our opportunities in the first round, they've all been failures. But Luck is different; any scout or analyst will tell you so. He is as close to a sure thing as you can have, and he can finally be that final piece that the Chiefs need to be not just good, but great. 
  • If baring through an awful season leads to the drafting of a player that could change the course of the franchise for the better for the next 15 years, isn't that worth it? After seeing Cassel in the first two weeks of the season, it's hard to argue that theory. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Hot Seat?

Coaches get fired in this league. Coaches get fired mid-season. Coaches get fired mid-season after making the playoffs the year before. Coaches get fired mid-season after making the playoffs the year before and suffering major injuries during the season. Most recent example: Wade Phillips from the Cowboys last season (oh, and don't forget Brad Childress, although the Brett Favre situation was probably worse than sustaining injuries).

It's a sad but true fact. Coaches aren't given much time in this league to prove themselves before they are let go. Unless they win fast and consistently, their time in that destination is short lived. This is not the olden days when coaches are given a decade to figure things out, and pros and cons develop from that.

Todd Haley lead the Chiefs to a 10-6 record last year, but after how this season has started, Adam Schefter (who has never really been a fan of the Chiefs anyway) called Haley in Kansas City the most "volatile" head coaching situation in the NFL. Is that a fair accusation? Has the Chiefs lack of preparedness garnered such talk? With Haley's contract expiration on the horizon (after the 2012 season), high expectations after last season, and the fact that many organizations don't allow their coach to be a lame duck that final contract year (read this for more), will Haley be a victim of his own success?


Those people who think Haley should be fired this early in the season are people who have either always thought Haley should be fired or people or are extremely reactionary a la Cowboys, Redskins, Raiders.

When Clark Hunt and Scott Pioli brought in Todd Haley, they weren't just bringing him in to try him out. They were bringing him in to build a team with. If they had faith in a high-tempered offensive coordinator from Arizona, then they will have faith in a third year head coach who has had recent success. This isn't a Herm Edwards situation where there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel; the talent is here, the talent is on the team, and this group of guys knows what it's like to win.

When the Chiefs made the decision to go with Haley as their next head coach, Scott Pioli said at a news conference that Haley has a "strong understanding of players and the type of players that create championship football teams." At that same news conference, Clark Hunt said that the Chiefs and Haley were the "perfect match." When the Chiefs front office made the decision to go with Haley, they weren't making that decision for short term gain, in my opinion, they made that decision because they believed he was the best for the long haul. The Chiefs haven't been able to hold on to a head coach for more than five years (Dick Vermeil being that five) since the days of Marty. It was time to settle down, make a long term decision, and watch what happens. 

And the only evidence that reporters like Schefter can provide to prove that Haley could be easily replaced is that former head coach Romeo Crennel is standing there on the sidelines. I love Romeo, (I'll forget about the 89 points his defense has given up in two games) I love him as a part of the team and I love him as a defensive coordinator. I would absolutely hate the idea of him being the head coach. He went 24 and 40 in his four seasons as head coach in Cleveland. Schefter suggesting that Crennel would be a viable replacement is an insult upon a fan's intelligence.

And now reports are coming out that the situation between Haley and GM Scott Pioli is "toxic". So goes the "when it rains it pours" circumstance that is a head coaching position, even if what's being said is remotely true or not.

Now, I don't want to have an Al Davis "JaMarcus Russell is a good quarterback, get over it" moment defending Todd Haley. He is partly to blame for the lack of preparedness the team has shown so far this season, his strategy of treating the first three preseason games as training camp hasn't seemed to work out, and two blowouts don't help. As head coach, many people are going to be pointing the finger of blame at him, deservedly or undeservedly so. But for the local and national media to already be crucifying him, to be already contemplating replacements, well that's not football, that's not even common sense, that's just plain dumb.

I believe Haley will turn things around. As he said today on a KC sports radio station: "Go full steam ahead trying to be the best you can be and that usually solves a lot of problems."

