Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Tebowl

This story line could have been much better.

Kyle Orton returns to the stadium he once called home in an attempt to win the AFC West for the Kansas City Chiefs while dashing the hopes of the Denver team and fans that ran him out of town. The young and unorthodox Tim Tebow that replaced him, getting the bitter taste of defeat at the vengeful hands of his former mentor. A one-game, winner-takes-all fight for a playoff berth. A Hollywood ending to a roller coaster season for both franchises ....

Instead, the Broncos are the only team in this final game that is fighting for the playoffs. And while the motivation for revenge against a division opponent is real, playing spoiler isn't nearly as motivational as playing for the postseason. “If some guys want to look at it as spoiling (Denver’s) season and that’s how we’ll get a win, then it is what it is,” cornerback Javier Arenas said. “I see it as another opportunity to get better, play
better, correct mistakes and end the season on a good note.”

“I don’t think it’s the spoiler factor as much as it is just us needing to get a win,” veteran running back Thomas Jones said. “This team won’t be the same next year with guys leaving, so this is our last opportunity for us to play together as the 2011 Chiefs. For us to go out with a win would be good for us.”

But just because this is a meaningless game on paper for the Chiefs doesn't mean it's worthless. The team and its fans have already started to concentrate on the 2012 season, and Sunday is the beginning of the new year. Just like facing the Broncos in the last game of the 2009 season gave fans hope for 2010, this game can do just that. It could solidify Romeo Crennel as Head Coach; it could bring about a new starting quarterback for next season; it could serve as an unexpected showcase of talent out of a young player (Jamaal Charles in 2009); it can show the intangibles:

“I’m looking for great effort, I’m looking for smart players, I’m looking for physical play, I’m looking for guys who want to win," said Romeo Crennel in his weekly press conference. "Because that’s why we play the game and so, I think our guys are prideful guys, they’ve played hard all year and we just have to play better. I talked to them about getting better this week and not saying that this is the last game of the year and that it doesn’t matter because it does matter and if we get better and we play to our capabilities we can win the game.”

While the 2011 season is over for the Chiefs, 2012 could be a good year for Kansas City. And it all starts tomorrow in Denver. Happy New Year!

Game Notes:

Kyle Orton: 44/68 (64.7%), 599 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs [With Chiefs]
Tim Tebow: 120/249 (48.2%), 1,669 yards, 12 TDs, 5 INTs

Jackie Battle: OUT
Dexter McCluster: 102 carries, 455 yards (4.5 ypc), 0 TD, 1 FUM
Willis McGahee: 221 carries, 1,054 yards (4.8 ypc), 4 TDs, 3 FUMs

Dwayne Bowe: 75 catches, 1,066 yards, 5 TDs
Eric Decker: 43 catches, 607 yards, 8 TDs

Chiefs Defense: 9th against Pass (211.4 ypg); 23rd against Run (126.4 ypg)
Broncos Defense: 20th against Pass (235.3 ypg); 25th against Run (127.7 ypg)

Friday, December 30, 2011

Mr. Payday

Ryan Succop, the 256th pick in the 2009 draft, was extended by the Kansas City Chiefs this afternoon at the cost of $14 million over the next 5 years, $4 million guaranteed.

As every Chiefs fan should know, Succop was the last player selected in the 2009 draft and was awarded the dubious nickname of Mr. Irrelevant. Most Mr. Irrelevants don't go on to have successful careers, and are usually lucky to make it past that season's training camp. But Succop has the fortune of being a kicker, and thus easier to stick with a team. 

This contract makes Succop the third best-paid kicker ever, behind Stephen Gostkowski (5 years, $15.7 million) and Sebastian Janikowski (4 years, $16 million). Paying Succop this kind of money means that the Chiefs think that Succop is not only the long-term answer at kicker, but also one of the five best place kickers in the NFL.

Succop is 24 of 29 on field goals this season, including tying Pete Stoyanovich's team record 21 consecutive attempts made. This makes him 82.8% on the year, and 82.1% career (Janikowski's career average is 79.4%, Gostkowski's is 84.2%). And as good as they stats seem, the contract extension isn't coming at the best time. Succop, afterall, was blocked twice last week against the Raiders, including a game-winning attempt.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Tim Tebow and the Art of the Fourth Quarter Comeback

I introduced Tim Tebow to any Chiefs fans that were unfamiliar with the new quarterback before our week 10 matchup against the Denver Broncos. It turned out that the Chiefs were just one of seven Tebow victims this season, and helped get the Tebow train rolling. But now the Chiefs get a chance at revenge this Sunday in Denver, and although the Chiefs have no playoff incentive, keeping Tim Tebow out of the playoffs might be reward enough (although, I'd almost rather see the Broncos in then the hated Raiders).

Win, lose or draw with the Broncos, there is something that Tim Tebow is doing that Chiefs quarterbacks could hardly ever dream of. And no matter your thoughts or opinions on the man, you can't look past his amazing stats in the 4th quarter and overtime, and the comebacks he is leading Denver to.

Tim Tebow has lead the Broncos to 3 game-tying drives within the final two minutes of the game (Miami, San Diego, and Chicago). 2 of those game tying drives lead to scores with 17 seconds left or fewer (Miami, and Chicago). In all three overtime games, Tim Tebow lead his team to a game winning field goal. In his other four wins, Tebow has trailed or was tied in three of them at the start of the 4th quarter (only game Broncos didn't trail was against the Chiefs). In all three, Tebow took over in the fourth quarter, scoring two unanswered touchdowns against the Raiders, running in for a game-winning TD against the Jets, and then tying and eventually winning as time expired against the Vikings. The improbabilities of his wins have stumped a lot of people, including ESPN Stats and Info every week, which lead them to write about just how improbable Tebow's streak was. 

All-in-all, Tim Tebow has lead the Broncos to six 4th quarter or overtime winning drives. The Chiefs have been quite the opposite this season. The Chiefs have one game-winning drive in the 4th quarter, week 5 against the Indianapolis Colts when the Chiefs trailed 21-24 with about five minutes left in the game. And then, the Chiefs have one overtime winning drive, against the San Diego Chargers, in week 8 on Monday Night Football. These two wins aren't bad, but the Chiefs have had more opportunities that they couldn't cash in on.

In week 3 against the Chargers, the Chiefs had the ball and were marching down the field for either the game-winning or game-tying score. Instead, Matt Cassel threw that inconceivable interception on a screen pass attempt, and the game ended with a Philip Rivers kneel down. Even in the Chiefs overtime win against the Chargers, San Diego had the ball ready for a game-winning field goal if it wasn't for the magical botched snap.  The Chiefs also had several of opportunities against the Broncos, trailing by only 3 points at the start of the 4th. The Chiefs would then again have opportunities against the Chargers, which ended with a Tyler Palko interception with little time remaining, and then again last week against the Raiders, when Orton had lead the team to a game-winning field goal try that ended in a blocked attempt.

In total, the Chiefs have been outscored 75-68 in the 4th quarter of games this season. Since Tim Tebow took over as the starter for the Broncos in week 7, Denver has outscored their opponents 84-59 in the 4th quarter, and, before their blowout loss to the Bill last week, were up 84-42 in the 4th quarter. And if you include the 4th quarter of the game he took over for Kyle Orton against the Chargers in week 5, then the total number is outscoring their opponents 98-65.

For the Chiefs to have over six 4th quarter or overtime winning drives, you have to go all the way back to week 13 of the 2008 season, when the Chiefs were tied at Oakland at the start of the 4th quarter. They then did it in 2009 against both the Washington Redskins (Todd Haley's first win) and the Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime. Twice last year, against Cleveland and Buffalo, and then the two times I already mentioned this season.

In the last decade, the most 4th quarter comebacks or overtime wins the Chiefs have in the same season was in 2003, when the team had four (Baltimore, Denver, Green Bay and Oakland). And the Chiefs haven't had more than two in the same season since 2006, Trent Green's final year in Kansas City.

Say what you want about Tim Tebow; he might be coming off two blowout losses to playoff teams New England and Detroit, but he's done something beyond unheard of. He's winning games in spectacular fashion and when it matters most. He takes slim chances and makes them highlights.

But the Chiefs are not going to roll over when it comes to the Broncos this weekend. Romeo Crennel has already made that clear. Plus, let's not forget about Kyle Orton's return to Denver. The Chiefs players at the time aren't the only ones out for revenge. “When you look at it, we don’t want to be in the situation that we’re in and that’s disappointing,” Orton said. “The fact remains that in the NFL that you get 16 weeks to prove yourself to your teammates and that’s not a lot of chances.

