Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Super Bowl Precedents

Another Super Bowl is upon us, and that means another post about what it takes to win a Super Bowl. Or, in this case, to make a Super Bowl. I say make a Super Bowl because the common factor that links both the Giants and the Patriots is the quarterback position.

And it just wouldn't be a Chiefs offseason if fans didn't criticize the starting quarterback.

It has become increasingly obvious over the last decade that a team cannot win a Super Bowl without a great quarterback behind center. There are exceptions to the rule, of course, having seen the likes of Trent Dilfer (Baltimore) and Brand Johnson (Tampa Bay) win Super Bowls within recent memory. But even those examples are becoming dated.

Since Johnson won in 2003 behind the dominating Bucs defense (the MVP even went to a defensive player), the winning QBs have been: Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers. These QBs are consensus elite or near-elite, and it seems that the quarterbacks importance throughout the league has mirrored this Super Bowl championship trend.

Sure, average QBs have made it to the big game. Rex Grossman is the best example (Jake Delhomme used to be good and Matt Hasselbeck is still a solid option at QB). But his team lost, and they have yet to return to the Super Bowl.

That's what happens to teams without great QBs. They can be successful for a year, maybe even two or three. But unless that QB gets better over the years, these teams can never have the sustained success that an elite quarterback can provide. The Patriots are always contenders, the Packers nearly swept the board, Drew Brees carried the Saints to another NFC South title, and their is perhaps not a more consistently good team as the Steelers with Ben Roethlisberger.

If you don't believe the importance a quarterback has on a team (which after this season is ridiculous), look no further than Indianapolis and their two wins with Peyton Manning out all season.

And, as if to put one final cap on the record setting quarterback season that was, two of the top QBs in the NFL square off in the Super Bowl once again. Both these QBs have succeeded during the regular and post season, play at their best in the fourth quarter, and can put the team on their back at any point during the game. But more importantly, these quarterbacks make teams like the Chiefs look foolish.

The Patriots and Giants have embraced the need of great QBs. No matter how bad those teams' defenses are, they find ways to win because of the offense. And yet the Chiefs, among others, are figuratively ignoring this revolution and building a team like it's 1991. The Chiefs stay in games because of defense, and like to run the ball rather than throwing it.

While this worked for a division title last season, it seems this against the current mentality, while the safe route, can no longer be the successful route.

Although, building a team around a quarterback doesn't come without risk.

I mentioned the 2011 Colts earlier. If the team wasn't completely built around Peyton Manning, the Colts would have had more success than they did this season. Instead, a team that had won the AFC South 7 out of the last 8 years and had been a beacon for consistency only found a way to win twice in sixteen tries. The Chiefs, having lost Cassel and experiencing the Tyler Palko experience, still managed 7 wins with a tough schedule.

While the Chiefs are built as an all-around team that can compete for the playoffs year after year in the near future, it seems they do not possess the main ingredient of a Super Bowl title: a good quarterback. While losing a franchise QB would hurt for a year, banners hang forever and a great QB seems the path of least resistance in attaining one.

Great QBs don't grow on trees, however, and they are few and far between. Unless the Chiefs find a way to get Peyton Manning, I don't expect them to have one in the near future. Matt Cassel is an average quarterback. He's not great, but he's not that bad. His Total QB Rating and his regular QB rating will show you that he is right in the middle of the pack in regards to starting NFL quarterbacks over the last three seasons. Many other teams are in the same boat, but it's those same teams that usually don't play late into January (besides the divine exception of Tim Tebow).

Can the Chiefs win with Matt Cassel? Yes. They did it last year. But can the Chiefs win a Super Bowl with Matt Cassel? At this point in time, my answer is No.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Year of the Tight End

While watching the defensive travesty that is the Pro Bowl, something Mike Mayock said at the beginning of the game caught my attention. Mayock, being able to watch some of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play in the NFL showcase their talent in the Pro Bowl, decided to mention the tight ends first instead. He called 2011 the year of the tight end, and said the game has been revolutionized in their favor.

The tight end position has indeed become more valuable over the years, but none more so than 2011. It's not just the importance of the position that has changed, it's the kind of players that has also changed.

Kellen Winslow and Shannon Sharpe were considered innovators and pioneers for the tight end position, offering the ability to both block and catch. Since then, teams have always tried to have a good receiving tight end on their roster. The big bodies combined with the soft hands of these players offers all sorts of mismatches for the defense in coverage, whether it be safeties, linebackers or cornerbacks.

In an interview for an ESPN article back in December regarding the tight end position, Aaron Hernandez of the New England Patriots spoke of the mismatch created. "We're also bigger than wide receivers, so it's hard for defensive backs to cover us and it's tough for linebackers to keep up. It just puts the defense at a disadvantage."

And now, it seems like the innovation of the position continues.

As Mayock pointed out, three of the four tight ends participating in the Pro Bowl were former college basketball players: Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates and Jimmy Graham. And all three of these players are regarded as among the best in the NFL; Gonzalez regarded as possibly the best ever.

But why does basketball skills help translate into proficiency at the tight end position?

"I think it's just the position," said Jake Ballard, who was a top Ohio basketball player before he became a tight end at Ohio State and eventually with the Giants. "You want your tight end to be a big, athletic kid, and a lot of times those kids are the basketball players in the school, too. That just naturally happens ... If you take an average-sized basketball player who is 6-6 or 6-5 and you put him on the football field, he's a big, athletic guy and he can make plays for you."

It's this success of very athletic tight ends that made former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator and new Indianapolis Colts head coach, Chuck Pagano, refer to the trend as "basketball on grass."

"There's definitely been an evolution at that position since I came in," said former Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez. "Now it seems like everybody has a 6-5 guy who can make plays."

Of course, it's impossible to talk about tight end play this year without mentioning the New England Patriots. While neither Aaron Hernandez or Rob Gronkowski played college basketball, they offer a different kind of revolution for the tight end position. There are two of them.

Having one good receiving tight end has done wonders for many offenses around the NFL, but having two has gotten New England to the Super Bowl.

Think that is an exaggeration? Gronkowski and Hernandez were the second and third leading receivers for the Patriots this year respectively. They accounted for 169 catches (42% of all catches), 2,237 yards (43% of all receiving yards), and 24 touchdowns (62% of all TDs) for the Patriots. For two players to account for so much of the receiving yards, and not even be wide receivers, is absolutely remarkable.

So, why do I write about the tight end position?

The Chiefs were without their premiere tight end, Tony Moeaki, all of last season after he tore his ACL in the final preseason game. The result was a committee approach to the position between the likes of Leonard Pope, Jake O'Connell, and Anthony Becht. Even assuming that Moeaki comes back from his surgery and rehabilitation at full health, with the way the league has evolved, I believe it would be foolish for the Chiefs not to invest in another tight end.

The Chiefs had three mediocre tight ends combine for 34 catches, 325 yards and 1 TD. Moeaki in 2010 had 47 catches, 556 yards and 3 TDs as a rookie. With Moeaki back, and another tight end joining the team via draft or free agency, the Chiefs could do their best to recreate the Patriots tight end blue print. And with the assumed return of Matt Cassel as quarterback, he could use the additional security blanket that a second receiving tight end option would offer.

According to Mayock of NFL Network (who's opinion on the draft I value highly), the top five tight end prospects entering the draft are: Dwayne Allen - Clemson; Coby Fleener - Stanford; Orson Charles - Georgia; Ladarius Green - Louisiana Lafayette; and Michael Egnew - Mizzou. I'm not saying that tight end should be the top priority for the Chiefs in the draft (my money is on the Chiefs trading down and picking up a offensive tackle later in the first round), but grabbing a good hands tight end should be near the top of the list in draft needs for Scott Pioli.

The use of the tight end is not just a fad, it's here to stay. So let's take a look at the seasons the top ten tight ends had this year:

  1. Rob Gronkowski: 90 catches, 1,327 yards (NFL record), 17 TDs (NFL record)
  2. Jimmy Graham: 99 catches, 1,310 yards, 11 TDs
  3. Jason Witten: 79 catches, 942 yards, 5 TDs
  4. Aaron Hernandez: 79 catches, 910 yards, 7 TDs
  5. Tony Gonzalez: 80 catches, 875 yards, 7 TDs
  6. Dustin Keller: 65 catches, 815 yards, 5 TDs
  7. Brent Celek: 62 catches, 811 yards, 5 TDs
  8. Fred Davis: 59 catches, 796 yards, 3 TDs
  9. Vernon Davis: 67 catches, 792 yards, 6 TDs
  10. Antonio Gates: 64 catches, 778 yards, 7 TDs

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Chiefs Pro Bowl Performance

AFC - 59             NFC - 41

The Pro Bowl was as offensive-oriented as always, but that doesn't mean I couldn't enjoy watching Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali represent the Chiefs on defense.

With the rules restricting (handicapping) the defense, and the sort of 'gentleman's agreement' the players have to avoid hard hitting and injuries, the game was meant to be an offensive showcase with a lot of scoring. And from that angle, it did not disappoint, being the highest scoring Pro Bowl ever.