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Jamaal Charles is Out For the Season

I joked last week that the Chiefs weakness was the anterior cruciate ligament. I joked because I thought that since lightning had already struck twice, there was no way it would strike three times in a row. I joked because if I didn't laugh I would cry.

I'm not joking anymore.

Jamaal Charles, who some would argue is the single most important player for the Chiefs offense, is reportedly out for the season with a torn ACL. When he was initially hurt, he wasn't able to walk off on his own power, so I figured it was something serious, but deep down I just knew it was a torn ACL. That's just how the season has gone for us so far.

Charles was second in the NFL last year in rushing yards (1,467) and had the second highest yards per carry average in NFL history (6.38). He was the heart beat of the offense, and his tempo was what won us 10 games last season. His loss is, to put it lightly, absolutely devastating.

That makes a total of three players with torn ACL's for the Chiefs alone: Tony Moeaki, Eric Berry, and now Jamaal Charles.

It Gets Worse: Game Notes from Chiefs - Lions

DET - 48                   KC - 3

The second week for the Kansas City Chiefs is now behind us and, if you can believe it, the future is even more bleak than the past. But first things first, as I always do, I will talk about what the Chiefs did right and what they could have done better.

What the Chiefs did right

  • Surprisingly enough, there are some things the Chiefs did right. In the first quarter alone, the Chiefs nearly had 100 yards rushing. Then Jamaal Charles was carted off the field with an injury, and that was the beginning of the end (I'll have more on Charles in a different post). The Chiefs finished the day with 151 yards rushing on 29 carries (5.2 ypc). 
  • Speaking of the running game, I liked how Le'Ron McClain was used. He showed he is a decent runner, considering just how big of a guy he is. He finished with 15 yards on 4 carries. He also did a nice job in the full back position, making many decent blocks for the backs behind him.
  • The defense in the first half looked decent. Even though they gave up 20 points in the first half, they forced several 3 and outs and even intercepted Stafford (which McGraw then fumbled right back) on the first possession. 
  • I don't know if the playcalling really improved that much, but we were more congruent on offense in the first half. On the first possession, we drove down and kicked a field goal, missed a field goal a possession later, and then started turning the ball over like it's part of the game. Which leads me to the next part.
What the Chiefs could have done better
  • Where did our defense go? Nevermind the offense right now, the defense has given up 89 points in the last two games. Has the loss of Mike Vrabel, Ron Edwards and Shaun Smith (oh yeah, and Eric Berry) this offseason really made the Chiefs the worst defense in the NFL? Well, apparently. Playmakers from last year haven't done much of anything in the first two games of this season: Derrick Johnson isn't wowing anybody, Kendrick Lewis hasn't made any plays, Glenn Dorsey had two personal fouls called against him. When's the defense going to figure it out?
  • I am a fan of Dexter McCluster. I want to say that right now before I absolutely rip into him. McCluster is being overused in our offense. I know that Charles was hurt and McCluster was probably filling in for the plays that would have involved him, but McCluster should not be used the way that he is. He is most effective in screen situations and draw plays, if you run those plays occassionally. When our entire offense is based around short passes, screens, and draws, then McCluster isn't fooling anybody. And for the second straight week, he fumbled on our side of the field. 
  • As bad as our defense giving up 89 points in two games, our offense scoring 10 points in two games isn't good either. And the easiest position to identify fault is the quarterback position. Cassel was 15 of 22 (68%) for 133 yards, 3 interceptions, a fumble, and 2 sacks. As Nick Wright pointed out on Twitter, Cassel is on pace to throw for 2,106 yards, 8 TD's and 32 INT's. Cassel isn't costing us games, (it would be hard to score 48 points with any team) but if he continues to put up awful numbers all season with no upside (don't see the +20 TD/INT ratio happening this season) then it might be time to look somewhere else. 
  • For the second straight week we got blown out, but not to be hidden is that Ryan Succop has missed field goal tries in both those games. No facet of our team is performing as it did last season, which could be telling signs that this season will be one that Chiefs fans will never want to remember. 