“That’s how I’m going to look at it. It’s just another week for me to come out and prove my preparation and play to my teammates.” And to the Broncos of course.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Securing the Future


With one game left in the season and no playoff implications on the line, the Chiefs season is four quarters away from being over. As fans, we can either root for the Chiefs to win so we can feel good about the team one last time before the offseason hiatus, or we can hope they lose to secure a higher draft pick. Either way, the fans know it's over, and we have to keep our eyes on the future.

Before this season started, I thought Scott Pioli would be aggressive in securing his team's homegrown talent. This offseason, the Chiefs had several key players on the team, including Dwayne Bowe, Brandon Flowers, Brandon Carr and Tamba Hali, that were soon approaching free agency. These players were an important part of the Chiefs 2010 run, and Pioli was aggressive with extending other key players like Derrick Johnson and Jamaal Charles (and the unimportant Andy Studebaker) in the middle of last season. Tamba Hali was franchised and then extended for five years and $60 million. Brandon Flowers was given a 5 year $50 million extension in September.

With the pace that Scott Pioli was going, I thought for sure that at least one of the two players left needing a contract would receive one during the course of the season. But entering week 17, both Dwayne Bowe and Brandon Carr are without contracts for next season.

The Chiefs keep quiet about their inner workings, and contract negotiations are included in that. There has been rumors, however, that the Chiefs and Bowe have been working on a new contract throughout the season, and if you believe Nick Wright of 610 Sports, the contract talks were stalled because of Todd Haley saying some things to Bowe that upset him and some other teammates (there have been a lot of rumors and sources coming out of 1 Arrowhead Drive this year, but click on the three links above to see Wright's exact tweets). But these are still just rumors. What matters is that the Chiefs best wide receiver and their number two corner are posed to become free agents.

If one left for free agency, it would be a big loss. If both left, the team will take a step back. Read more after the jump.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali Make Pro Bowl

On Tuesday at 6 P.M Chiefs time, NFL Network announced the Pro Bowl roster for both the NFC and AFC. And I was pleasantly surprised to see that both players that I thought should make the Pro Bowl (see post directly below) did make the Pro Bowl. And those players are Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali.

I listed both their credentials yesterday:

Tamba Hali: Last season, Hali finished with 14.5 sacks, good for most in the AFC and second in the NFL. This year, Hali is sitting at 12 sacks with one game to go. This mark is good for 8th in the NFL, but 2nd in the AFC, only behind Terrell Suggs with 13. Hali has three multiple sack performances, so eclipsing Suggs for the AFC sack crown is not out of consideration. Hali is also tied for 5th in the NFL, and 3rd in the AFC with forced fumbles (5). The problem is, as a 3-4 OLB, Hali doesn't record a lot of tackles. His priority is rushing the passer, and because of that, he is only 12th in the AFC in tackles for the OLB position, with 62.

Derrick Johnson: When the Pro Bowl rosters were announced on NFL Network last season, one analyst said his biggest "snub" was Derrick Johnson. Last year, Johnson finished with 121 tackles, 1 sack, 4 forced fumbles, 1 INT and 1 TD. This season, Johnson's numbers have been even better. Through 15 games, Johnson has 126 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble and 2 INTs. His tackles number is 9th in the NFL, 4th in the AFC, and 3rd of AFC Linebackers. And of the players with more tackles, only one in the AFC has more sacks. Johnson has been, perhaps, the Chiefs best player all season, and I really hope his invaluable efforts for the Chiefs are rewarded with a trip to a tropical destination.

Both Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson are not first-team Pro Bowlers. Terrell Suggs and Von Miller are both ahead of Hali, and the ageless and overrated wonder, Ray Lewis, is the only player ahead of Derrick Johnson on the AFC Defense roster.

Both these guys are very deserving, and they represent the first linebackers to represent the Chiefs at the Pro Bowl since Derrick Johnson in the 1997, and the first pair of Chiefs linebackers selected to the same Pro Bowl since 1973 - Willie Lanier and Bobby Bell.

The other Pro Bowl caliber players for the Chiefs that I thought could potentially make it were Brandon Flowers and Dwayne Bowe. The three cornerbacks selected were Darrelle Revis, Champ Bailey and Jonathan Joseph. These three players are pretty well-known names, and it's hard to fault these selections. And on the wide receiver end, it was Wes Welker, Mike Wallace, A.J. Green, and Brandon Marshall. All but Green has more yards, and all have more TDs. But if any of these players make the Super Bowl, or withdraw, then this opening might usher in Bowe's second straight trip.

There were a fair share of Pro Bowl 'snubs' and Pro Bowl surprises. One surprise, I felt, was Philip Rivers; another was his teammate Antonio Gates. That just goes to show you the Pro Bowl is not an effective evaluation of talent or performance rather than a popularity contest. Still, glad Hali and Johnson made the roster.

For the full roster list, here it is.

Monday, December 26, 2011

2012 Pro Bowl

The polls for the January 29th Pro Bowl have been closed and the AFC and NFC Pro Bowl representatives will be announced tomorrow on NFL Network.

Last season, the Chiefs had three players originally selected to the Pro Bowl: Jamaal Charles, Dwayne Bowe, and Brian Waters. Three more were invited after players either declined or made the trip to the Super Bowl: Matt Cassel, Eric Berry and Tamba Hali. And although Hali turned the game down (turned out later he was injured), the Chiefs were well represented in Hawaii with five players.

This year, the Chiefs are in danger of having no Pro Bowl representatives.

Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry were both lost for the year in the first two games of the season. Brian Waters and the Chiefs went separate ways during the offseason and eventually wound up in New England. Dwayne Bowe, getting his first Pro Bowl invite in 2011 because of his ridiculous number of TDs (15), only has 5 this season. Matt Cassel was injured halfway through the season but wasn't even close to Pro Bowl potential before then.

Tamba Hali is the only player invited in 2011 that could (and probably should) garner another invite in 2012. But he's not the only player from the Chiefs that is deserving. Let's look at the Chiefs Pro Bowl candidates:

Who Should Make the Pro Bowl

Tamba Hali: Last season, Hali finished with 14.5 sacks, good for most in the AFC and second in the NFL. This year, Hali is sitting at 12 sacks with one game to go. This mark is good for 8th in the NFL, but 2nd in the AFC, only behind Terrell Suggs with 13. Hali has three multiple sack performances, so eclipsing Suggs for the AFC sack crown is not out of consideration. Hali is also tied for 5th in the NFL, and 3rd in the AFC with forced fumbles (5). The problem is, as a 3-4 OLB, Hali doesn't record a lot of tackles. His priority is rushing the passer, and because of that, he is only 12th in the AFC in tackles for the OLB position, with 62.

Derrick Johnson: When the Pro Bowl rosters were announced on NFL Network last season, one analyst said his biggest "snub" was Derrick Johnson. Last year, Johnson finished with 121 tackles, 1 sack, 4 forced fumbles, 1 INT and 1 TD. This season, Johnson's numbers have been even better. Through 15 games, Johnson has 126 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble and 2 INTs. His tackles number is 9th in the NFL, 4th in the AFC, and 3rd of AFC Linebackers. And of the players with more tackles, only one in the AFC has more sacks. Johnson has been, perhaps, the Chiefs best player all season, and I really hope his invaluable efforts for the Chiefs are rewarded with a trip to a tropical destination.

Who Might Make the Pro Bowl

Dwayne Bowe: Once you make it to your first Pro Bowl, you are more likely to make it to another one. This might help out Bowe. He is putting together a decent season, having 75 catches for 1,066 yards and 5 TDs. This is the 11th most receptions in the NFL, 14th in receiving yards, 12th for wide receivers, and 5th for WRs in the AFC. Bowe doesn't quite have the numbers to probably justify making the Pro Bowl cut tomorrow, but a late drop out or Super Bowl qualification could get Bowe his second straight Honolulu appearance.

Brandon Flowers: Throughout his entire career, Flowers has been an underrated and undervalued cornerback. But with a surprise AFC West Championship last season and increased prime-time games this year, he has become more of a well-known figure than he ever has been and his performances are starting to take notice. Brandon Flowers is tied for 11th in the league with 4 INTs (tied with 19 other players), and is tied for 5th in pass deflections (23), first in the AFC (tied with Darrelle Revis - NYJ, and Lardarius Webb - BAL). He also has an INT returned for a TD this season. Of the players with more pass deflections, only Charles Woodson has more tackles than Flowers (56). Like Bowe, his numbers are borderline, and might not get an invite at first, but a slot could open up and Flowers just might find himself in his first Pro Bowl.