But the defense was a factor, with eight combined turnovers being forced during the course of the game. And the Chiefs own Derrick Johnson was behind one of those turnovers. After NFC quarterback Cam Newton was forced out of pocket, he threw up a prayer that was easily picked off by AFC safety Eric Weddle. On the return, Weddle half fumbled it/half pitched it to Derrick Johnson that was helping on the return. Johnson, with the ball in his hands, weaved in and out of an unmotivated and hesitant to tackle offense and found his way to the endzone, credited with a 60 yard touchdown return. With no offensive Chiefs players represented at the event, it was nice to see Johnson find the endzone. In addition to his touchdown, Johnson also had two tackles.

Tamba Hali, a pass rusher in a game that doesn't allow blitzing, was a quiet non-factor, which is what usually happens to linebackers participating in the Pro Bowl. He registered no tackles, and was spotty in coverage (with the rest of both defenses), getting beat by Jimmy Graham on a touchdown pass (pictured to the right). But I don't think this lack of pass covering skills was much of a surprise to Chiefs fans.

All-around, I thought the Pro Bowl was, at least, entertaining. And it's always good to be able to watch your favorite team's players represented. And even better to watch them score.

And let's not forget the extra $25 thousand the players on the winning team each get. That should add to Johnson's and Hali's experience.

Killer B's

Check out Steve Breaston's new avatar on Twitter. This is a pretty awesome picture depicting the ninja-like versions of Jonathan Baldwin, Dwayne Bowe, and Breaston (left to right). Also, it makes me hope even more that the Chiefs can keep the wide receiver corps intact for next season, which is reliant on if Dwayne Bowe returns via new contract or franchise tag. Nevertheless, you have to love the creativity.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Pay the Man

Just when I thought the storm of speculation regarding the front office of the Chiefs had blown over, here comes another report that shines a bad light on the team we love.

Rumors are coming out of an Arizona radio station that the Chiefs are refusing to pay former head coach the remainder of his $12 million contract, of which he had a year left. Grammar assassination aside, the tweet Arizona Radio Reporter Mike Jurecki sent out yesterday evening has created waves around the NFL, but none more than in Kansas City, where fans are already knee-deep in shame created by the Kent Babb article published earlier in the month citing Todd Haley saying he thought his phones were bugged by the Chiefs. Arrowhead Anxiety was the name of the article, and it certainly created a lot of anxiety across the fanbase.

Now fans have to deal with this. And unlike a newspaper article that blew over in a week or so, this story might take a little longer. That is because Jurecki said that the reason the Chiefs are refusing to pay Haley the remainder of what he is owed is because the team fired him "for cause."

None of this has been confirmed, and the Chiefs would not oblige with questions, saying that they "have no comment at this time." When things like this come out, however, it usually tends to be true.

"For cause" is a very well-placed legal term that employers can use when justifying a termination. In the business world, it means that an employee did something that was against the best interests of the company. For the Chiefs, it means that the team is claiming Haley did some sort of wrongdoing or breach of contract. If the Chiefs carry through with not paying Haley his money, the only way he can get it is by entering a claim to the league office for it to be resolved (employees forfeit their right to sue when becoming coaches). The catch, however, is that the league office tends to favor the people who pay their bills: the 32 owners of the NFL.

If true, the Chiefs wouldn't be the first team to use the "for cause" reasoning to not pay a former head coach. In 2010, the Broncos contemplated adding cause to the Josh McDaniels firing. Here's what an ESPN article written shortly after the firing said:

"Since the videotaping incident, the team has researched whether it could do just that and fire McDaniels 'for cause' and avoid paying him the balance of his contract, team and league sources told ESPN. The Broncos have sought to clarify with legal counsel and the NFL management council on whether the words of chief operating officer Joe Ellis would hurt the team's case on a "for cause" firing of McDaniels, the sources said. Ellis had stated in a conference call on Nov. 27 that he did not consider the videotaping incident a 'fireable offense.'"

Of course, the Broncos didn't go through with it, but another AFC West team did. That team is the Oakland Raiders. Al Davis first did it with Mike Shanahan in 1989, but the most recent example (and only one I can really think of) came in 2008 when Davis fired then head coach Lane Kiffin.

After Kiffin was fired, Al Davis gave a press conference as a sort of airing of grievences he had with Kiffin, and, in his mind, justified the "for cause" addition to the Kiffin firing. In what has become known as the famous "JaMarcus Russell is a good quarterback, get over it!" speech, Davis said:

"I'm firing him for cause now, I'm not firing him for anything else other than cause ..." [And then Davis began to read from a letter he had written Kiffin] "Over the past months you have made a number of public statements that were highly critical and designed to embarrass and discredit the organization its players and coaches. I left you alone during training camp, the implication when you were doing these things, in the hopes you would cease your immature and destructive campaign. I wanted to make this work. ...

"Your actions are those of a coach looking to make excuses for not winning, rather than of a coach focused on winning. " These ramblings of Davis went on and on for the better part of an hour, but apparently the Raiders had enough grounds, because they won their case against Kiffin and the Raiders did not have to pay him the remaining $3.5 million the contract had originally entitled the "flat-out liar" to.

I don't expect the Chiefs to do a press conference, and for Scott Pioli to read a letter about why Todd Haley had to be fired. That, if it's at all possible, would just make the situation worse. But I would like Scott Pioli and the Chiefs organization to address the situation professionally, and give the fans some closure from the bad situation the front office put us through. 

Do I think it's a coincidence that this report was broken by a radio reporter in Arizona during the same week that Todd Haley was reportedly visiting the Cardinals about an assistant coaching position with the team? No. Do I think that it's a coincidence that this report came out after the allegations in the Kansas City Star? Perhaps. The Chiefs couldn't just now decide that he was fired "for cause" now, they would have had to do that at the time (of course, if Haley's phones were bugged, they could prove Haley was harming the organization. On the other hand, it would be a little awkward to turn in transcripts of conversation by Haley made from his personal cell phone ...). 

How do the Chiefs solve this problem? Pay the man. Make this go away as quickly as possible (if it is true). It kills me a little inside knowing that the Chiefs and Raiders could have a dubious similarity. Even if you think Haley deserved to be fired (which I would disagree with), surely you can't think that taking this to NFL court in light of the recent rumors surrounding Arrowhead is worth it.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Offensive Coordinator Talent from South Beach?

The Twitter world is abuzz tonight with inclinations that the Chiefs new offensive coordinator is close to being had. This very well may be true, since head coach Romeo Crennel had been conducting interviews all this week while at the Senior Bowl. “This is a great venue for that because there are so many coaches here” Crennel said in an interview with Josh Looney of kcchiefs.com. "It gives you an opportunity to do a good, thorough job of trying to finding the best guy that will fit the situation that we’re in.”

And, if the increase in tweets regarding a certain person count for anything, they would lead you to believe that person is Brian Daboll.

I mentioned Daboll in an article of potential candidates last week. This mention of his name wasn't the first time Daboll's name has been tossed around as a candidate. His four years of experience with Crennel and GM Scott Pioli dating back to New England is all the connection some need to assume the Chiefs might be interested.

Well, since his name is now "hot" on Twitter to take over the offensive play calling helm, let's examine how effective he's been while being an offensive coordinator:

2009 - Cleveland Browns Offensive Coordinator

  • 32nd in total offense (260.2 ypg), 29th in points per game (15.3), -12 turnover differential, 23rd in Time of Possession per game (28:54)
    • Leading Passer: Brady Quinn - 136/256 (53.1%) 1,339 yards, 8 TDs, 7 INTs
    • Leading Rusher: Jerome Harrison - 194 carries, 862 yards (4.4 ypc), 5 TDs
    • Leading Receiver: Mohamed Massaquoi - 34 catches, 624 yards, 3 TDs

2010 - Cleveland Browns Offensive Coordinator

  • 29th in total offense (289.7 ypg), 31st in points per game (16.9), -1 turnover differential, 27th in Time of Possession per game (28:21)
    • Leading Passer: Colt McCoy - 135/222 (60.8%) 1,576 yards, 6 TDs, 9 INTs
    • Leading Rusher: Peyton Hillis - 270 carries, 1,177 yards (4.4 ypc), 11 TDs
    • Leading Receiver: Benjamin Watson - 68 catches, 763 yards, 3 TDs

2011 - Miami Dolphins Offensive Coordinator
  • 22nd in total offense (317.4 ypg), 20th in points per game (20.6), -6 turnover differential, 10th in Time of Possession per game (30:37)
    • Leading Passer: Matt Moore - 210/347 (60.5%) 2,497 yards, 16 TDs, 9 INTs
    • Leading Rusher: Reggie Bush - 216 carries, 1,086 yards (5.0 ypc), 6 TDs
    • Leading Receiver: Brandon Marshall - 81 catches, 1,214 yards, 6 TDs

These numbers aren't very encouraging if the Chiefs want a big-time offensive coordinator that can turn around a dismal 2011 offense. One could argue that Daboll has had to coordinate some bad offenses in his three seasons, and the stats of the teams he's been apart of have improved, but even the positive signs don't shine much optimism on his potential hire.

But let's remember, this is all hypothetical. It's not guarantee that Daboll is the guy or is even a favorite in the Chiefs camp for the position. “We’re still in that process and things are going good,” Crennel said Tuesday evening. “We will continue to go through this process and when we get it all finalized, then we’ll let everyone know.”