Some Quick Notes Before the Game

Today, the Kansas City Chiefs battle the Detroit Lions in the second game of the regular season (if you can even count last week as a game). Since I'm running out of time before kick off, I just wanted to throw some quick notes out there:

  • These two teams haven't played each other since 2007 (a 25-20 Chiefs loss), so neither team is all that familiar with one another. Unfamiliarity is a blessing and a curse, but I'll take it over the familiarity the Bills had last week.
  • Even while having the Defensive Rookie of the Year, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, on the team last season, they still finished 24th in the league at stopping the run, giving up an average 124.9 rushing yards a game. In pass defense they were better, finishing 16th in the league with 218.6 yards per game. As far as total defense, they were 21st. Sacks is where the Detroit defense is feared. They finished sixth in the NFL with 44 last season, and Suh had 10 of those. The whole defensive line is capable of getting sacks because they are all good at rushing the passer; defensive ends Kyle Vanden Bosch, Cliff Avril and Lawrence Jackson combined for 18.5 sacks as well last year. With Matt Cassel still playing with hurt ribs, his protection is going to be very important today.
  • Matthew Stafford continued his excellent preseason into the regular season, completing 24 of 33 passes (72.7%) for 305 yards, 3 touchdowns and 1 interception against Tampa Bay. Stafford, the number one pick from 2009, has always had a lot of potential, but is usually too hurt to show it. Well, when he's not hurt, it looks like he can put up some pretty gaudy numbers, I just hope last week's performance doesn't carry over, especially his chemistry with wide receiver Calvin Johnson (Megatron) who had six receptions for 88 yards and two touchdowns. Johnson is questionable going into today's game, but he's already guaranteed himself to play, so we'll see what happens. 
  • Detroit is favored at home in this game, but that doesn't mean the Chiefs can't win. For one, it's Detroit, the worst franchise since the league realigned. Two, the reason they're favored is because the Chiefs got blown out last week, but one game isn't all that telling. Three, we have some pretty good players on our team as well, they just have to learn not to get hurt or fumble the ball. And finally four, they have the guy up top of this post. No not the player, the angry old guy.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Your Personnel Preference

It's been a busy week of personnel movement for the Kansas City Chiefs. Most of it is in response to injuries.

It started on Wednesday when the Chiefs made six personnel moves, the first being placing safety Eric Berry on Injured Reserve. With the loss of Berry, the Chiefs brought back safety Reshard Langford, who was released on the final day of cut downs before the regular season. Langford brings familiarity with the organization and an option other than Sabby Piscitelli to the table.

Also on Wednesday, OT Butch Lewis and FB Shane Bannon were brought back to the practice squad and OL Lucas Patterson and TE Kyle Nelson were dropped.

Now today, there's even more happenings going on with the Chiefs.

First it was announced that tight end Anthony Becht, who was released from the team before the start of the season, was rejoining the Chiefs and tight end Jake O'Connell was being released. Jake O'Connell is the latest 2009 draft pick to be released from the Chiefs (not a good draft). Look for O'Connell to be added to the practice squad; that seems like a move that would make sense from a depth standpoint.

In the meantime, Anthony Becht is a 10-year veteran with 185 career receptions, 1,511 yards and 21 touchdowns. He is a better receiving option than O'Connell and will take a lot of the pressure off of Leonard Pope. Since the Chiefs seemed determined to retain their tight end use in the passing scheme, Becht will become our best available option and will be utilized more than he has been in recent years.

The other big news coming out of Chiefs camp is that cornerback Brandon Flowers and the Chiefs agreed to a 5-year $55 million extension. I suggested this would happen awhile back, seeing how much cap room the Chiefs had left and knowing Scott Pioli's style of reaching extensions with players during the season. Look for similar contracts to Brandon Carr and Dwayne Bowe during the year, since they are without contracts after this season.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Why Beating the Bills Would Have Been Good

How important was it to the Chiefs that they win against the Bills?