Although these Chiefs players are deserving of a Pro Bowl, the fact of the matter is, the Pro Bowl is a popularity contest. Fan voting rules the event, turning it into a popularity contest rather than a recognition of performance (how else could Antonio Gates get an invite last year while missing most of the season?). And small market teams like Kansas City struggle with such events, just because of the size compared to such markets as Dallas and New York. So if these Chiefs players don't make the Pro Bowl, don't be too disappointed, no one can take away the seasons these players have had.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Eliminated: Chiefs vs. Raiders

KC - 13                OAK - 16       OT

It all worked out perfectly. The Buffalo Bills trounced the Denver Broncos. The Detroit Lions beat down the San Diego Chargers. All the pieces fell together perfectly except for the only one the Chiefs had control over, a Kansas City victory.

The Raiders were more than obliging. They were constantly penalized, 15 times for 92 yards, including a delay of game penalty that wiped out a fake field goal touchdown. Carson Palmer did us a favor by throwing two interceptions. But the Chiefs could never take advantage, and they seemed determined to keep pace with Oakland's sloppiness throughout the course of the game. And it was that sloppiness that cost the Chiefs a chance at an AFC West Championship matchup with the Denver Broncos next week.

In many ways the game resembled the season. The 91 yard kickoff return to open the game represented the Chiefs rough start. Two blocked field goals were extremely frustrating. To tie it up with about a minute left after so much red zone failure, just to lose it in overtime represents how much up and down the season has been. And the result, after all the scenarios that had to happen happened, will just add to every fan remembering the 2011 season as what could have been.

What the Chiefs did right

  • The Chiefs defense did an excellent job throughout the four quarters of regulation. They held the Raiders to a field goal within their own redzone after the opening kickoff. They created two turnovers, intercepting Carson Palmer twice (Derrick Johnson, Javier Arenas) and keeping the offense in the game. 
  • The Chiefs offense was having success moving the ball into the redzone, doing so four times. They had exactly double Oakland's first downs, with 26. They won the time of possession battle. And the Chiefs had 435 yards of total offense, about what they did last week against the Packers and more than double the yards gained during the Tyler Palko Experience. 
  • Dwayne Bowe caught his first touchdown pass in over 50 catches. The Chiefs combined for 135 rushing yards by their "committee" approach. Dexter McCluster has been used more effectively through the second half of the season, and he exploded for a 49 yard run to get the Chiefs into a 1st & Goal situation at the end of the fourth quarter. And Kyle Orton became the first Chiefs QB this season to throw for 300 yards in a game, finishing 21/36 for exactly 300 yards, but no yards came at a bigger time than at the end of the game when the Chiefs were trying for a game-winning field goal.
  • Ryan Succop tied Pete Stoyonavich's Chiefs record for consecutive field goals made at 22. 
What the Chiefs could have done better
  • When Marty coached in Kansas City, beating the Raiders became a priority of every season. But for the last five years, the Raiders have beat the Chiefs in KC. Marty always said that if you keep it close until the 4th quarter, the Raiders will beat themselves and you will win. Well, yesterday would have been another prime example of Marty's preaching, but the Chiefs beat themselves instead. The Raiders might have had 15 penalties for 92 yards, but the Chiefs had 11 for 88 yards. Dwayne Bowe dropped a TD that lead to a goal line interception on the next play. The Chiefs had two blocked field goals (I don't even know if Succop has had a FG blocked in his entire career), one that was a game-winning attempt with 5 seconds left. And then the Chiefs defense gives up a 53 yard pass on the first offensive play of overtime. For a defense that had been coming through all game to give up that completion was devastating. 
  • But until overtime, it was hard to blame the defense for the way the game was going. Sure, they gave up a 61 yard touchdown after Denarius Moore scorched Rashard Langford in coverage, but besides that one play, the defense was playing good. It was the offense and special teams that let down KC on Sunday, which wasn't the first time that had been the case this season.
  • Kyle Orton throw two interceptions at critical times during the game, and the Chiefs finished with only one TD in four redzone  appearances. The redzone has haunted the Chiefs all season, whether it was Cassel, Palko or Orton behind center. 
  • The special teams, although sloppy all season, was an absolute mess yesterday, and you could say was the main factor of why the Chiefs lost. Two blocked field goals in the same game and a very long opening kickoff return. The Raiders have one of the best if not the best special teams units in the NFL, but for it to become such a factor in a game usually means that somebody screwed up. That somebody was the Chiefs, and in a game decided by a field goal in overtime, the points taken away because of special teams play was deadly.
  • Coaching, whether Romeo Crennel enthusiasts like to hear it or not, was bad. Whether it was bad decisions in scenarios or bad playcalling, coaching was bad. Bill Muir makes awful playcalling decisions in the redzone, and the one on 4th & inches late in the fourth quarter that wasn't a QB sneak cost the Chiefs field position and a Raiders FG. And why go for it there and not on the 2 yard line early in the game. Every statistic will tell you going for it when you're that close is the right decision, even if you don't make it. Crennel made similar decisions last week, but it was covered over with a win. I know the players love him, but he is not the best coaching option available.

At the end of the day, the 6-9 Chiefs made it until week 16 to be eliminated from playoff contention. I guess, considering how the season started, that isn't too bad. Or maybe that's just the holiday spirit in me talking.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Death of Bark4Barkley

While many fans jumped on board the Suck4Luck campaign after the first couple of games for the Chiefs this season, I always knew that the Chiefs would not have a chance at Stanford QB Andrew Luck. The Chiefs, in their history, have never had the number one overall draft pick since the AFL-NFL merger. And with a team, although ravaged with injuries, so full of young talent, it would have been almost impossible for the Chiefs to have kept pace with the front-runner Colts.

Instead of Suck4Luck, I started the Bark4Barkley campaign. Going into this season, I had a feeling that USC QB Matt Barkley, had a chance to be very, very good. Even when Landry Jones was valued at the second best QB in college football, I just had a feeling that Barkley would be the second best QB coming out in the 2012 draft. Barkley became a realistic goal, one that was attainable.

And then the Chiefs started winning.

Soon the Chiefs were in first place of the AFC West, and looking ahead to the draft wasn't something I was concerned with. We had a chance at an improbable playoff run, and Matt Barkley took a backseat to that.

And then the Chiefs started losing again, and Matt Barkley became important. And when the Chiefs claimed Kyle Orton, I even contemplated on this blog that Kyle Orton could win us games and lose us position in the draft, thus not being worth it. Why should we care if we win a couple of meaningless games if it costs us a franchise QB?

Well, still being in the playoff race aside, the Bark4Barkley campaign came to an end this week. On Thursday at 3 pm C.T., Matt Barkley announced at a USC press conference that he was going to return for his senior season and a chance at the first bowl game in his college career (USC sanctions). And although Bark4Barkley died a valiant death (Barkley said that returning to college wasn't his original plan), it still brought all my draft day aspirations and hope crashing down around me. Now drafting a QB this year seems like a far-fetched notion.

Luckily, my heart can be mended by the Chiefs, Bills and Lions winning today. If that happens, the Chiefs face the Broncos next week for the division crown. Time and a playoff appearance heals all things.

Before I end this post, let me just remind everyone of Barkley's 2011 season:
308/446 (69.1%), 3,528, 39 TDs, 7 INTs, 2 rushing TDs

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Raider Week: Part Two

It's always a big deal when the Chiefs and the Raiders play, but this week is even more important than most. With a little luck from Buffalo and Detroit (both of them owe us one in my opinion), the Chiefs could enter the last week of the season at Denver with a chance to win the AFC West. But it all begins Saturday, and taking care of the Raiders at the friendly confines of Arrowhead.

This is the last home game of the year for the Chiefs, and hopefully Arrowhead will be packed full of very loud Raider Haters. The Chiefs are, of course, coming off their huge upset of the Packers, and the Raiders are coming off blowing a 27-14 lead with five minutes left in the game against the Detroit Lions (hopefully the Lions go on to sweep the AFC West this weekend). In other words, these two teams' collective confidence is pointing in opposite directions. Especially if Oakland remembers what happened to them the last time they played the Chiefs.

28-0 was the final score. Both Kyle Boller and recently acquired Carson Palmer threw three interceptions and both threw one's returned for touchdowns. The Chiefs were clawing their way back into AFC West contention, and met the Raiders at precisely the right time to see an inefficient offense. We injured Darren McFadden, who has yet to see the field since, and Carson Palmer wasn't familiar with the playbook or his wide receivers. "Oh man, I knew like about 15 plays and we ran the same 15 plays over and over again," Palmer said. "I was told I was not going to play. I didn't know the offense, I also hadn't been training and working out. So it was a complete shock to me at halftime when he told me, 'Hey, you know we're going to get you in, in the third quarter.'"

This week, the Chiefs won't be so lucky with their turnovers. Although Palmer hasn't come in and shook the world in Oakland, he has been able to stretch the field and, although probably not worth a first and second round pick, been a much better option than the original backup, Kyle Boller.