I don't care how long it takes, as long as the right decision is made.

You Make the Choice

The last post on my Pro Bowl comparisons comes at a very competitive position: Middle Linebacker. The Chiefs have had some great linebackers over the years, and Derrick Johnson, a Pro Bowler for the first time this season, is adding to that strong legacy.

Just like my explanation for Bobby Bell in the Tamba Hali comparisons, defensive statistics were not kept religiously like they are today, so Chiefs MLBs who made the Pro Bowl before things such as tackles were recorded can only be talked about in brief. But it's still a nice little trip down memory lane, and a good history lesson for myself as well as anyone reading.

1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974 and 1975 - Willie Lanier: One of the greatest Middle Linebackers to ever play the game, Lanier was a man among boys during his 11 seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs. During that time, he was also named to two AFL All-Star games (1968, 1969), and was selected to the All-Pro list 8 times. Lanier was a 2nd round pick in the 1967 draft out of Morgan State, and would become a pivotal anchor in the strong defense that lead to the Chiefs only Super Bowl win. During the 1971 Pro Bowl, he was actually selected the Most Valuable Player (a weird concept that a defensive player could be MVP when you think of the Pro Bowls of today). Lanier was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986, and his number 63 has forever been retired by the Chiefs, the only team he ever played for.

1988 - Dino Hackett: Believe it or not, the NFL still did not keep official defensive stats except for sacks and interceptions in 1988. Tackles were a stat that was kept by the individual team, and unfortunately, the Chiefs do not list Hackett's 1988 season. What we do know is that the 1986 second round pick out of Appalachian State had 3 sacks that season, and the league determined he was good enough to make his one and only Pro Bowl in 1988. While I said Hackett's tackles in 1988 aren't available, the Chiefs do list him as having the second most tackles by a Chiefs rookie during the 1986 season, with 140 (those numbers the Chiefs keep are always a little high though). He played for the Chiefs from 1986 to 1992.

2011 - Derrick Johnson: Johnson followed up a Pro Bowl snub season in 2010 with an even better and stronger Pro Bowl invite year in 2011. Johnson would finish the season with 131 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, 2 interceptions, 9 pass deflections, and was selected as the Chiefs MVP by his teammates at the end of the season. It's the 2005 first round pick's first Pro Bowl, and if he continues to be the best player on the Chiefs defense, it won't be his last. I hope Johnson enjoys the Pro Bowl as much as I enjoy watching him play defense for the Chiefs.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

You Make the Choice

With the Pro Bowl this Sunday, I decided to repeat a series of posts I did last year with the Chiefs that made the Pro Bowl, comparing their season to Pro Bowl seasons of the past by Chiefs players in the same position. I enjoyed it so much last season, that there was no way I was going to miss out on it this season if any Chiefs players were selected, and luckily, Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali are both first-time participants so I get to do some original research.

I will only be addressing Pro Bowl seasons after the AFL-NFL merger of 1970, so if I don't mention anyone before that year, that is why. Also, if you like to live in the past, here are the posts I did last year for Matt Cassel and the Quarterbacks, Jamaal Charles and the Running Backs, Dwayne Bowe and the Wide Receivers, and Eric Berry and the Strong Safeties

So, starting with outside linebacker, I will make the list. There is a catch, however. Unfortunately, defensive statistics weren't kept as religiously as they are today; sacks by defensive players weren't recorded by the NFL until 1982, and tackles have only been loosely recorded by teams and not recorded by the NFL until 2001. The Chiefs don't have tackles compiled before 1977 or sacks before 1973. So I will only be able to mention Bobby Bell's three Pro Bowl appearances.

1970, 1971 and 1972 - Bobby Bell: Bell is considered one of the best defensive players in Chiefs history, and has been the gold standard set for all Outside Linebackers to follow his footsteps in a Kansas City uniform. He was a second round pick in 1963, and spent his entire career with the Chiefs. He helped solidify one of the most daunted defenses in NFL history that helped lead the Chiefs to two Super Bowl appearances and one victory. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as the first Chief to do so in 1983.

1989 - Derrick Thomas: Now we get to one of the greatest and most beloved players in Kansas City Chiefs history. Thomas was a rookie in the 1989 season, having been selected 4th overall out of Alabama. That season, Thomas would record 75 tackles, 10 sacks, 3 forced fumbles (FF) and 1 fumble recovery (FR). No other rookie would make the Pro Bowl for the Chiefs until Eric Berry in 2010. It was the start to a Hall of Fame career

1990 - Derrick Thomas: The 1990 season was the first playoff year for Thomas and the rejuvenated Kansas City Chiefs. Paired with Neil Smith and under the coaching of Coach Marty, the Chiefs defense was a real threat and provided consistency throughout the season, resulting in the Chiefs first playoff appearance since the 1986 season. That season, Thomas would go on to have 63 tackles, and set a Chiefs record with 20 sacks in a season, and a NFL record with 7 sacks in one game. 

1991 - Derrick Thomas: Another strong year resulted in another playoff appearance, this time making it to the divisional round. Thomas's numbers were 79 tackles, 13.5 sacks, 4 FR.

1992 - Derrick Thomas: 67 tackles, 14.5 sacks, 3 FR

1993 - Derrick Thomas: 43 tackles, 8 sacks, 4 FF 1 FR

1994 - Derrick Thomas: 65 tackle, 11 sacks, 4 FF 3 FR

1995 - Derrick Thomas: 48 tackles, 8 sacks, 2 FF 1 FR

1996 - Derrick Thomas: 47 tackles, 13 sacks, 5 FF 1 FR

1997 - Derrick Thomas: 34 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 3 FF

2011 - Tamba Hali: The first linebacker to make the Pro Bowl for the Chiefs since the late Derrick Thomas, Tamba Hali is actually coming off a better season in 2010 than he's had in 2011. Last year, Hali won the AFC Sack Crown finishing with 14.5 - second best in the NFL. This season, Hali finished with 12, which is second best in the AFC and 8th in the NFL. But Hali has also become a more complete player, and has increased his tackle total from 51 in 2010 to 66 in 2011 and has improved in coverage. And while he should have been selected to the Pro Bowl last season, it's better late than never. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Chiefs Thank Fans

During the AFC Championship game yesterday, I saw this commercial and was pleasantly surprised to see the Chiefs represented in it. It was a thanking of fans, and several teams - Vikings, Dolphins, Rams, and Panthers - were featured singing "Wind Beneath My Wings" to fans in their respective communities. The Chiefs were represented by Matt Cassel, Derrick Johnson, Brandon Flowers, Dexter McCluster, owner Clark Hunt and several cheerleaders.

According to the Chiefs website, the thank you took place in Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue on 22nd street in Kansas City, Missouri. It also aired during the NFC Championship game and will air once more before the Super Bowl.

While it was cool seeing the Chiefs along with other teams thanking the fans, it would have been better watching a game featuring the Chiefs rather than a 48 second commercial. But oh well, there's always next year.

To see the commercial, click here.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

In Search for an Offensive Coordinator

93% of all communication is nonverbal.

With the 'loose lips sink ships' mentality the Chiefs organization practices, it's these nonverbal cues that fans have to rely upon for any information regarding the team. Sometimes sources come out and give the media tidbits of information: Romeo Crennel being made HC, Joe Philbin interviewing with the Chiefs for the HC position. But these are the exceptions, not the rules. Rarely do fans know what's going on within the team, and that's how the Chiefs prefer it.

But the Chiefs offensive coordinator position has turned into a nonverbal cue that the Chiefs brass can't deny. It's a position that has to be filled, and waiting to make a hire leads me to believe that the Chiefs are communicating their intentions without saying a word.

While I am not great at interpreting Chiefs nonverbal cues, I can narrow it down to three meanings:
  1.  The Chiefs are waiting/have been waiting to hire a coach from a playoff team 
  2. The Chiefs already have the next OC on their team 
  3. The Chiefs have no idea what they are doing 
Option One

Adam Teicher, a writer for the Kansas City Star who follows the Chiefs, said this about the search for an OC: "I think the'yre definitely going to be going outside to find their coordinator." If this is true, then you have to believe that the Chiefs have been waiting on an opportunity to interview a coach that was or is currently on a playoff team.

The remaining four playoff teams - Patriots, Ravens, 49ers and Giants - all have coaching staffs that will be highly sought after when their season comes to an end. Other playoff teams, such as the Packers and Broncos, already have their offensive coaches getting interviews for head coaching positions. These playoff coaching staffs will be hot commodities, and ones that the Scott Pioli might be waiting for.