If you just based that answer off how the Chiefs played, you would think that this game wasn’t important at all. Unfortunately, that’s just not the case. There are several reasons why a win against the Bills was, if not necessary, certainly hoped for.

The first part of the Chiefs season was supposed to be when the Chiefs won against lesser opponents and built momentum heading into the tougher stretch of their schedule - Patriots, Steelers, Bears, Jets and Packers.

With three of the Chiefs first four games being played against the Bills, Lions and Vikings; and eight of their first nine games being played against non playoff teams (with that odd team out being a Peyton Manning-less Colts), the Chiefs could do some damage early on and be in great playoff position during the middle of the season.

And not only were the Chiefs supposed to win against a lesser opponent such as the Bills, but they were supposed to win against lesser opponents at home. The Chiefs went 7-1 during the regular season at Arrowhead last year. We are already 0-1 this year (0-4 if you go back to the playoff game last January and the preseason games this year). For a tough schedule, winning games at home is imperative, and now we go on the road for two straight weeks following a blowout loss at what was supposed to be sacred territory.

Based on the Chiefs performance against the Bills, I’m not certain how many of those winnable games we are actually capable of winning. And if we can’t win early this season with the kind of schedule we have, and we can’t regroup after this blowout, then there is no hope for this season except for the fact that our division is full of teams that start slow and have been known to collapse.

And speaking of those teams, notably the Chargers, they won this weekend. The Chargers are 1-0 (losing their kicker halfway through the game) and the Raiders are 1-0. Luckily the Chiefs are not in dead last, the Broncos lost a division game so they are actually behind the Chiefs in a tie-break situation, the tie being last place. 

So yeah, a win Sunday would have been good, but it's not the end of the world. The Chiefs got blown out a couple of times last year and rallied to come back and win the following week. Those games were against the Broncos and the Chargers on the road. Getting blown out and gathering yourself for a win the following week is a good sign that your team can make adjustments, that your coaches can recognize your weaknesses.

Unfortunately, most of the Chiefs weaknesses seem to be located around the knee; more specifically, the anterior cruciate ligament.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Eric Berry Out For Season

Jason LaCanfora from NFL Network just reported and Nick Wright of 610 Sports confirmed what all Chiefs fans feared after yesterday's game: that Eric Berry, a Pro Bowl safety for the Chiefs last season and in his second year in the league, is done for the rest of the year with a torn ACL.

There are not enough words to describe how big of a blow this is to the Chiefs, but there is a number. 31. That's the difference between the points allowed last year with Berry on the field against the Bills and Berry on the sidelines this year against the Bills.

As you should remember, a torn ACL is the same injury that put Tony Moeaki on the injured reserve after the final preseason game.

It seems this season is already turning into a horrible nightmare of injuries, and our 2010 draft class is being decimated. Those that were rookie playmakers just a season ago are now memories of what could have been that we'll have to see on the sidelines instead of on the field.

I don't want to say that the season is lost; look at how the Green Bay Packers were able to sustain injuries and still compete all year, eventually winning the Super Bowl. But these injuries hurt, and they hurt even more considering how lucky we were all last season with avoiding them. Just as Moeaki going down was a setback for the offense, losing Berry is a crushing blow for our defense.

So strap in guys, this is going to be a long season.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Disaster: Game Notes from Chiefs - Bills

Buffalo - 41                       KC - 7

Nervous excitement for the season soon turned in to bitter disappointment. Actually, disappointment isn't nearly strong enough to describe the butt kicking we received from the 3rd worst team in the NFL last season. And, for the most part, it was the Chiefs own fault.

That sloppy play and bad playcalling we saw in the preseason and tried to explain away with preseason cliches, remember those? Yeah, those didn't go away. McCluster fumbled the opening kickoff, Charles fumbled on the KC 21, Cassel threw a pick on our side of the field (in all fairness, the game was already out of hand by that point). The defense, although not being given good field position most of the game, couldn't cover anybody (tight ends especially included), and couldn't tackle anybody. On only two drives the entire game did the Chiefs look like they had any offensive continuity, and only one of those resulted in points. And on defense, when the Bills starters were still in, the Chiefs only forced one three and out.