When asked about how different Palmer will look this week than when the Chiefs saw him earlier this season, Tamba Hali responded: "I guess it’s been about maybe five or six weeks so he’s probably acquainted with that offense and has got his timing down with the wide receivers. It will be a little different, he’s still a good quarterback, he’s still able to execute.”

"... this Raider team, they are in the same situation we are, they need to win like we need to win and they’ll be ready to go," HC Romeo Crennel said in his press conference. Crennel knows this game won't be the same as the last meeting. "As the game went along you could tell that [Palmer] wasn’t on with his receivers and there was some nuances about the offense that were different and he had to get used to them. As I look at him now it looks like he is used to them, he knows the receivers, he knows the runners, he knows the system and I thought last week he did a really good job of getting the ball to the playmakers, by what Detroit was giving him and probably should have won the game even though they didn’t but he had a chance."

And there is reason to respect Carson Palmer's playing ability. He is coming off one of his best games if not his best game in Oakland, completing 80% of his passes for 367 yards and a TD against Detroit. But the Raiders are also coming off a three game losing streak in which Palmer has thrown more INTs than TDs.

The Chiefs starting QB, Kyle Orton, is also coming off a good performance, and looks to improve his play given an extra week of practice with his receivers and an extra week for his finger to thoroughly heal. As Crennel said about Orton's performance last week in his first start: "The thing that I knew about him was I knew he was a pro quarterback and has played in games in the NFL before and has a good arm and so those things we knew about him but we didn’t know how it was going to play out on game day and it played out very well but you just don’t know sometimes.”

Hopefully the Chiefs can have a repeat performance against the Raiders and sweep Oakland much like they swept us last year. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Romeo For Next Year?

A victory for the Chiefs over the Packers on Sunday did two major things: keep the team's playoff hopes alive, and make a strong case for removing the 'interim' from Romeo Crennel's head coaching title.

Sunday's victory was Crennel's first game coached for the Chiefs, and the first game he has been head coach of since his stint in Cleveland a couple of years ago. An unexpected victory has made fans, and possibly management alike, look at Crennel's resume a little closer:
  • Romeo has been apart of two different Super Bowl winning teams, and was the defensive coordinator for the New England Patriots' dynasty. 
    • Familiar with Scott Pioli.
  • Was head coach for the Cleveland Browns from 2005-2008.
  • Chiefs defensive coordinator from 2010-present.
And after Sunday's win, it seems the players are behind him as well:

DE Glenn Dorsey
How much would you like to see Romeo Crennel become head coach next season? “That would be good and to keep winning for him. He’s our leader and a tremendous coach. We’ve just got to keep it going for him.”

CB Brandon Flowers
On giving Romeo Crennel his first win as head coach for the Chiefs: “We want to play hard for this guy. We’ve been through up and downs as a defense, but he’s a great guy. He always stays positive. He’s a guy we want to play hard for. With him being a head coach, the offense felt the same way. We just want to keep winning for him.”

K Ryan Succop
On playing for Romeo Crennel: “I think everyone in this locker room went out and fought their tails off. I think that this is a great win for Romeo and a great win for our team. We’re just happy to be part of it.”

LB Derrick Johnson
"Coach Romeo Crennel went out and told us that nobody was going to believe that we could win this game, but we believed in this room. That’s all that matters and it showed today."

Of course, what do you expect the players to tell the media after they just upset the undefeated defending world champions? What they told the media is not important, what they did in the locker room is. Once Crennel reached the locker room, the players started chanting his name. "Romeo! Romeo! Romeo!

It's clear where many of the players hearts lie. But just because the players want Romeo as a head coach, does that mean he is the best man for the job?

Bill Barnwell of Football Outsiders and Grantland of ESPN took a look at Crennel's performance coaching on Sunday. While he said that the Chiefs might have laid the blueprint for defeating the Packers, but he was not impressed with Crennel's coaching job at all. "Stories will be written today about how the Chiefs won under the leadership of Romeo Crennel, but don't buy it. They won in spite of him." [Click the hyperlink above for his examination into why he believes this]

While I tend to agree with much of what Barnwell had to say about Crennel's coaching performance on Sunday, it has been a while since he last was head coach. Much like a player who hasn't played in a while, Crennel might have just been knocking off the rust. He was given a short and turbulent week to prepare for the responsibilities to manage an entire game, and hopefully he will look sharper in the upcoming weeks.

Also, another element that statistics can't calculate is motivation. It seems that Crennel motivated the team, got them to believe that they could do something no other team had been able to do in over a calendar year. "Coach Romeo told us to stick together as a team," FB Le'Ron McClain said. "People expect us to come out and lay down to the Packers, everybody is expecting us to lose, but we knew in the back of our minds that if we put together a complete game we had a chance to win. It showed today.”

As Crennel told the players after the game on Sunday, "you are not ready to die yet."

So what do you think Chiefs Nation? Should Crennel be HC next year, or should we find someone else?

Monday, December 19, 2011


Yeah, I'm talking about playoffs, and believe me, I didn't think I'd be able to bring up the subject again this year. But in the mass confusion and ineptitude that rules the AFC West, the Chiefs are still "mathematically" in the playoff hunt.

Crazy right?

Todd Haley, before he was fired, spoke about still being in the division race, even though no-one outside the team believed it. And then, in the press conference after Haley was fired, Clark Hunt and Scott Pioli spoke of making the move in search of consistency because they were still "mathematically" in the playoff chase. And while mathematics is far from certainty, it is kind of nice to still be in the AFC West conversation in mid-December.

So what will it take for the 6-8 Chiefs to make the playoffs?
  1. Denver loses next week at Buffalo
  2. San Diego loses one of their next two (@Detroit, @Oakland)
  3. Kansas City wins out (vs. Oakland, @Denver)
This math is starting to sound a lot like calculus.

Counting on these three things is a bit scary, and reasons why Chiefs fans shouldn't get their hopes up. We don't control our own destiny, and have to rely on Buffalo winning a game and San Diego losing in December. Neither of which is likely. This upcoming week will dictate whether the Chiefs could still sneak into the playoffs. If the Bills do upset Tim Tebow, Detroit takes care of SD, and KC sweeps Oakland, then the week 17 matchup between Denver and KC will be for the division crown.

Any team in the AFC West could still win the division, however, and SD looked unbeatable against the Baltimore Ravens last night. If they win out and Denver loses out, they will win the division. If Denver wins out, they win the division. If Oakland wins out, and Denver loses to KC, Oakland wins. There are other scenarios, but this is enough to get the point across that this AFC West math is complicated.

But at the end of the day, the Chiefs still have a chance, and if it takes a Christmas miracle to get them into the postseason, then so be it.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

13-1: Chiefs vs. Packers

AP Photo/Ed Zurga

KC - 19                          GB - 14

To say that the Chiefs win over the previously undefeated Packers was an upset is an understatement. The Packers were the highest scoring team in the NFL, lead by MVP-favorite Aaron Rodgers, and the rest of that Super Bowl defending roster. And yet, the Chiefs defense was able to limit this prolific offense to only two touchdowns, and the offense finally did enough to reward the team with a win.

Romeo Crennel was making his first appearance as the Chiefs head coach today, and at the helm of the offense was Kyle Orton, making his first start for the Chiefs at quarterback. While many people are saying that a victory would have been impossible with Todd Haley as HC, I think they might be giving Romeo Crennel too much credit. While teams tend to temporarily rally around a new head coach during the season, I think the most important aspect of the game was Tyler Palko not being behind center.

The Chiefs defense has kept the team in most of their games since Matt Cassel injured his throwing hand and was sent to IR, with a few exceptions (like last week). And during those games, the Chiefs offense has only been able to turn one of those games into a victory. Games against the Patriots and Steelers were close for most of the game, but valiant defensive efforts were wasted by turnovers on offense. Even the loss against the Jets might have been different if we had an offense that could move the football. Palko's turnovers were costing the team big, and then entered Kyle Orton.

Third down conversions were suddenly converted, drives were suddenly extended, the red zone suddenly entered, and the time of possession dominated. Orton was making passes Palko only wished he could make (and Cassel for that matter), and it was his steady performance and veteran leadership, accompanied by an outstanding defensive performance, that made the difference in this game. 