This would go along with what Michael Lombardi from NFL Network wrote at the end of the season about the Chiefs wanting to pursue a high profile offensive coordinator to pair with Romeo Crennel as head coach. With Crennel being defensively oriented, getting a big name OC would make sense for the Chiefs. These options are starting to become fewer with other teams filling their needs as well, and these coaches won't remain available for much longer. But here are some coaches that made it to the playoffs that will have suitors (some are bigger names than others):

  • 49ers OC Greg Roman 
    • Brought over from Jim Harbough's Stanford coaching staff, Roman has helped make one of the worst teams in the league one game away from the Super Bowl. 
  • Giants OC Kevin Gilbride
    • Gilbride has had a long and varied career in the NFL. He has been the OC of five different NFL teams, QB coach of two different teams, and head coach for one season for the Chargers. Gilbride has been OC for the Giants since 2007, and has been part of much success in New York with Eli Manning, including their Super Bowl run. Gilbride is very capable, and might get some HC looks when the Giants season comes to an end. OC in KC wouldn't be too bad for Chiefs fans though. 
  • Denver OC Mike McCoy 
    • In a season that featured two different kinds of offense for the Broncos during the season, McCoy was praised around the league for his versatility and ability to adapt to Tim Tebow's skill sets and have success. McCoy was pursued by the Oakland Raiders and Miami Dolphins for their available HC position. He even declared himself as the favorite for the Dolphins job before Joe Philbin, the Packers OC, was awarded the job yesterday. If McCoy doesn't get another HC job interview, he could decide to head to the Chiefs to become the heir to Romeo Crennel. This one is doubtful, because McCoy could return to the Broncos and try his luck again next year.
  • Green Bay QB Coach Tom Clements 
    • Clements was a NFL and CFL QB during his playing career, and has been coaching the position since 1992. He spent one year in KC as a QB coach (2000) and has been the QB coach in Green Bay since 2006. He helped in the development of Aaron Rodgers as well as possible 2012 starter Matt Flynn. Clements also has one season of OC experience with the Bills. Although Clements doesn't have the sort of experience calling plays as other potential candidates I have listed do, he clearly knows how to develop QBs. That can't hurt. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Should I Stay or Should I Go Now? Part 3

This post wraps up my three-part series on the Chiefs free agents. To catch up, here's the Backs & Receivers, and Offensive Line, Defensive Line and Linebackers.

Defensive Back

  • Cornerback Brandon Carr: Carr is arguably the biggest retention target the Chiefs have this offseason. A franchise tag is a possibility. Carr has been the number two corner opposite teammate Brandon Flowers since being draft. He has turned into a solid defender and a team could make him a number one corner if Carr makes it to free agency. I think we all know the answer to this one - 
  • Defensive Back Travis Daniels: Daniels is a type of player you can bring in on obvious passing downs as a nickel corner, but nothing really more than that. But if 2011 tells Chiefs fans anything, it's that depth is important. Daniels has 7 years experience, and finished last season with 14 tackles and 2 interceptions. 
  • Safety Reshard Langford: Langford got playing time this season because of the number of injuries the Chiefs had at safety. When Eric Berry went down for the season, a number of players got the opportunity to play in his place, none coming close to his effectiveness. Langford mainly got time when Jon McGraw was injured later in the season. A decent run stopper, Langford struggled in coverage, and got beat more than once. With Berry set to return and Kendrick Lewis establishing himself, Langford is - 
  • Safety Jon McGraw: McGraw was the next man up after Berry went down, and he was valuable to the defense. He offered veteran leadership to a very young secondary, and had decent stats in his starts. Ending the season with 47 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble and 3 interceptions, McGraw helped bring some stability to a rotating group of safeties. While I don't expect him to start next year, it's always good to have a guy like McGraw ready to go at a moment's notice.
  • Safety Sabby Piscitelli: Brought in during training camp, many fans hoped Piscitelli wouldn't make it past the last cut. But not only did Piscitelli make the final roster, he played in all 16 games. He was recorded with 34 tackles and 2 forced fumbles this season, but I have to suspect most of those tackles came after he let his man behind him and gave up the pass. As Bill Barnwell of Grantland said: "[Piscitelli's] unique mix of blown tackles, dreadful instincts, and inflated ego really make him the worst player to see regular time in the NFL over the past several years." Depth be darned, this one's for the principle of the matter -
That concludes my Chiefs free agent breakdown. I hope you enjoyed it. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

How Much Does Drafting Matter?

With the playoffs in full swing and the conference championships set, it's natural for fans of teams on the outside looking in to wonder about how the remaining teams have got to this point. They can look at management styles, they can look at coaching, but the main thing that it comes down to are the players that team has representing them on the field.

Seeing the players on the field, and the talent these remaining teams - Giants, 49ers, Ravens and Patriots - possess, it's fair to assume this talent is related to drafting and free agency. And while everyone loves free agency because it gives fans something to constantly talk about, the draft is what builds teams. The playoffs show you how important it is.

Let's look at the offenses: Of the four remaining teams' starting offenses according to NFL.com's current depth charts (44 players), there are 15 first round draft picks. That's 34.1%. When you exclude full backs, that number raises to 37.5%. And three of the four teams have a first round pick at quarterback. Second round picks made up 25% of the offenses, third round was 9%, fourth 2%, fifth 5%, sixth 5%, seventh 2%, and undrafted free agents 18% (two of four Full Backs). Of these four teams, no one comes close to the 49ers, who have 7 first round draft picks, and no undrafted free agents on their roster.

For defense, the numbers break down as: 18 first round picks - 41%, second round made up 16%, third round was 11.4%, fourth round 9%, fifth round 9%, sixth round 2.3%, seventh round 2.3%, undrafted free agents 9%. Any guesses on the teams with the most first round picks? It's tied with five between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers. Go figure.

Correlation does not equal causation and these numbers could not mean a thing. But just for fun, let's see how the Chiefs starting offense and defense breaks down to these comparisons:

The Chiefs offense at the end of the season consisted of 3 first round picks (27%), 2 third round picks (18%), 2 fourth round picks (18%), 1 fifth round pick (9%), 1 sixth round pick (9%), and 2 undrafted free agents (18%). The four remaining playoff teams averaged 68.1% of their offensive players drafted in the first three rounds. The Chiefs offense was made up of 45% players drafted in the first three rounds, with the majority coming in the later rounds.

According to these numbers, the Chiefs don't quite have a deep playoff offense. I think we can all agree that's an accurate statement.

For defense, the Chiefs broke down (end of season, so Eric Berry is not included): 4 first round picks (36%), 1 second round pick (9%), 1 third round pick (9%), 2 fifth round picks (18%), 1 sixth round pick (9%), and 2 undrafted free agents (18%). 68.4% of the championship teams' defenses were drafted in the first three rounds, a slightly higher margin than for the offense. The Chiefs defense consisted of 54% of its players drafted in the first three rounds. With Eric Berry back next season, it raises the percentage to 63.5%, still below average, but not by far.

According to these numbers, the Chiefs are close to becoming a deep playoff caliber kind of defense. If the end of the season is any indication, I think most fans would also agree with that state.

Like I said earlier, numbers don't always matter. And since Scott Pioli is wanting to bring the Patriot Way to Kansas City, I find it only fair to compare both teams. The Patriots offense has only two first round picks, 18%, 4 second round picks (36%), 1 sixth round pick (9%) and 4 undrafted free agents (36%). That's 54% drafted in the first three rounds. On defense, 4 first round picks (36%), 2 second round picks (18%), 2 fifth round picks (18%), and 3 undrafted free agents (27%). Once again, that's 54% on defense. These are both below the averages, but very comparable to the Chiefs numbers.

Looking at these numbers, it seems that Scott Pioli is indeed bringing a Patriot strategy to the Chiefs (although most of the players on the team were around before Pioli). So what's keeping the Chiefs Way from resembling the success of the Patriot Way?

Player Experience? Aggressiveness in Free Agency? Coaching?

Or a guy named Tom Brady?

[And yes, I have a lot of free time on my hands with the Chiefs not in the playoffs]

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Should I Stay or Should I Go Now? Part 2

As promised, here's part two of my Chiefs free agent breakdown. And as always, I break down each player with a brief reason and then a label of VALUABLE or EXPENDABLE. Like I said last year in these series, it's sometimes tough to label players on an up-and-coming team as expendable, but the only constant in the NFL is change, and the 2012 Chiefs will look different from the 2011 Chiefs. Part 1 was Backs & Receivers.

Offensive Line

  • Offensive Tackle Ryan O'Callaghan: Put on injured reserve before the season started, O'Callaghan's year never got started. 6'7" and 330 lbs, he was brought over in 2009 from the Patriots to be the right tackle. But as much as I love size at the offensive line position, O'Callaghan was beat out for the position in 2010 by Barry Richardson. That only means one thing - 
  • Offensive Tackle Barry Richardson: Whenever his name is mentioned by Chiefs fans, criticism is sure to follow. And it's fair criticism. Offensive line statistics will show you he's one of the worst tackles in the league, scouting will tell you he's bad, the penalty numbers will tell you he's bad, all signs point to him being bad. But, before we cut him, let's consider depth. He's been a two year starter, and although he's an unrestricted free agent, I doubt he has anywhere else to go. I think the Chiefs need to bring him back, not to start, but to add to the depth on the offensive line, which the Chiefs have very little of right now. Plus he'd be cheap. So, I begrudgingly state that Richardson is -
  • Center Casey Wiegmann: This decision will probably be taken out of the hands of the Chiefs anyway, because I suspect he will retire. He came back last season on a one year deal, and I bet not having to go through a long training camp following the lockout was a big factor in that decision. The Chiefs drafted Rodney Hudson in 2011 to be the heir to the 38 year old Wiegmann, so ...