All-in-all, the Chiefs got their butt kicked in every phase of the game. As Rich Gannon, who was commentating the game, said: "The Chiefs don't look like they were ready to play."

Like all my game notes, I will include a list of what the Chiefs did right and what the Chiefs could have done better.

What the Chiefs did right

  • We scored.
  • McCluster and Charles had good yards per carry averages.
  • Hali got a sack when the game still mattered.
What the Chiefs could have done better
  • Well, I mentioned a few things above from my initial reaction. First I'll start with how the offense couldn't sustain drives. Sustaining drives means having several continuous plays, a couple of first downs, and hopefully some points. Obviously, only scoring one touchdown is not a good example of doing so. We were 3 of 13 of 3rd down. We also turned the ball over twice, with Charles and Cassel making those mistakes. Sustaining drives last season was a result of our ability to run the football. It didn't look like we were all that interested in running the football. Although we were down early because of the opening return fumble, we didn't go to the run like we did all of last season. On the first three drives, Charles was only given the ball three times. Two of those three drives were 3 and outs. By the end of the game, Charles was only given the ball 10 times for 56 yards (5.6 ypc), and the Chiefs ran it a total of 18 times for 108 yards. 
  • If you read the above, then you might be wandering about the Chiefs playcalling. If you watched the game, you are disgusted with the Chiefs playcalling. Not only was our playcalling awful, it was repetitive and predictable. We ran the same playaction bootleg to Leonard Pope (by the way, it looked like we were pretending Tony Moeaki wasn't injured and still using the tight ends in our passing game) at least three times. And in shotgun, it seemed like we ran the draw play every other time. If I can figure out what play the Chiefs are about to run, I'm pretty sure it wasn't much of a challenge for the Bills defense. Today's game was the worst display of playcalling I have ever seen; last season it seemed like our offense was systematic and dynamic, today it just looked stupidly simple. Here's looking at you Bill Muir.
  • As much blame should be placed all around, Cassel did not look like he did last season. In fact, what Cassel accomplished today is very hard for any quarterback to do. If you look at Cassel's attempts and completions, he had a pretty good game. He was 22 of 36, a 61% completion rate. But those 22 completions only netted 119 yards. How is it even possible to complete 22 passes for 119 yards? It seemed Cassel, when given the opportunity to look at receivers down field (I won't count the bubble screens and wide receiver screens we saw way too much of), he was more than content to quickly check down to the closest receiver available. But don't take my word for it, take his 3.3 passing yard average. 
  • What can I say about the defense? We gave up 20 points in the first half and 21 points in the second half. I guess I can say we were consistent. We couldn't cover, we couldn't tackle, we lost Eric Berry in the first quarter, and I lost my mind watching Sabby Piscitelli try to play the safety position. We gave up four passing touchdowns, a late rushing touchdown, allowed Fred Jackson to look like Marshawn Lynch in last seasons playoff game against the Saints (he had 112 yards total but I'd like to see how much yardage he got after getting hit; I'll guess the majority of it), and just looked awful. 
  • Our special teams looked bad too while I'm at it. 
Luckily, points don't roll over from game to game. And although we got blown out at home, in the season opener, we're just 0-1. Hopefully we can learn from this game and better prepare for the next game (and stop Bill Muir from calling anymore games). Hopefully we can turn the negatives into positives. 

But in the meantime, we're guaranteed to be in last place in the AFC West at the end of the football weekend. 

Are You Ready For Some Football?

Today marks the opening to the Chiefs regular season. The Bills are in town and the Chiefs are looking to start their defense of the AFC West Championship.

And I couldn't be more excited.

The Chiefs aren't only defending a division championship, they are also looking to repeat as the number one rushing offense in the NFL. And today is a good day to get back on track, going against the worst run defense in the league last year, giving up an average of 169.6 yards per game. This preseason hasn't looked much better, where they have averaged 146.5 rushing yards per game on defense.