What the Chiefs Did Right

  • Once again, I will have to mention the defense first in what the Chiefs did right. Not because of the lack of offense, but because of the opponent. The Packers were averaging 35.8 points per game before today. They seemed like an unstoppable force, but today, the Chiefs were an immovable object. 
    • The Packers offense was limited to 6/14 on 3rd down, and 0-1 on 4th down.  
    • Rodgers was held to 235 yards, 1 TD, and was sacked 4 times. 
    • Of those 4 sacks, Tamba Hali had 3. The rookie, Allen Bailey, got his first career sack to account for the other one.
  • Now for the offense. In comparison to the Palko-era, this offensive unit looked like the 2007 Patriots. Orton was effective and efficient moving the football, and took five trips into the redzone. 
    • Kyle Orton was 23/31 (74.2%) for 299 yards.
    • Ten different players caught a pass from Orton and eight receivers hauled in a reception of at least 10 yards.
    • The Chiefs used a varied rushing attack to account for 139 yards and 5 rushing first downs. The biggest run of the game being Jackie Battle's touchdown run in the 4th quarter that all-but iced the game. Battle's second rushing TD of the season couldn't have come at a better time.
    • The offense held the ball for 36 minutes and 11 seconds, shortening the game and keeping the ball out of Aaron Rodgers hand. 
  • Ryan Succop made all four field goal attempts, and has now extended his consecutive FG streak to 21. This mark is one shy of the Chiefs record 22, set by Pete Stoyanovich. 

What the Chiefs Could Have Done Better
  • Obviously the concern the Chiefs should have going forward is the one they've had throughout the course of the season: scoring touchdowns. The Chiefs are the second worst red zone team in terms of scoring TDs in the whole NFL this season, and today's 5 trip, 1 TD, one goal-line stand isn't going to improve those stats. Throughout the season, it just hasn't seemed like the Chiefs knew what to dial up, and some of it today probably had to do with the lack of familiarity Orton had with his receivers. Hopefully we can improve in the next two games, and score more than just once. 
  • While Ryan Succop had a fantastic performance, the rest of the special teams struggled. Roughing the kicker, timeouts for 12 men on the field, penalties on kick returns, etc. They seem undisciplined, and have looked so throughout the season. 
  • Other than that, I can't criticize the Chiefs too much. 

With the victory over the Packers, two things arise in the aftermath:
  1. Is it really plausible for the Chiefs to make the playoffs this year?
  2. Did Romeo Crennel earn the Head Coaching job for next season?
I will discuss both these topics later in the week.

No Pack No!

Today the 5-8 Chiefs face the 13-0 Green Bay Packers. Let's just say the Chiefs are not favored in this game, despite being at the friendly confines of Arrowhead.

The Chiefs are coming off a turbulent week. They were blown out by the Jets in New York on Sunday, and then on Monday head coach Todd Haley was fired. That would have been enough to shake up any team's mindset, but to all come the same week the Chiefs face the best opponent the franchise has faced in a very long time is intimidating to say the least. To fire a coach before the end of the season creates confusion and uncertainty of the future for the players on the team, but they also have to focus on an upcoming game.

There's a reason that the Packers are 13-0, and it's because of Aaron Rodgers. He is probably going to be this year's NFL MVP, and deservedly so (stats listed below). The Chiefs, on the other hand, have a losing record because of their poor performance at QB. Kyle Orton is the third different QB to start for the Chiefs this season. And it's sad to think that a guy claimed from waivers less than a month ago gives the Chiefs their best chance to win.

The Chiefs and Packers met earlier this year in the preseason on September 1st. The final result was a 20-19 loss by KC. Granted, the Chiefs kept their starters in at certain positions nearly the entire game when the Packers took their starters out after about the first possession. If the Chiefs lose with a score like that, I don't think many Chiefs fans would be disappointed with a performance like that.

Game Notes:

Kyle Orton: 91/156 (58.3%), 979 yards, 8 TDs, 7 INTs [With Broncos]
Aaron Rodgers: 305/438 (69.6%), 4,125 yards, 39 TDs, 6 INTs

Jackie Battle: 125 carries, 504 yards (4.0 ypc), 1 TD
Ryan Grant: 102 carries, 401 yards (3.9 ypc), 2 TDs [James Starks Inactive]

Dwayne Bowe: 65 catches, 937 yards, 4 TDs
Jordy Nelson: 51 catches, 957 yards,  10 TDs

Chiefs Defense: 10th Pass Defense (209.3 ypg); 26th Rush Defense (132.5 ypg)
Packers Defense: 31st Pass Defense (288.7 ypg); 12th Rush Defense (106 ypg)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Orton Hears a Start

Dr. Seuss puns aside, Kyle Orton is expected to start Sunday against the Green Bay Packers. This will be Orton's first start in Kansas City since being claimed by the Chiefs on November 24th. This is also Orton's first start since week 5. Anyone who has been alive this year knows about the story of Tim Tebow's rise to prominence, but not very many people talk about him warranting his chance because of Orton's poor performance and 1-4 record while with the Broncos this year.

I guess poor performance is a little harsh, unless you consider Matt Cassel's season until his injury poor ... Alright, so Orton's performance was poor, since he was putting up a very similar season to Cassel. Orton was 91/155 (58.7) for 979 yards, 8 TDs and 7 INTs. And while I did say his performance hasn't been stellar and comparable to that of Cassel, I think any Chiefs fan would welcome that sort of performance after enduring the month-long Tyler Palko Experience (80/134 [59.7%] for 796 yards, 2 TDs and 7 INTs).

After Orton dislocated his finger in his only pass attempt in a Chiefs uniform, he hasn't seen any action since. Between learning the playbook after being waived and the injury setback, Orton has rarely been active. That is why after interim head coach Romeo Crennel announced this week that Tyler Palko was no longer going to be the starter, I doubted the legitimacy of Orton being the starter this week.

Many others were too. That is why there was a certain "Orton-Watch," if you will, among the KC media in watching him in practice. Many reported that he had crisp deliveries on short throws, but was a little questionable on the deeper ones. Others reported he had plenty of zip and looked like he was on his way to start.

Today, Crennel confirmed that Orton was ahead of schedule on his injury, and that he was probable to start. “The quarterback Kyle [Orton] did a nice job, it looks like he’s throwing better so we’re going to start him in the game and he’s going to be the quarterback." Regarding how his hand might effect his performance, "The ball has not been on the ground when he has taken the snap so that’s a good sign that there have been no fumbles with him.”

Regarding Orton's health since the injury, offensive coordinator Bill Muir said ''It was very surprising. There are some issues but nothing of major concern. He had a good week of practice, all things considered. He did a good job in terms of being able to throw the ball and each day his velocity improved so I think he’s ready to go.''
As I said in an earlier post, Orton starting as QB isn't just important for the Chiefs, it's also important for his future marketability when free agency roles around after season's end. A good performance can justify him getting another job somewhere around the league, a bad performance might force him into a backup role or out of the league altogether.

So if Orton wants to earn a job next year, it starts against the Green Bay Packers. Did somebody say Upset Alert?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Stanzi Time?

Today, in Crennel's first bombardment by the press as Head Coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, he made it clear that Tyler Palko would NOT be starting against the upcoming Green Bay Packers this Sunday at Arrowhead.

If healthy, Kyle Orton will make the start. If his finger is not fully healed by then, Ricky Stanzi, the rookie out of Iowa, will make his first career appearance in the NFL.

"I told Pioli we are not starting Palko," said Crennel. "Palko has done everything asked of him except put points on the board."

In the press conference on Monday with Clark Hunt and Scott Pioli discussing their decision to let the coach go, a reporter asked Pioli if Haley's decision not to play the young quarterback, Ricky Stanzi, was a reason why he was relieved of his duties. "It was not an issue at all," was Pioli's first response.

Although this is what was said, it's going to be speculated that it was Haley's unwillingness to do so that was the final straw to Pioli & Co. And along those lines, many will say that Tyler Palko was the cause of Todd Haley's demise. And while many didn't want to believe that was the case, Crennel's quick decision to move away from Palko to the point of making him third string is a clear indicator that Palko did have something to do with Haley being fired.

After the loss to the Jets on Sunday, Haley admitted that he thought about replacing Palko with Stanzi (Orton being inactive due to injury that day): “We just felt that the way the game was, we didn’t think that would be a good position to put Ricky in."

“The guy that gives us the best chance to win will play, because we’re playing to win,” Haley said. “In a game like today where the score gets to where it was, I just don’t think that’s the best position to give someone their first action in the NFL on the road.”

While many Chiefs fans would love to see how Stanzi looks, I think if there's even half a chance that Orton can play, then we will see him against the league-leader in scoring Packers. Orton is experienced in the NFL, and would give the Chiefs the best chance to win. Crennel knows that, and that's why he announced that Orton would start if healthy. The only question is, is he healthy?

He was inactive last week after suffering a finger injury on his only throw for the Chiefs against the Chicago Bears. It appeared to be a dislocated finger, and I'm just not sure how long that would keep him out. I think Orton wants to play and use these last three games to show the league that he can still be a viable option at the QB position; a televised tryout.