Defensive Line & Linebackers
  • Defensive End Wallace Gilberry: Last year, I believed that Gilberry was a very valuable part of our defense. He was our second leading sacker last year behind only Tamba Hali, and could get a good pass rush coming in for Tyson Jackson or Glenn Dorsey on passing downs. But Gilberry's performance dipped last season, finishing with 2.5, down from his 7 in 2010. Gilberry also hasn't proven he's anything other than a one-trick pony as far as only being effective at rushing the passer and not stopping the run. Coupled with the emergence of Allen Bailey at the same position, I think the Chiefs can choose to move on if the price is too high.
  • Defensive Lineman Amon Gordon: Brought in for depth reasons during the offseason, Gordon survived training camp cuts to put up a decent season coming in during sub packages. The 6'2" 305 lbs Gordon is bigger than both Tyson Jackson and Glenn Dorsey, and also finished with more sacks than either player, having two.
  • Nose Tackle Kelly Gregg: Like Casey Wiegmann above, Kelly Gregg might decide to call it a career. The 12 year veteran Gregg is 320 lbs and is a prototypical nose tackle, and did a good job of replacing Ron Edwards, who left in free agency. With no clear heir to Gregg on the team (Jerrell Powe hasn't shown me enough to be confident in him taking over the role next year), I think Gregg should come back for one more year. Even at 35, he finished with 39 tackles and 1 sack. 
  • Linebacker Jovan Belcher: Chiefs fans might know Belcher as the other middle linebacker. That's what happens when you play next to Derrick Johnson. But despite being next to each other on the field, they serve two different roles. Belcher is the "thumper" of the Chiefs linebacking corps, eliminating lead blockers and allowing other players, like Derrick Johsnon, to make plays. "Probably half of my tackles come from Jovan blowing somebody up and I’m scraping over the top,” Johnson said. “He’s not a selfish guy. He knows what he has to do in this defense to allow certain people to scrape over the top for tackles. Sometimes in the 3-4 defense you have to be a sacrifice guy.” Being a restricted free agent, the Chiefs should have every opportunity to bring back Belcher. And though I wouldn't mind drafting a MLB this season for competiton/upgrade purposes, I think Belcher is a solid player that I like having on the team.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Around the AFC West

I sort of abandoned this post after the Chiefs were eliminated from playoff contention, but it's actually been a very busy offseason and playoff run for the rest of the AFC West teams. Let's catch up:

Tim Tebow did something last week that no quarterback in Kansas City has done since Joe Montana: win a playoff game. Say what you want about Tebow (most people do), but he has more playoff wins than Matt Cassel, Kyle Orton, Trent Green, Elvis Grbac, and Steve Bono. The Denver Broncos might have lost three straight games to enter the playoffs, and had to rely on the Oakland Raiders to choke to enter the playoffs, but they are making the most of their opportunity.

The Broncos won in overtime against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the number one defense in the NFL. Now they go on the road today against the New England Patriots. Being a Chiefs fan, it's hard to want the Broncos to succeed, but they sure do make for entertaining television.

As joyful as the last week has been for Denver, it's been equally matched by turmoil in Oakland. After hiring Reggie McKenzie as their new GM to replace the late Al Davis, his first move was to fire Hue Jackson as Head Coach. Jackson went 8-8 in his only year as HC in Oakland, and has turned the Raiders offense around since joining the staff in 2010. The reasoning, though, might be because of the amount of control Jackson took over in the Raiders front office after Davis's passing. He gave up a lot for Carson Palmer, and probably grabbed the reigns too quickly and too firmly.

"Sometimes people can take things and run with them," Jackson told NFL.com. "I've seen so many things said about me being power hungry, that I want to be the GM. I've never said that. I don't know many coaches in the National Football League that don't want input on his team, his coaching staff or how to go about conducting practice."

Jackson's firing puts him near the top of the list for available offensive coordinators. Could the Chiefs be interested ...?

Meanwhile, in San Diego, both GM A.J. Smith and HC Norv Turner survived another disappointing season, even though rumors were circulating during the season of the demise. While I think that Turner has drastically underachieved since coming to SD and probably should have been fired, I don't think getting rid of Turner would have been a good idea. The reason Turner is perceived as having underachieved is because of the teams and rosters Smith has assembled since arriving with the Chargers. He's made some risky personnel decisions, but he has also built a perennial contender. 

And for some Chiefs news: Romeo Crennel said in an interview Thursday on Sirius XM's NFL Radio with Adam Schein and former Chief Rich Gannon, that he would not relinquish the defensive play calling duties. It's a little bit of a risk by Crennel (look at Todd Haley's first season when he called the offensive plays), but he's done it for two seasons in KC, knows the defense better than anyone, and the team had success under his playcalling. Don't fix what's not broken. 

Also, according to a report that came out today, Chiefs "receivers coach Richie Anderson and assistant offensive line coach Pat Perles will not return." Even with Crennel being promoted, it was just a matter of time until some of the coaching staff was shaken up. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

What to do with Orton?

There are several players on the Chiefs roster that could have played their final game in a Chiefs uniform. Among those players are Dwayne Bowe, Brandon Carr and Kyle Orton.

While most fans would like to see the first two names listed return to KC next year, Kyle Orton's name causes the most conversation. Orton plays the most vital position in the game, and he is a polished starter. The only reason Orton is a Chief, however, is because incumbent starter Matt Cassel suffered a hand injury half-way through the season. If the Chiefs were to retain Orton, a quarterback controversy would be the only result.

In baseball, having too many quality pitchers is a good problem to have. In football, however, there is no rotation. In football, your starting quarterback should be the one you have the most confidence in to deliver in a big situation. And if there is doubt in the starter, than the backup becomes the most popular player on the team. When fans are calling for the backup, and in some cases, buying billboards in an attempt to get the head coaches attention, then the situation is not ideal. As the saying goes, if you have two QBs, you really don't have one at all.

As the Chiefs brass and players have been making their media rounds since the end of the season, the question of Kyle Orton vs. Matt Cassel has repeatedly come up. And as ambiguous as the answers are, they lead me to believe that Orton will not be coming back next season. Check them out after the jump.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Should I Stay or Should I Go Now? Part 1

With the season over, free agency is nearly upon us and it is time for the Chiefs to begin signing their players before other teams get the chance to steal them away. That is, if those players deserve to be signed.

Reminiscent to my Chiefs free agent breakdown last season, I will give my opinion on whether a player is VALUABLE or if he is EXPENDABLE. I will give a short reason why on each one and also mention what kind of free agent they are (Unrestricted, Restricted, or Exclusive Rights). I will be breaking down the free agents into their respective positions through the following posts: Backs & Receivers; Offensive Line, Defensive Line and Linebackers; and finally Defensive Backs.

I welcome feedback in the comment sections [Just for fun, here are my posts last year: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3]. 

Backs & Receivers

  • Running Back Jackie Battle: Last year, I listed Battle as expendable. Why wouldn't I? In 2010, Battle had only 50 rushing yards, only 118 on his career, and averaged only 1.25 carries per game. But in 2011, when Jamaal Charles went down with injury and Thomas Jones was exposed for the old man he is, Battle had a decent year filling the role. He had 597 yards on 149 carries (4.0 ypc) before being placed on Injured Reserve before the final game of the season. And while I don't think he should be the number two back next season, I do think this Unrestricted Free Agent is -
  • Running Back Thomas Jones: Jones is an UFA, but he also might retire. Either way, with diminishing skills and increasing age (33), he wore down as the season went along, and was never that good in 2011 to begin with. Finishing with 478 yards on 153 carries (3.1 ypc), it's time the Chiefs replace Jones with a young back via the draft.
  • Full Back Le'Ron McClain: Last season, the Chiefs had two full backs on the roster: Tim Castille and Mike Cox. Le'Ron McClain was able to replace both these players with his blocking and running ability. Although he was used mostly for blocking, both in the run and the pass, he has the ability to run the football on any given play effectively. I know we have Shane Bannon on the practice squad, but McClain is a versatile FB that is -
  • Quarterback Kyle Orton: Brought in after Matt Cassel went down with injury and Denver put him on waivers, Orton went 2-1 as the starter and nearly was able to compete in the playoffs. Although many people say he's the same kind of player as Matt Cassel, the eye test shows you he's better. I think Matt Cassel needs to be pushed, or even benched, and Orton should be given a chance to be the starter. While I don't think that will happen, I list Orton as - 
  • Quarterback Tyler Palko: If you watched Chiefs games this season, I won't have to explain this one. If you stopped watching after we were blown out by the Dolphins, here's the reason: 2 TDs, 7 INTs.
  • Wide Receiver Dwayne Bowe: Possibly the most important free agent of the Chiefs this season, Bowe has been the Chiefs best receiver since he was drafted in the first round of 2007. Bowe is a possible target for the Chiefs franchise tag, and I think if the Chiefs don't want to take another step back on offense, they keep this guy around.
  • Wide Receiver Jerheme Urban: Originally starting off the season as the third WR behind Bowe and Breaston, he was soon replaced by the player he was filling in for: Jonathan Baldwin. Looking good in training camp, Urban followed it up with a lackluster season, not seeing much playing time. The 31 year old finished with just 35 yards receiving on four receptions. 
  • Tight End Jake O'Connell: A restricted rights free agent, O'Connell was released and then picked back up by the Chiefs a couple of times during the course of the season. Originally considered a decent blocker, he struggled at even that this year. He did have 7 catches during the season, but he failed to impress the coaching staff enough to the point where they brought in Anthony Becht late in training camp. Depth is always good, but with Tony Moeaki coming back, I would consider O'Connell -
  • Tight End Anthony Becht: Originally drafted by the New York Jets in 2000, Becht was an 11 year veteran when the Chiefs brought him in to training camp. Providing depth after Moeaki went down with injury, Becht looked downright bad in many games, even sort-of tackling Jackie Battle on a 3rd Down run against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Mainly brought in during running plays, he finished with 3 catches for 26 yards.
  • Tight End Leonard Pope: I know that there are a lot of fans that don't like Pope as a player. He's average at both blocking and receiving and he had quite a few penalties called against him during the season. But, when Moeaki was injured, Pope became our best tight end option. As bad as that might seem, Pope did have a few decent games (he finished the season with 24 catches for 247 yards and 1 TD) and offers a good option in depth for next season. Even with a healthy Moeaki, Pope is -