Buffalo has done everything they can to try to improve this aspect of their team. They drafted defensive tackle Marcel Dareus out of Alabama number three overall. They brought in the former Charger and oft-injured linebacker Shawne Merriman in the middle of last season. And then this offseason, they brought in linebacker Nick Barnett (who I wanted the Chiefs to pursue) from the Green Bay Packers.

And on offense, the Bills still have the ever-tricky Chan Gailey. And to play into his strengths, the Bills picked up former Jet and Mizzou Tiger, Brad Smith, who does a little bit of everything. And although the Bills got rid of wide receiver Lee Evans to the Ravens, the emergence of Stevie Johnson has given Bills fans hope with their passing game.

Now as favorable as this matchup may appear on paper, as far as the running game goes, let's not forget that these two teams met last year and the result was something almost embarrassing.

Coming off a 42-20 victory against the Jaguars, the Chiefs were once again at Arrowhead and facing the winless Bills. Jamaal Charles had 177 rushing yards, the Chiefs totaled 274 rushing yards, the Chiefs committed no turnovers, and the Chiefs won 13-10 on the final play of overtime.

Nevertheless, I have confidence the Chiefs can win this game, and hopefully not by just a field goal in overtime. So, are you ready for some Chiefs football?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Tight End Dilemma

With rising star Tony Moeaki gone for the season, the Chiefs tight end situation just went from that of excited certainty to an anxious mystery.

If you've ever read this blog before, you know I was a huge fan of Moeaki. I was a little anxious when we drafted him in 2010 because of his previous injury history (and because Aaron Hernandez was still on the board), but Moeaki soon wiped away all uncertainty when his ability to run routes and catch the football. In just his rookie season, he was second on the team in targets (72), catches (47), receiving yards (556) and receiving touchdowns (3). Obviously Moeaki was a very important part of the offense last year, and all indications had him being an even bigger part of the offensive scheme this season.

Peter King from Sports Illustrated had this to say after visiting the Chiefs camp this offseason.  "The player I was most impressed with: Tight end Tony Moeaki. I'll be writing more about him in the coming days, but what interested me is the Chiefs' aggressive use of him in passing formations -- as a slot receiver, a blocker tight to the formation, and set out wide. He's their Dallas Clark."

That is high praise, but unfortunately we'll have to wait till 2012 to see just what could have been. And now that Moeaki is no longer a part of the Chiefs hopeful 2011 campaign, the question arises of who can possibly take his place. With so much emphasis being put on Moeaki in this offense, can the Chiefs afford to abandon this plan or do they think they have the talent on the team to fill in for this injury setback?

On the Chiefs depth chart, there are two tight ends listed. Those are Leonard Pope and Jake O'Connell. Both were on the team in 2009, the year before Moeaki was drafted. For that season, Pope was targeted 31 times, had 20 receptions for 174 yards and 1 touchdown. O'Connell, a rookie that season, was targeted 10 times for 2 receptions, 7 yards, and no touchdowns. We had two other tight ends that season, Brad Cottam and Sean Ryan, who had 15 targets, 9 catches, 120 yards, no touchdowns and 27 targets, 14 catches, 135 yards, 2 touchdowns respectively.

In case you were curious, that's 83 targets, 45 catches, 436 yards and 3 touchdowns combined between these four different players. Doesn't exactly scream offensive juggernaut does it?

So, should the Chiefs trust Pope and O'Connell, two tight ends known more for their blocking prowess than their ability to catch, to make great offensive strides this season and fill in for Tony Moeaki, who is pretty good at catching the football?

I wouldn't count on it.

So what are the Chiefs options?