Either way, whatever QB does play for the Chiefs is going to get a trial by fire against the undefeated Packers.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Todd Haley's Statement

The former Chiefs coach finally released a statement through his agent last night. This is via the Kansas City Star's blog:
“First, I would like to thank Clark Hunt and the Kansas City Chiefs for giving me the opportunity to coach this historic franchise. Growing up in the NFL, watching my Dad help build those great Pittsburgh Steeler teams, I have a profound love for this league. This opportunity has been a dream come true. 
“I would like to sincerely thank my coaches and my players for their commitment and loyalty throughout my time with the Chiefs. 
“I would like to thank all of the great Chiefs fans. My wife, Chrissy, and I would also like to thank the city of Kansas City for welcoming us and our five children and making us feel at home. 
“I am proud to have been a part of continued improvement and the first AFC West title since 2003. This year has been extremely challenging, but despite losing several key players to injury and free agency, we have been able to remain competitive and remain in contention with three games remaining in the season. I wish the coaches and players good luck down the stretch. 
“NFL football is extremely competitive. Being hired and fired is part of this business. I want to thank everyone for their support and I look forward to my next opportunity in this great league."
I'm sure you noticed that there was no mention of Scott Pioli in his statement. Maybe this was just an oversight, or maybe the situation inside the Chiefs was as toxic as most reporters are saying it was and Haley had nothing left to say to his former boss.

Stories had been springing up all year about Haley; he was lazy, he canceled team meetings to go out with friends while in Chicago, he was a rogue within the organization. As tight-lipped as the Chiefs are, it's funny that things like this can spring up, that sources are all of a sudden willing to dish to the media Haley's every move. Rumors of Haley almost being let go after the 10-6 playoff year a season ago, and if he had lost the Colts game this season now don't seem so far fetched. It seems Pioli was just waiting for an opportunity to fire Haley, and he finally got his chance.

But one thing Pioli might not have counted on is the players. Most of the Chiefs players absolutely loved Haley. He was tough on them at first, but they know that they were made better players because of it. Dwayne Bowe became one of the league's top receivers. Jamaal Charles was given a chance because Larry Johnson was let go. All across the board, players became better under the coaching of Haley.

“He’s on another level when it comes to his passion for football," said Jackie Battle. "He has a fire to him and I’ll always remember that he gave me a chance. That’s something that I was waiting for the entire time I’ve been here.”

“We definitely believed in him,” Derrick Johnson added. “We believed in his system and believed in what he was telling us.”

"He'll definitely be missed."

Monday, December 12, 2011

The End: Chiefs vs. Jets

NYJ - 37           KC - 10

I should have wrote this post immediately after the game yesterday, but I didn't feel like it. Besides, I reasoned to myself, there will be plenty of time on Monday to do it. Well, I didn't think Haley was actually going to be fired. So I am going to rush through this post for both your and my benefit.

What We Did Right
  • The Chiefs defense had three sacks against the Jets, with Arenas, Houston and Hali all getting to Mark Sanchez.
  • Ryan Succop made a 53 yard field goal, extending his consecutive field goals to 17. Considering how upset everyone was with him at the beginning of the season for missing his first few attempts, he has responded like a Pro. 
  • Jon Baldwin had a nice one-handed catch along the sideline. He looks to be a play-maker, just needs someone to throw to him.
What We Could Have Done Better
  • We had Tyler Palko attempt passes (finished with 50% completion, 1 TD and 1 INT).
  • Bowe dropped a TD pass. I still think we should keep him next season, instead of letting him follow Haley to his next job. Bowe is a good WR, and we can't afford to regress in that department.
  • We had Jackie Battle, Thomas Jones, and Dexter McCluster attempt to run the ball (46 yards combined and 1 safety).
  • We penalized our way into oblivion (11 for 128 yards). 
  • We fired our head coach (read post below for full details and opinion). 

Haley Fired

The recap of the Chiefs-Jets game is going to take a backseat for a while, because the biggest and the most frustrating news of the Chiefs 2011 season was just announced: Todd Haley was fired as head coach.

Before I get to my opinion on the matter, let me just put what the Chiefs official press release said on the matter:

“This was a difficult decision but one that we feel is best for the future of the Chiefs,” Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said. “Although there have been bright spots at different points this season, we have not made meaningful progress and we felt that it was necessary to make a change. We appreciate Todd’s contributions during his time with the club, and we wish him well in the future.”

“Todd helped this team in many valuable ways over the past three seasons, and I am thankful for his contributions,” Chiefs General Manager Scott Pioli said. “Unfortunately, we have not been able to establish the kind of consistency we need to continue to build a strong foundation for the future and we believe a change is important at this time.”

Alright, enough with the whitewashing displayed by released statements from the Chiefs public relations team. This move was made because Pioli didn't like Haley. Simple as that.

Haley inherited a very bad team when he arrived in 2009. He then turned them around to an AFC West Champion in 2010. Now the team has regressed back to 5-8 this season, but the injuries sustained by the Chiefs would be considered insurmountable to any coaching staff. Very good tight end Tony Moeaki out for the season before the season even started with a torn ACL. Eric Berry out in the first half of the first game with a torn ACL. Jamaal Charles, next game, torn ACL. Matt Cassel, broken hand, out for the year when the Chiefs were still near the top of the division.

If a head coach in this league could have done better with the tools supplied to him by his General Manager, then he's the reincarnation of Bill Belichick. After all these injuries and without the proper depth to have viable backups, Pioli's reasoning of failing to establish "consistency" is insulting to a fan's intelligence.

And Arrowhead Pride brought up a very interesting point this morning. It mentioned that Clark Hunt, being interviewed by the KC Star on Haley's performance, said 1) "Making a head coaching change is not something we're contemplating." 2) "I do think Todd has done a very good job since he's been the head coach of the Chiefs."

Obviously I don't expect an owner to tell a paper that he doesn't like what his head coach is doing (outside of Dallas), but then, I guess I also don't expect a playoff coach from a year ago get fired. We have 5 wins with a diminished team. If your goal is to establish consistency, then don't fire your head coach. I've never understood why more owners don't realize this. Look at the ultimately successful organizations, like the Steelers, Packers and Patriots. They leave their coaching staffs in place. They realize that's how you establish an organization. The coaching staff and the system is the constant, and the players are the variables, the parts that could be picked up or let go depending on how they fit the system.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that there was no grounds on which to fire Haley besides personal reasons. Haley turned us from a rebuilding team to a division contender. Now to fire him sets the whole franchise back. It feels like we are now in the middle of rebuilding all over again, and that is an awful feeling.

So what comes next?

It has been circulating that Romeo Crennel will take over as interim head coach for the remainder of the season. This makes sense, and was the first thought I had when I learned Haley was let go this morning. Crennel is a former head coach with the Browns, and should do fine holding the team together over the final three weeks of the season. Is he a long term solution? No. He struggled as head coach of the Browns from 2005 to 2008, and he is also quite old. I doubt he's even interested in being anything other than the defensive coordinator for the future.

Other rumors are already circulating including former Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz and former Browns and Jets head coach Eric Mangini. All occupy branches of the Bill Belichick family tree, as do Crennel and Chiefs G.M. Scott Pioli.

Any direction the Chiefs take is the wrong one in my opinion. Haley should still be head coach, and now that he's not, I'm going to be that much more skeptical of any move Scott Pioli does. He's on a short leash in my book.

Shame on the Chiefs organization.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Finding the Positives

This 2011 season is one of disappointment, bitterness, anger, and expletives. Another bad loss puts an exclamation mark on just how bad this season has been. Blame it on injuries, blame it on coaching, blame it on karma, blame it on all three because there is plenty of blame to go around.  And while the Chiefs season might be done in less than a month, a fans season never ceases. And that is why it is imperative that a fan not dwell on the negatives, but instead, finds the positives. If not for the remainder of the season, then for next season.

 The Chiefs are not alone in this. All fans for all teams have done this at some point in their lifetime. It's just common sense. You can't root for an awful team thinking they are always going to be awful. You root for an awful team finding the little things that make you think they could be good in the future.

This 2011 Chiefs team I can confidently classify as an awful team. Sure, there have been flashes of being good: the four game win streak, the brief first place standing in the AFC West. But overall, yeah, this is a bad team.