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Meet the New Boss

In honor of Romeo Crennel being made head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, I thought it would be fun to take a trip down memory lane and review some of these Coors Light commercials starring our new HC. "Oh, Congratulations."

Also, check this one out too: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lVQ5OYr-5So

Franchise Options

The Chiefs enter the offseason with many of their players from the previous season ready to hit free agency. And just like every year, there are some big names at important positions. This offseason, however, there are two big names, each as important as the other. Where the Chiefs are in the process of building the team into a perennial contender, it would be a huge loss for either of these players to leave. These two players are wide receiver Dwayne Bowe and cornerback Brandon Carr.

Free agency is set to begin on March 13th, so Scott Pioli and the Chiefs front office have about two months to lock these players up before they have to resort to desperate measures. And by desperate measures I mean two things: 1) a bidding war with other teams which the Chiefs will most likely lose 2) having to use our one and only franchise tag for the year.

Using a franchise tag is in no way a bad thing. It can be used on a player for the next season while negotiating a new contract in the meantime. There is a hitch to the franchise tag: the cost. The rules of the tag have changed slightly since the lockout, but it's roughly the average salary of the top five paid players at his position or 120% of the player's previous year's salary, whichever is greater.

So, what should the Chiefs do with Bowe and Carr?

When the season initially ended, I thought the logical approach would be to franchise Dwayne Bowe. He has been our number one receiver since his rookie year in 2007, and in his five years, he has 4,927 yards. Even this season, no other receiver on the team was within 300 yards of Bowe's numbers. He is an offensive force, and wouldn't it make sense to keep a number one wide receiver over a number two corner?

But yesterday on 610 Sports, Nick Wright made a very good point that I hadn't considered beforehand: if we lose Dwayne Bowe, we don't have to take a wide receiver in the first round. But if we lose Brandon Carr, we HAVE to take a cornerback in the first round. And the reason is our depth.

Our wide receivers include Steve Breaston, who finished the year with 785 yards, and Jonathan Baldwin, a first round pick in 2011. Also with Dexter McCluster, who could take over the slot from Breaston, our wide receiving corps are relatively deep. Cornerback, on the other hand, is not. The only players that we currently have on our roster that could compete for that second CB position are Javier Arenas and Jalil Brown, neither which are outstanding options. Just proof that it's harder to find a good cornerback in the NFL than a good receiver.

Using this logic, it seems that Brandon Carr should be the player that has a franchise tag placed on him. It's the cost, however, that is discouraging. According to projections from Football Outsiders, the cost of retaining a WR using the franchise tag would be about $9.443 - 9.806 million. The cost of retaining a CB would be $10.431 - 10.832 million. That's for one season, for a number two corner. To put that into perspective, Brandon Flowers, the Chiefs number one corner, is making an average salary of $10,120,000 after his new contract extension awarded during the season. So if the Chiefs franchise Carr and fail to negotiate a new contract before it takes effect, our number two corner could be making more money than our number one corner.

But you can't deny the importance of Carr to the Chiefs defense. As Kent Babb wrote today on his Twitter: "I actually think Carr is more valuable to KC -- not worth more money, mind you -- than Bowe. The Chiefs are in decent shape at WR. Losing Bowe wouldn't be a catastrophe, though it would hurt. KC has no real alternative for 2nd CB." Babb did offer this advice: "Still, I think there's a simple solution for both: Re-sign Carr for amount among 85 percentile of CBs, then franchise Bowe. Done."

I hope it is that simple. Free agency should be something the Kansas City Chiefs embrace, not fear. They are an up-and-coming team with a lot of upside that players should want to be a part of, especially players that are already a part of the team. Could that be another reason why Romeo Crennel was made head coach? Because the players love him and his presence could help bring back home-grown talent? Perhaps.

Even so, Chiefs management have remained ambiguous to even slightly negative in regards to free agent questions regarding Bowe and Carr. "See the thing about free agency is those unrestricted free agents, they have a choice," new Head Coach Romeo Crennel said in his introductory press conference. "They can decide whether they want to return or whether they want to go elsewhere. And so we can have a desire to potentially get a guy back but if that guy decides he wants to go somewhere else there is nothing we can do about that."

And yesterday, on 810 Sports, GM Scott Pioli said (not particularly about Carr and Bowe but fans can safely assume): "These are guys that are key components of the past and hopefully the future. They’re players we have a great deal of respect for. We’re going to try to continue to talk to those guys and, again, it’s a matter of what those players want to do with us as well.”

The way that the Chiefs keep referring to free agency being a two-way street makes me think they are getting the fans ready for some disappointment. Maybe they have had contract talks with Carr and Bowe during the season, and either one or both are wanting to test the free agent waters. You can't blame them for doing so, and neither player indicated a desire to remain a Chief like Tamba Hali did last year before he was franchised and eventually extended during the offseason.

But to not extend both these players would be to break Chiefs owner Clark Hunt's elaborate plan for the future of the team: “When I became chairman of the club five or six years ago, one of the things that I mentioned at that time is that I wanted us to be a team that drafted well and developed the players that we drafted. I think going all the way back to 2008 and some of the picks before that, we have a number of young players who are a part of the core of this football team and we’ve made an effort the last couple of years to resign some of those guys as their contracts come up."

By this plan, the Chiefs have no excuse if they don't re-sign both Carr and Bowe, players that they drafted and developed. In the next two months, Chiefs nation will see how committed the ownership and the management are to realizing this goal.

Monday, January 9, 2012

What's Next for Crennel?


Today, the team officially announced that Romeo Crennel was to be the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs for the next three seasons. This decision, reported by Adam Schefter of ESPN on Saturday, warranted this update by the Chiefs denying any decision had been made. But apparently, their mind was made the next evening, and on Monday, Crennel, along with GM Scott Pioli and owner Clark Hunt, met with the media in a press conference to announce their new hire.

“I have a deep appreciation for the vision that Clark Hunt has and his commitment to building a championship-caliber team,” Crennel said. “I believe in the types of players that we are trying to win with and the identity we are trying to create. It is a rare opportunity to be a part of an organization like the Kansas City Chiefs with its storied history and passionate fans and I am eager to get to work and bring this franchise and our fans the success they deserve.”

I've said that for the last week, Romeo Crennel is the right choice for the team. And now that he's officially head coach, there are a few questions and decisions that Crennel and the rest of the Chiefs organization will have to address in the upcoming months. A couple of these questions were brought up at the press conference:
  • What to do with Kyle Orton?
  • Who will take over as Defensive Coordinator?
  • Who will become the Offensive Coordinator?
Kyle Orton

The Kyle Orton debate has been going on ever since he helped the team upset the Green Bay Packers. His services were invaluable compared to that of Tyler Palko's, and it was his skills that nearly got the Chiefs into the playoffs. Crennel acknowledged Orton in his media session: "Kyle did a tremendous job for us and I'm probably not sitting here if Kyle hadn't done the job that he did. I'm very appreciative of that. I'm also appreciative of the fact that he is an unrestricted free agent and we have to go through the process. I would be unfair to him not to say that I appreciated what he did for me. I'm not going to say I didn't appreciate it but the situation is the situation. We have two quarterbacks under contract. He's not under contract. So we'll play it out and see what happens."

Obviously Matt Cassel is still on the team, but even Crennel knows how important Orton was to his new head coaching job. I got the impression, however, that Crennel was almost thanking Orton one last time for his services, almost knowing that he wouldn't be coming back next season. I know I'm probably reading too much into these comments, but that's just the impression I got. I will have more on this topic at a later date. 

Defensive Coordinator

With Crennel's promotion to head coach, the DC position has now become available. When asked about the plan for that position, Crennel said: “We’re going to look at everything and talk through everything and try to figure out what’s best for the Chiefs to do. If we determine that it’s best for me to do the job, then I’ll do the job. If not, then we’ll go through that process and name someone else.”