  1. Just live with the depth we have at tight end. Pope and O'Connell aren't horrible. When filling in for Moeaki after a concussion suffered in Denver, O'Connell had 2 catches for 24 yards against Arizona. As Matt Cassel told the Kansas City Star: "Obviously, we’re going to miss Tony .... We’re going to have to move forward with somebody else. Whether that means us messing around with some different personnel groups or (having) one of these younger guys step up and filling that role, like Jake O’Connell did last year against Arizona, we’ll have to close ranks and move forward.” If Bill Muir wants to use these guys in the same capacity that he was planning on using Tony Moeaki, I can't promise that it will be very successful, but it is an option. Cassel has two years of familiarity with both Pope and O'Connell, so if he feels like these guys can be playmakers, he'll put the ball in their hands.
  2. Bring in another tight end. Cuts have taken place all around the league, taking teams down to a 53 man roster. There are plenty of cut tight ends looking for jobs, even some the Chiefs cut after the preseason. Charlie Gantt  and Cody Slate were on the Chiefs roster until the final cuts were made, and neither made it onto the Chiefs practice squad. Anthony Becht, a former first round pick, who was added mid-preseason, was also released from the team. These players combined for 6 catches for 86 yards and one touchdown (most coming from Slate). Neither of these players have found new homes yet and all should be pretty familiar with the Chiefs offense after being in camp. The Chiefs did add tight end Kyle Nelson this past week to the practice squad, but that seems to be of little consequence (he's listed as a long snapper on ESPN). And let's not forget that Brad Cottam is still available. As much trash as I've talked on Cottam over the past year, he did practice with Cassel during the lockout and does know the system. If he re-joined the team, he has the ability to be the best possession tight end on the team (Lord help us). 
  3. Abandon the tight end position in our passing offense. This might just be the simplest thing to do. Despite having a Pro Bowl quarterback, a Pro Bowl wide receiver, drafting a wide receiver in the 1st round, and adding another wide receiver in free agency, we are a run-first offense. So blocking tight ends are perfect for what we want to to, and that is open up running lanes and sustain blocks for Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones. If we need to convert a third down through passing, we have options other than tight ends. And even if we need to use a tight end, I trust Pope and O'Connell enough to throw it to them a couple of times a game. Although it would be very nice to have Moeaki in our offense, we shouldn't deem our season a loss because of his loss. As long as we got Charles, we still have a good offense.
So, with these options, what do you think the Chiefs will do?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Never Forget

There are many things I regard myself as: a student, a man, a brother, a son, etc. On top of that list, I like to think I save the best for last. I am a Chiefs fan, and first and foremost, I am an American.

This Sunday marks the beginning of the Chiefs regular season, with a game against the Buffalo Bills. That is the second most important thing happening. As much as I love my Chiefs, we have to remember the reason why we are able to love sports, to root for teams, to live in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

The reason is sacrifice.

This Sunday marks the 10 year anniversary of the darkest moment in recent American history, the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington D.C. Many made the ultimate sacrifice to try to save lives on those two burning towers that had for so long silhouetted the iconic skyline of America's largest city. Many more weren't given the chance of a sacrifice.

On a day that is simply referred to as 9/11, many memories will be rehashed, just like on every anniversary of that fateful day. Many will remember sadness, some shock, others anger; all will remember unity. Strangers became friends, neighbors became family. America had been attacked, buildings destroyed and people murdered, but we never lost our spirit as a nation.

With the start of the regular season falling on the eleventh day of September, the NFL wants to recapture this unity, to put on display to the entire world our American spirit, and to honor and remember the sacrifices that Americans made then and continue to make to this day.

As much as NFL players know about sacrifice, it doesn't even come close to the sacrifices that were made that day and none of them would tell you it does. That is why, out of respect, many players have decided to wear commemorative patriotic shoes and gloves made by Reebok. For a picture of what they look like, click here.

On the gloves are the words "Never Forget," and one of those players that refuses to forget the tragic events a decade ago is the Chiefs' own Jamaal Charles. When posting on Twitter the picture you can see above (by selecting the hyperlink), Charles echoed the words that are written across the gloves: "I never forget."

The NFL was close to forgetting.