At the same time, however, this team has shown glimpses. After all the injuries, you can see core parts of the team, key players, stepping up and playing well. Key players, who if they were surrounded by other key players, could make a major impact. Let's begin:

  • Linebackers
    • The Chiefs linebackers have shown a ton of promise. Tamba Hali has been a great pass rusher, Justin Houston has turned into a good one, and Derrick Johnson has proven to be one of the best ILBs in the NFL. 
  • Cornerbacks
    • Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr, although inconsistent at times, have been a good tandem and have come up with big plays. Flowers, who many thought had regressed last season, has been the Chiefs best defensive back all season.
  • Jon Asamoah
    • Asamoah was promoted to the starting role after the Chiefs decided to part ways with Brian Waters. Asamoah, who had backed up Waters in his rookie year, was then moved to right guard, moving Ryan Lilja over to the left side. And while Lilja has graded out to one of the worst linemen for the Chiefs this season, Asamoah has graded out as the best. 
  • Bowe, Baldwin, Breaston
    • This three-headed aerial assault was one of great hope and enthusiasm for Chiefs fans when the Chiefs could still complete passes. And while Bowe has had his share of mistakes this season, he is still a gamechanger with the ball in his hands. Breaston has looked good in the slot, and Baldwin looks like a serious threat. Letting Bowe go after this season would be a HUGE mistake, especially when Cassel comes back next season. Not to mention, if the Chiefs were to take a QB in the first round, what better arsenal could you ask to have for a rookie passer than these three guys?
  • Ryan Succop
    • If you need a game winning kick in the Super Bowl with two seconds left in the fourth quarter, who could think of a better kicker right now than Ryan Succop? Sure, I wouldn't want him in there for a needed onside-kick with the game on the line, but he has made 17 consecutive field goals, and not many of them chip shots, including his most recent 53 yarder against the Jets.
  • Kendrick Lewis
    • It's hard to find any positives from the Chiefs safeties. Jon McGraw is old and Sabby Piscitelli is awful. But Kendrick Lewis has been the best of the bunch (which isn't saying much) and has a nose for the football, having three interceptions on the season. With Eric Berry coming back next season, the Chiefs should have a good defensive backfield.
So what does all this mean? It means that if the Chiefs can get some key parts (cough Quarterback cough Right Tackle), and don't have the attrition they suffered this year with injuries, then this team can immediately be a playoff contender. And the good part about all this is how young the team is. So if certain positions can become resolved, we could be a very good term for a long time. 

Unfortunately, the quarterback position is one of the hardest to fix and/or solve. It's the most valued position in the league; the prices are high for the veteran ones, priceless for the young good ones, and not a sure thing for the rookies. But if the Chiefs could get lucky, just once, in drafting a franchise QB, then most of the parts are already in place just waiting for their opportunity to go on a championship run. The window of opportunity is there, all that is missing is _______________. 

Simple, right? Just trying to stay optimistic.  

Cooling the Jets?

Tamba Hali Brett Favre #4 of the New York Jets is sacked by Tamba Hali #91 of the Kansas City Chiefs during their game on October 26, 2008 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

The Chiefs visit the New York Jets for the first time since Brett Favre's one-and-done season in the Big Apple. This time, both teams are better than they were then, but that doesn't mean all that much for the Chiefs, considering they only won 2 games in 2008.

A lot has changed since then. Herm Edwards was the Chiefs head coach, Eric Mangini the Jets coach. Larry Johnson was still around and Thomas Jones was wearing 'gangreen.' And while there have been many other changes on both sides on Sunday, the New York media wants to take credit for the Chiefs resurrection over the past few seasons.

The title of a post written about the Chiefs visiting the Meadowlands was: 'Jets Midwest' coming to MetLife. Jets Midwest? Sorry New York, but New England already was dibs. When a team goes through a reinvention, many organizations want to take credit. Whether it be ideology or stealing of the coaching staff, teams want to believe they had a hand in it.

Well, if the Jets want to take credit for it, then they have to live with the team they helped create. And with the Chiefs getting virtually no respect on the road against the Jets, wouldn't it be something to see the creation destroy the creator? Unfortunately, if there's any common trait between the Jets and Chiefs, it would be inconsistency.

The Chiefs are 5-7, and a large part of that losing record has been the injuries. But past the injuries has been the inconsistency. The defense has began to turn on over the last few weeks, but the offense hasn't found consistency at all, unless you are making an argument for being consistently awful. Even before Cassel's injury, the Chiefs had trouble scoring touchdowns. Since then, it's been one Hail Mary away from a Palko-offense shutout. In fact, the Chiefs are 30th in the NFL in scoring, having collected a total of 163 points, over 250 less than the NFL-leading Green Bay Packers.

The Jets offense has had its share of inept performances this season as well. It's been a roller coaster year for 2009 first round pick Mark Sanchez. And while he always seems to find a way to get to the AFC Championship game, it's been mostly at the consent of the defense. As stagnant as the Chiefs offense has been most of the season, Sanchez's Jets only average ten more yards a game than the Chiefs.

Despite that staggering stat by the Chiefs, the coaching staff is trying to keep things positive in the locker room and in the media. "We're coming on at the right time," coach Todd Haley said. "If we can figure out a way to win -- pretty, ugly or indifferent -- we have a chance."

If you want to believe Haley or not doesn't matter, the team's performance on the field does.

Game Notes:

Tyler Palko: 229/405 (62.7%) 601 yards, 1 TD, 6 INTs
Mark Sanchez: 64/102 (56.5%) 2,678 yards, 19 TDs, 11 INTs

Jackie Battle: 115 carries, 471 yards (4.1 ypc), 1 TD
Shonn Greene: 183 carries, 739 yards (4.0 ypc), 5 TDs

Dwayne Bowe: 59 catches, 868 yards, 4 TDs
Dustin Keller: 43 catches, 586 yards, 4 TDs

Chiefs Defense: 12th against Pass (213.8 ypg); 25th against Run (130.3 ypg)
Jets Defense: 7th against Pass (204.6 ypg); 15th against Run (112.9 ypg)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Weis Takes HC Job at Kansas

I never thought I'd have the .... uh .... opportunity to write about Charlie Weis again, but recent actions by the former Chiefs offensive coordinator has brought him back into the conversation.

Turner Gill was fired from his head coaching job at the University of Kansas on November 28th. Rumors started circulating about how would replace him. Mike Leach was rumored until he took the job at Washington State. Nobody was really sure who Kansas would get, but no one really thought it would be a big-name guy. And when Kansas announced its decision today, no one thought it would be Charlie Weis. 

Before the end of the 2010 season, Weis decided to accept the offensive coordinator position at the University of Florida. "This opportunity is one of those unique situations where I can go to a great institution ... and be able to spend the next bunch of years watching my son grow." This is what Weis said after taking the job, right before the Chiefs began its playoff run.

The timing couldn't have come at a worse time for the Chiefs, whether it was related or not. The Chiefs were blown out in the two games after Weis announced his decision, and Matt Cassel played, by far, his worst football of the 2010 season. The offense sputtered, and the Chiefs were eliminated at home in their first playoff game since the 2006 season. 

It didn't take long after it was revealed Weis was leaving for speculation to arise about why he was leaving to surface. Why would he make a lateral move to a college team? Was it really just to help his son enter the coaching field? Many fans accepted Weis' reasoning, but some still questioned. 

It wasn't a secret that Todd Haley and Weis argued. Haley argues with most, if not all, of his coaches. That's Haley's personality, and he claims that it brings about dialogue and makes the coaching staff, as a whole, better. Many sports personalities speculated that these arguments Haley and Weis had were the cause for Weis's departure. A break up after a dysfunctional relationship if you will. 

This move, however, makes a few things a lot clearer. Charlie Weis didn't leave the Chiefs just because he wanted to be closer to his son. Charlie Weis left the Chiefs because of his own agenda. 

The Chiefs are a tight-lipped organization, but even they seemed surprised when reporters asked them about Weis leaving for Florida the day the rumor began to circulate. And similar things can be said about Florida and their reaction to learning that Weis was leaving. "Blown away," is how one Florida official phrased it. Apparently he didn't tell them he was interviewing for another job either. 

Now the reports of Haley being hard to work for and that's why it lead to Weis's departure have reversed. Now Weis is the hard one to work for. One year in Kansas City, one year in Florida, all while end-gaming to his goal to be college head coach again. 

Is there anything wrong with that? No, to an extent. If a coach wants to advance through the ranks, then more power to him, but to do it in the fashion Weis has while giving hypocritical reasons for leaving in each stop doesn't paint Weis in a positive light. This is a risk by Kansas, in my opinion, to give Weis the head coaching gig after such short stints in the two previous years.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Player Profile: Justin Houston

I know I haven't done this since perhaps last season, but, after a win is always a good time to return to a post celebrating the achievements of a player. And this week, my player profile award goes to none other than your Pepsi Rookie of the Week candidate, Justin Houston.

Justin Houston, a rookie, was a very talented 3-4 OLB at the University of Georgia before being drafted by Kansas City number 70 overall (3rd Round). Considered a first-round talent heading into the combine, a report came out that Houston, along with Christian Ballard (Iowa), both tested positive for marijuana while at the combine. This, of course, was a red flag, and Houston saw his stock plummet during the draft.