Scott Pioli wasn't crazy about Todd Haley calling the offensive plays and being head coach in his first season in 2009, so I have a strong doubt that Crennel will actually be his own DC next year. Strong internal candidates exist such as Emmitt Thomas, the secondary coach, and more importantly, Gary Gibbs, the linebackers coach. Nate Bukaty of 810 Sports Kansas City tweeted on Sunday that he heard it from a "pretty good source" that Gibbs would be Crennel's DC. If this is true or not, it's still something to consider. Something else to consider is ... the Mangenius (my own personal theory).

Offensive Coordinator

Reports came out last week that Bill Muir was going to retire. While nothing has been confirmed with the Chiefs organization, the press conference gave you the sense that report was accurate. “I think right now it’s a little early for me to be able to say I know exactly who it’s going to be because to be truthful with you, I don’t know who it’s going to be,” Crennel said. “It could be in the building, it could be outside the building, but we’re going to do our homework and then we’re going to come up with who we think is the best candidate.”

Many Chiefs commentators, especially Nick Wright of 610 Sports, have been reporting that the Chiefs plan was to make Crennel HC, and then get Josh McDaniels from the Rams as OC. But McDaniels took the opening OC position in New England, and now the Chiefs have no idea what they want to do. I suggested last week the only two options that would make sense if Matt Cassel is truly the Chiefs man are: Josh McDaniels (which is no longer an option) and Jim Zorn. 

Only time will tell on these questions, as well as free agency, and now Crennel has the privilege of being a major factor in determining the answers. Congratulations to Romeo Crennel being named the 12th HC in KC Chiefs history.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Year In Review: Part 3

To catch up, here's Part 1 and Part 2.

The Tyler Palko Experience: Weeks 11 - 14

When Matt Cassel went down with injury at the end of the first Broncos game, the backup quarterback got his first snap of the season. Tyler Palko, who spent most of the 2010 season on the Chiefs practice squad, was the next man up on the Chiefs QB depth chart. He lead the Chiefs to a field goal at the end of the Broncos game. When it was learned that Cassel was lost for the season, even after Matt Cassel sort of hinted that he would be facing his former Patriot's team earlier in the same week he was sent to Injured Reserve, Palko immediately became the starting quarterback for his first time since college. With the way Cassel had been playing for much of the season, however, some fans didn't view Palko as being much of a downgrade. This couldn't have been more wrong.

Palko's first game came against the New England Patriots on Monday Night Football. And although Palko didn't look fundamentally unsound (going through progressions might seem strange to a Chiefs fan), he was intercepted three times in a 34-3 loss. The Chiefs offense couldn't sustain drives, and the defense eventually wore down. And while Palko didn't play very well, many Chiefs fans wrote it off as a game the Chiefs couldn't have won anyway. Palko got a pass.

But perhaps the front office of the Chiefs weren't quite as content with Palko's performance. When Kyle Orton, who was benched earlier in the season by Denver in favor of Tim Tebow, was waived by the Broncos, the Chiefs decided to claim the veteran QB. Coming in late after Thanksgiving, Orton was not able to get enough time with his new team, and wouldn't see action for the next two weeks.

The schedule, instead of getting easier, was only getting started. The defending AFC Champion Pittsburgh Steelers were coming to Arrowhead for a Sunday Night Football match-up, being Palko's second consecutive primetime game in as many starts. And while the defense played one of their best games of the season, holding the Steelers to only 13 points and allowing the Chiefs one last opportunity at the end of the game to win it, the offense could only score 9 points, and Palko again threw three interceptions. This time, Palko did not get a free pass.

The Chiefs offense wasn't great before Palko, and it became absolutely anemic during it. But the Chiefs defense started playing well, and facing another backup QB in Caleb Hanie in Chicago gave Palko his first ever win in the NFL. Thanks to a field goal and a Hail Mary completed pass after a deflection to Dexter McCluster right before halftime, the Chiefs won in Chicago by the final of 10-3. Kyle Orton had even come in the game, possibly to replace Palko, but dislocated his finger on a fleaflicker on his first play. The Chiefs were 5-7 and still mathematically in the AFC West race, but there has been no point I have been more unconfident in the Chiefs chances than under Palko.

And these fears were punctuated by a loss to the New York Jets that would reverberate past the weekend. The Monday following the Chiefs miserable performance in a 37-10 loss, head coach Todd Haley was fired by GM Scott Pioli and owner Clark Hunt. Black Monday had come a month early, and lack of consistency was the justification used for this move. While much of Chiefs nation was split on this decision, many couldn't help but wonder if Palko was the death of Haley. Defensive Coordinator Romeo Crennel was made interim HC, and his first move was to declare Kyle Orton the starter, and Ricky Stanzi the backup. Tyler Palko's time as the starter in KC was over.

Under Palko's four-game reign as starting QB, the Chiefs averaged: 264.8 total yards - 166.5 passing, 98.3 rushing, 2.25 turnovers, 34.4% third down conversion, 291.3 total yards allowed - 162 passing, 129.3 rushing, and 28:26 time of possession.

Close but no Cigar: Weeks 15 - 17

With the Chiefs at 5-8 and the Green Bay Packers coming to town, many fans, including myself, thought the season over. No matter who was our QB, no one had beat the Packers all season, so the team doesn't stand a chance. But like most of the season, just when you count the Chiefs out, they surprise you. The Chiefs held the league-leaders in scoring to just two touchdowns, and beat the previous unbeatable 19-14. Orton had a good game, and Romeo Crennel was met in the locker room by 'RAC' chants.

With the way the AFC West was shaping up, the Chiefs were still alive, along with all other teams in the division. For the Chiefs to make the playoffs, they had to win their last two games, and hope the Broncos lost to the Bills before facing the Chiefs, and that San Diego would lose just one of their last three (the Chargers played on Monday the week the Chiefs beat the Packers). Hopes were renewed, and the Chiefs just needed to win.

Standing in their way were the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders playoff hopes were still alive too, so both teams had a lot on the line. At the end of the day, the Raiders were victorious in overtime, taking advantage of Chiefs mistakes, including two Orton interceptions, a Dwayne Bowe dropped TD catch, and two blocked field goals, including one that would have won the game for the Chiefs with no time left in regulation. The disappointment was multiplied with the Broncos and Chargers both losing. Everything that needed to happen did, except the Chiefs winning. Playoff hopes were dashed.

With nothing left to play for besides pride, the Chiefs went on to beat Tim Tebow and the Broncos in Denver to conclude the season. It wasn't pretty, but a 7-3 total was enough to get it done. The win put Crennel at 2-1 on the season, and solidified his chances of retaining the HC role into next year. During these three games, the Chiefs averaged: 384.7 total yards - 258 passing, 126.7 rushing, 1 turnover, 30.8% third down conversion, 296.3 total yards allowed - 166.7 passing, 129.7 rushing, and 31:54 time of possession.

And while the Chiefs took a 3 win drop in 2011 from 2010, I think the arrow is pointing up for this young and talented team. Hope you all enjoyed catching up on a season that was quite polarizing.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Romeo Crennel Made Head Coach

Adam Schefter reported this morning that interim head coach and defensive coordinator, Romeo Crennel, would be made the permanent head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs. Although rumors had been surfacing of interviews with other coaches for the position (Jeff Fisher, Joe Philbin, Jack Del Rio), it seemed like the Crennel promotion was all but certain. Assuming that Schefter isn't jumping the gun with this report, let's break down the Pros and Cons of this move.

Pros: Crennel being head coach shows that Scott Pioli believes the Chiefs are very near being a perennial contender. Believing that has caused him to go the route of continuity instead of completely starting over. I think fans can tell that the Chiefs are close too, that's why the majority of them were for the Crennel decision. Most would agree that talent wasn't the reason the Chiefs didn't return to the playoffs this year, it was lack of depth; with returning starters and another year of free agency and the draft, the 2012 Chiefs should be the best team we've had in a while.

Crennel is unabashedly loved by his players. Ever since the Chiefs upset victory over the previously undefeated Green Bay Packers, the players have had nothing but good things to say for RAC, including chanting those very initials in the locker-room after that victory. "He’s one of those coaches that’s been a coach in this league, he’s got five Super Bowls, with that type of résumé you want someone around that can help us get to the top," linebacker Tamba Hali said after the Packer victory. "I think anybody on this team would agree with me, if we can keep Romeo as our head coach here it would be great." The rest of the team has echoed that sentiment.

And why shouldn't the players support Crennel? The defense played outstanding at times, especially so once Crennel was named interim, and wins should never be undervalued. Crennel coached the team to a 2-1 record, and should have been 3-0, once he took over (granted, Kyle Orton was healthy by then). If the team plays for him next season like they did in the final three games of this season, the Chiefs will be in a good position to make the playoffs.

Cons: While I think that Crennel was the right choice for the HC job, I don't think Crennel is the best choice. I'm not going to contemplate on who should have been hired or anything like that, what I am going to comment on is my impression of Crennel during his three game tryout at the end of the season. Crennel seemed to struggle between wanting to play conservatively and wanting to play aggressively, and would make the wrong decision at the wrong time because he couldn't make up his mind. Bill Barnwell of Grantland wrote about Crennel's coaching decisions after the Chiefs victory over the Packers, saying that the team won in "spite" of RAC.