After it came out that several players from around the league were going to wear these patriotic designed shoes and gloves, it was reported that the NFL said they would fine any player who so choose to do so. In a day that they wanted to commemorate the American spirit, they were being quite un-American.

Yet out of this report came players extremely willing to take the fine. Lance Briggs from the Chicago Bears tweeted "By far the best fine I will ever have to pay. Thanks." Others responded in the same type of way. Players united, willing to take a fine from the NFL in order to show that they still remember, that they never forget.

The NFL quickly backed down. Am I upset at the NFL? No, they were just trying to stick to policy and they soon changed their decision when it started getting attention. Sunday shouldn't be about anger and resentment, even towards the NFL rules, even towards the other team. It should be in honor of those that didn't make it to today. I'm just glad the NFL made the right choice.

I know the lockout created quite the division between owners, players and fans this offseason. There is a difference between all of us, but on Sunday, our differences should be cast aside, even between Chiefs and Bills fans. I remember exactly where I was at when I saw the plane strike the second tower, that is something that you can never forget. It's nice to know the people playing on the field Sunday feel that way too.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Bill Muir to Call Plays

KC Star
What may have come as a huge surprise days before the preseason started is all but a foregone conclusion that has now been confirmed: offensive coordinator Bill Muir will be calling the plays during the regular season.

Now if any other team had told you that their offensive coordinator was calling plays, you would kind of look at them like they just said something blatantly obvious. But here in KC, there was a bit of a debate about who would, and should, call the plays.

After it was announced that Charlie Weis was leaving for Florida after the 2010 season, head coach Todd Haley was asked time and time again what the plans for playcalling would be in 2011. He would repeat the same "thorough evaluation" stuff every time he was asked and never ruled out calling the plays himself, saying "I'll consider anything."

Many fans remembered the ineffectiveness of the 2009 season, the first season of Haley's reign and one in which he called all the offensive plays himself. Many of these same fans were extremely opposed to the idea of Haley calling the offensive plays again, considering the success the Chiefs had in 2010 with a full-time offensive coordinator. On the other hand, many people speculated that Haley would be calling the plays himself because he was the best man for the job. As Michael Lombardi from NFL Network put it: "I think really at this point Todd needs to take it over.... Bringing someone who has never done it before and he's sitting there and he's done it....You see Bill Belichick. He doesn't have a defensive coordinator on staff. You see him calling defenses because he knows he's the most qualified guy to do that."

While most fans would agree that Todd Haley is no Bill Belichick, I think most Chiefs fans would agree that they were surprised when offensive line coach Muir was promoted to fill Weis's shoes. Don't get me wrong, Muir has more experience than father time (and just as many years too), but he's never actually called plays before.

This promotion seemed to cement in fans minds that Haley just made this move because he was wanting to call the plays himself. After all, why else would they just promote Muir the way they did? Surely Haley doesn't expect him to call plays for the first time in his extremely long football career....

Well indeed that does seem to be what Haley is intending to do with Muir. Our first glimpse of his intentions was revealed when Jim Zorn announced Muir would be calling plays in the first preseason game against Tampa Bay. Then it was announced he would be calling plays for the remainder of the preseason. Now its been announced today by Haley that Muir will be the man in charge of calling plays for the regular season.

And the people who couldn't stand the thought of Haley calling plays in 2011 just doubted themselves even more than they already have after watching four poorly called preseason games.

Now Haley did mention a sort of condition that comes with Muir calling the plays. It will be a group effort between all the offensive coaches and even the quarterback staff. "And like I've said, really the play calling for us, and really a lot of places I've been, will be a group effort throughout the week of kinda trying to get everybody on the same page for gameday. Each and every week that's been an area that takes some work in practice and you can really only get that work in games and I feel like we made progress as a staff throughout the preseason and now it's the regular season and we're ready to go."

As much as this group effort of game scripting intrigues me, it still can't pre-determine everything that will happen during the course of a game; it can't tell you what plays will work for a 2-minute scoring drive to win the game. Those are still determined by the split-second decision role that is the offensive coordinator.

So who do you want making those decisions?