Scott Pioli, already taking one off-field issue player in Jonathan Baldwin with the first round pick, decided to take a chance on Houston in the third. These off-field issues were, once again, brought to the forefront when Houston, inexplicably, didn't sign with the Chiefs until after training camp was already underway. With the new rookie wage scales in place after the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (the reason for the lockout), there wasn't anything to really negotiate being a third round pick. Yet, Houston was the second-to-last player to sign with a team; the last player to sign was first-round draft pick Prince Amukamara, CB, with the New York Giants.

Pioli talked about Houston in an interview following the draft: "We all thought it was a rare opportunity to get a player who addresses a big need on our football team now and in the future. And, the fact is, the reality is, we picked a player who had an issue, that's on me, and we're going to figure it out."

Coming into camp, some observers noted that Houston seemed out of shape, breathing heavily after conditioning drills; conditioning drills are really the one thing players shouldn't have had to catch-up on during the lockout. This lack of camp, being a rookie, being out of shape, and having to compete against the likes of Andy Studebaker kept Houston out of first team practices and drills for the training camps and the preseason. However, during the preseason against second and third team opponents, Houston looked good, recording 9 tackles, 2 sacks, and 1 forced fumble. Against starters, however, Houston wasn't quite as effective.

Getting the nod for the starting role in weeks 1 and 2, Houston was ineffective at rushing the passer, and seemed in over his head, recording just 3 tackles in those blowout losses. Houston would start again in week 4, but then would lose his starting role to Studebaker until week 11.

Even though Houston wasn't starting games in between weeks 4 and 11, he was getting noticeably better in each game he played in, which lead to him eventually earning back the starting job from Studebaker. Since regaining the job, he has been a force on Tamba Hali's opposite side rushing the passer, causing pressure and collapsing the pocket. He has opened up sack opportunities for defensive tackles including Amon Gordon and Tyson Jackson, and has taken pressure off of Hali to get to the quarterback.

Houston's strides this season was showcased against the Chicago Bears on Sunday, and even though the Bears were starting backup Caleb Hanie, I don't think Houston's game should be forgotten. He recorded 7 tackles, 3 sacks and forced 1 fumble. If Houston continues to improve this season as he has demonstrated, we could be looking at a monstrous set of pass rushers for the Chiefs for years to come.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Down to the Wire: AFC West

The AFC West in one of the closest division races in the NFL this year, and this parody is mainly due to the fact that no team is all that good. And even if they are decent, they aren't that much better than the other teams in the division. The division standings are as follows:

Division Record
Denver Broncos
7 – 5
3 – 2
Oakland Raiders
7 – 5
2 – 2
Kansas City Chiefs
5 – 7
2 – 2
San Diego Chargers
5 – 7
2 – 3

First and last place are separated by just two games, and with four remaining, it remains possible that any team can still win the division (so you're saying we got a chance?). The hopes and dreams of the Chiefs season relies on their performances against the Jets and Packers in the next two weeks, and if they are successful then we get rematches against the Broncos and Raiders that could be significant for a playoff run.

Do I think it's going to happen? Probably not; and because of this thought, I'm OK with the Chiefs not winning another game and jockeying for draft position. But at the same time, would I turn down a playoff opportunity in the final week of the season? Absolutely not. I'll get a Palko jersey and everything.

The surprise team of the AFC West and the NFL in general is Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos. Before Tebow (BT) the Broncos were 1-4. After Tebow (AT), the Broncos are 6-1. As @AndrewSiciliano of Twitter pointed out, "56 days ago, the Broncos were 1-4. Today, they sent out invoices for playoff tickets." It's been a wild ride on the Tebow Express.

The AFC West looks like it will come down to the wire. But if the Chiefs don't catch up and it's a two horse race against the Broncos and the Raiders, who will you prefer to win?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Livin' on a Prayer: Chiefs vs. Bears

KC - 10                 CHI - 3

The game wasn't pretty, it wasn't fun to watch, it was even a bit painful at times, but it was one in which the Chiefs walked away victorious.

Matt Forte was knocked out early by a Derrick Johnson helmet to the knee, which made the match up of back up quarterbacks and running backs one that made offensive coordinators grimace. Defenses became very important at that point, and today, the Chiefs defense was better.

The Chiefs aren't going to win many games with the template they demonstrated Sunday, but it was good enough for one.

What the Chiefs Did Right

  • Once again, the Chiefs defense kept this team in the game. They shut down the Chicago offense, much like they did the Steelers on Sunday Night. Granted, they were playing against Caleb Hanie and Marion Barber, but still, they did what was asked and they did it well. They held the Bears offense to 181 total yards, and forced three Hanie turnovers, one of which was in the endzone. The defense also went on to record seven sacks, several of which helped knock Chicago out of field goal range. 
  • Speaking of the defense, the Chiefs linebacking corps has been dominate. Derrick Johnson continued his Pro Bowl pace with 8 tackles and a sack, and Justin Houston continued his improved rookie season with 7 tackles and 3 sacks. Tyson Jackson got his first sack of the season, Jon McGraw got one, and so did Tamba Hali. 
  • The Chiefs offense did the least amount they could to win the game. Luckily for the Chiefs, they scored on a Hail Mary conversion before the end of the half that was deflected into the waiting hands of Dexter McCluster. This was the Chiefs first touchdown since the Broncos game, but it couldn't have come at a better time. 
  • The Chiefs running game finished with 113 rushing yards, and Tyler Palko had a decent game as a game manager, finishing 17/30 for 157 yards, 1 TD and NO INTs! That surprises me as well.
What the Chiefs Could Have Done Better
  • The Kyle Orton era in Kansas City was a short lived one. It lasted exactly one play, a flea flicker, and resulted in an incomplete pass and a dislocated finger. Orton didn't come in the rest of the game, and who knows if he will again this season. 
  • The Chiefs 3rd down conversion rate, especially in the second half was anemic. They would end the game 7-20. A lot of this stemmed from having long third down conversion attempts due to penalties. The Chiefs had eight penalties for 60 yards. 
  • Barry Richardson looked as awful as he had all year. He was called for a couple of those holding penalties, and he was getting beat by the Bears defenders often. I defended Richardson earlier this week after Jared Gaither's release on here and on Twitter, and he did his best to make me look like an idiot. 
At the end of the day, the Chiefs win. I have mixed feelings about the victory because of the upcoming draft, but that is a conversation (blog post) for another day.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Bear of a Season

Tomorrow afternoon, the Kansas City Chiefs take on the Chicago Bears, and as far as Todd Haley has let the public know, it will be the Tyler Palko - Caleb Hanie matchup the world has been waiting for.

The angle for the Chiefs entering this week's game was, of course, who was going to start at quarterback on Sunday. The debate was between the seven-turnover-in-two-games Palko and the new-toy-you-haven't-got-to-play-with-yet Kyle Orton. Palko was started and lost the last two games for the Chiefs, and many believed that Kyle Orton would step in and give the Chiefs a chance to win against his original team. Haley, however, had different plans.

"Tyler's our starter," coach Haley said. "We're getting Kyle ready to play."

This is not what a lot of Chiefs fans had in mind. It's been tough watching Palko over the last two weeks. If he was a rookie first round pick in his first few games of the season, I could stand to watch it. An undrafted free agent backup that's been out of college for several years now, however, doesn't leave much for hope for anything but a replacement.

When Jay Cutler of the Chicago Bears went down, Hanie didn't do very well in his stead either, losing a game to the Oakland Raiders. The Bears, sitting at 7-4, are fighting for their playoff lives and need this win against the Chiefs to hope to make the postseason. The Chiefs, on the other hand, find themselves in yet another week of playing for nothing but pride, being all but eliminated from the playoffs with a 4-7 record. While I always enjoy watching the Chiefs win, unless Orton comes in and saves the day (which with only a handfull of practices under his belt I doubt his effectiveness), I'm not hopeful about the odds of victory on the road.

Game Notes:

Tyler Palko: 47/72 (65.3%), 444 yards, 6 INTs
Caleb Hanie: 18/36 (50%), 254 yards, 2 TDs, 3 INTs

Jackie Battle:104 carries, 456 yards, 1 TD
Matt Forte: 198 carries, 985 yards, 3 TDs

Dwayne Bowe: 55 catches, 819 yards, 4 TDs
Johnny Knox: 28 catches, 622 yards, 2 TDs

Chiefs Defense: Pass - 12th (225.3 ypg), Rush - 26th (133.7 ypg)
Bears Defense: Pass - 30th (270.5 ypg), Rush - 8th (98.6 ypg)