Granted, Crennel was coming off a tumultuous week and he was pulling double duty as HC and Defensive Coordinator, but these sort of decisions seemed to follow Crennel into the loss to Oakland. Hopefully, finding a DC for next season will take the pressure off of Crennel and allow him to more effectively manage the game. But that's another Con right there: losing Crennel as DC. The defense has grown under Crennel, but with Crennel moving up, he will not be able to concentrate on the defense like he has done over the last two seasons. Even a new DC with the same philosophy might not have the same success with the Chiefs defense that Crennel had.

Age is also relevant. Crennel is 64 years old, making him the second oldest head coach in the NFL (Coughlin - Giants). You have to wonder how much longer Crennel will be able to coach, which means this is not a long-term answer. I'm sure Pioli knows that and will use that to pitch to DC and OC candidates to come on for a chance at a head coaching position after a couple of years. But I guess this Con can also be a Pro.

And as far as players loving their head coach, that's not always a good thing. A head coaches job isn't to be loved, it's to be respected. Todd Haley was respected, even if his personality caused some friction with players on occasion. The players grew under Haley, and the ones who didn't or couldn't handle how Haley handled situations were soon out of Kansas City. Crennel is not an authoritarian, and a criticism of RAC dating back to Cleveland was his lack of discipline. The players love him now, but how long will that last if the team is struggling?

The last player-oriented coach the Chiefs had was Herm Edwards. I know that many people will disagree with this statement, but my first impression of Crennel as HC, and one that I carried into the time when Crennel was the favorite for the Chiefs job, was that he reminded me of Herm. He's a defensive-minded coach that has previously failed as a HC (24-40 record with Browns) who the players love but has struggled with in-game scenarios, clock management and tends to play the game conservatively. All analogies break down after so many comparisons, and I hope this one breaks down immediately, and Crennel has instant success with the Chiefs.

At the end of the day, this was the right move for the Chiefs at this time, and I agree with the decision 100%. The Pros outweigh the Cons, and the Chiefs can pick up where they left off. The coaching staff is not quite set, however, with defensive and offensive coordinators still needing to be found. And Josh McDaniel's won't be one of them.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Personnel Preference

Might be the only time Cory Greenwood gets his pic on my blog.

I would like to start with today's news on the Associated Press's voting results for their annual All-Pro lists. Making the first-team All-Pro list is linebacker Derrick Johnson. It has been a good year for Johnson, having been named to his first Pro Bowl and winning the Derrick Thomas Award for MVP of the team this season, voted on by the players. Linebacker Tamba Hali made the second-team All-Pro list. He will also be joining Johnson in Honolulu for the upcoming Pro Bowl.

Also this morning, the Chiefs signed linebacker Cory Greenwood to a four-year extension worth $2.75 million. A Canadian by birth, Greenwood was the third overall draft pick in the 2010 CFL draft before trying his luck as an undrafted free agent in the NFL. Picked up by the Chiefs, he has made the roster two consecutive years, and see's some playing time on defense. Mostly a special team's guy, Greenwood recorded 13 tackles this season.

On Tuesday, January 3rd, the Chiefs signed six players from their practice squad to their offseason roster. These six players are: fullback Shane Bannon, wide receiver Jamar Newsome, offensive lineman Rob Bruggeman, defensive linemen Anthony Toribio and Lucas Patterson and linebacker Caleb Campbell. The only practice squad players that didn't re-sign were offensive lineman Darryl Harris and defensive back Quinten Lawrence.

Remember Tony Moeaki, Eric Berry and Jamaal Charles? Well in case you do, and were wondering how their rehabs were going, Adam Teicher of the Kansas City Star wrote an article about their progress recovering from torn ACLs suffered during the season. Moeaki was the main guy interviewed, and he had some nice quotes in the article. All three of these players have Twitter accounts, so if you want to keep up on how their rehab is going, you should follow these guys.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Year in Review: Part 2

My Year in Review series continues with Part 2 today. To catch up with Part 1, click here.

The Streak: Weeks 4 - 8

The Suck4Luck campaign was in full swing in Kansas City. Losing the first three games 109-27 was demoralizing to the fanbase, and many had already written off the season. With three of the Chiefs best weapons already on Injured Reserve, who could blame the fans for being disheartened? But then the inconceivable happened: the Chiefs beat the Minnesota Vikings. In a battle of two winless teams, the Chiefs emerged victorious, ticking off the fanbase who wanted Andrew Luck while offering a slim glimmer of hope to the rest. But the real note was Cassel's improved play after head coach Todd Haley and him got into a shouting match on the sidelines following an unsuccessful redzone trip. Whatever was said seemed to have worked.

The next week, the Chiefs found themselves again facing a winless team, this time the Indianapolis Colts. The Chiefs had been historically bad facing the Colts, but a little momentum coupled with no Peyton Manning gave many fans hope for another win. After being down 24-7 shortly before halftime, the Chiefs would rally for 21 unanswered points and win the game late in the fourth quarter. And much of this was thanks to Matt Cassel's 4 TD passes, including a juggling catch in the endzone by Dwayne Bowe. Two consecutive wins had all but shattered the hopes for Andrew Luck, but there emerged a new hope: the Chiefs still had a chance in the miserable AFC West.

But a bye in Week 6 came, and many considered it ill-timed, possibly stopping any momentum the Chiefs had. But any fears Chiefs fans had paled in comparison to what was going on in Oakland. It was learned that Raiders starting quarterback, Jason Campbell, was going to miss all if not most of the season with an injury. Oakland, contenders in the division, were seemingly going to have to roll with Kyle Boller for the rest of the season. And then the Raiders did what only the Raiders can, and traded their upcoming first round pick and a 2013 second round pick for recently retired and disgruntled Bengals QB, Carson Palmer. But still, there seemed no way the Chiefs would face Palmer having only a couple of days working with Oakland before KC arrived on Sunday.

Kyle Boller did about what everyone expected Kyle Boller to do, throwing three interceptions, one returned for a touchdown by Kendrick Lewis. The real surprise came after halftime, when Oakland HC Hue Jackson put Carson Palmer into the game. Palmer, later admitting he didn't know very many plays of the Raiders offense, went on to throw three more interceptions, including another pick-6 to Brandon Flowers, in a 28-0 Kansas City shutout. The victory gave the Chiefs a .500 record at 3-3, and a home rematch the following week against the San Diego Chargers could give the Chiefs first place in the division.

The Chargers entered Arrowhead on Monday Night Football, not having returned since their MNF upset loss against the Chiefs to start the 2010 season which propelled the Chiefs to their first division title since 2003. But the Chiefs wanted revenge for their Week 3 loss, and were riding a three game winning streak. And the game did not disappoint. A 10 point Chiefs lead at halftime quickly evaporated, and even an 8 point lead in the fourth quarter was erased. The Chargers had the ball in the redzone, the Chiefs had no timeouts left. In an attempt to eat clock, however, Philip Rivers fumbled the snap (remember the firework-gate?) and Andy Studebaker came out of the dog-pile with the ball held high, the Chiefs hopes for a win still intact. The game would go to overtime, the Chargers were stopped, the Chiefs drove, and Ryan Succop hit the field goal. The Chiefs were inexplicably in first place in the AFC West.

During this four game win streak, the Chiefs averaged: 356.8 total yards - 224.3 passing, 132.5 rushing, 1.5 turnovers, 48.3% third down conversion, 366.3 total yards allowed - 244.8 passing, 121.5 rushing, and 31:45 time of possession.

The Letdown: Weeks 9-10

Just when the Chiefs gave everyone a reason to cheer and hope for a repeat division title, the disappointment came again. The winless Dolphins and the lowly Denver Broncos were coming to town in the next two weeks. Having attained first place and a winning record, the contemplation of being 6-3 by the time New England came around was a popular one. All we had to do was take care of business at home, and the Chiefs would be sitting pretty for a playoff appearance. That was not to be.

Miami came into Arrowhead and absolutely embarrassed the Chiefs, winning by the final of 31-3. Some called it a trap game going in, because the Dolphins had played teams close all year but couldn't find a way to win. But the disappointment still resonated throughout Kansas City. The Chiefs were now 4-4, but that loss echoed concerns with every aspect of the Chiefs team.

The next week came along, and the Tim Tebow-lead Broncos were looking for another miracle win. And while it wasn't the miracle win Tebow became known for since the Broncos never trailed at any point of the game, it was still close down to the wire until Tebow completed his second pass of the game for a 56 yard touchdown that iced the game. And late in the 4th quarter, Matt Cassel left the game with a hand injury, later determined as a broken finger, that would cause him to be sent to Injured Reserve later in the week.

During these two games, the Chiefs averaged: 300.5 total yards - 175.5 passing, 125 rushing, 0 turnovers, 32.3% third down conversion, 332 total yards allowed - 156.5 passing, 175.5 rushing, and 30:29 time of possession. The Chiefs were now back to a losing record at 4-5 entering the hardest part of their schedule with a backup backfield. Which brings us to part 3 ...