I simply cannot explain why the Chiefs are so bad. How can a team, that lost relatively few players and staff, be so bad this year? I will break down each different staffing area of the team to see if we can find out what is missing from all of this.
Start off with the Chiefs front office with Clark Hunt and Scott Pioli. They spent most of the offseason working on trying to help get the situation with the lockout resolved. Both were with the organization last year, so nothing really changed here.
Next to the Head Coach and Coordinators/Play-Callers. Todd Haley is back. He did, however, take an unusual approach to the pre-season. He simply did not get his players ready in time for the regular season, and regular physical contact. I thought they would even be more conditioned because of the lack of contact and more sprints, but this logic has seemed to backfire in every way possible to the team. As a head coach, you must ensure that your team is ready to go from day 1. I don’t believe that this is the sole reason why the team is so bad, but it helps explain it.
Of all the Coordinators and play-callers, there was only 1 departure. That was offensive coordinator, Charlie Weis. Not only was he the OC, but he was also QB coach. This year he has been replaced by 2 people. Bill Muir, who was the OL coach last year, is still the OL coach but is also now the OC. Jim Zorn was brought in to coach the QB’s. I thought Zorn would be fine as an QB coach. He did coach Matt Hasselbeck to career highs in Seattle and helped him lead the team to the Super Bowl in 2006. He also helped make Joe Flacco a better passer and team leader. Muir was with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when they went on to win the Super Bowl in 2003. I know the Tampa Bay defense was a big reason, but while defenses win championships, the offense wins games… and that year they won 12 of 16, so Muir must have been doing something right!
On the flip side, look at what Weis did his first year as head coach at Notre Dame. In 2005 when he took over the team, which finished in 2004 with a 6-5 record and lost in the Insight Bowl against Oregon St., he led them to a 9-2 record and they received a berth to the Fiesta Bowl, but lost to the Ohio State Buckeyes. Their final rank was 9th. In 2006, Weis was back and led the team to a successful season record of 10-2, and a bid to the Sugar Bowl, but once again they lost, this time to LSU. Keep in mind he did this with QB Brady Quinn. You can argue, that Quinn is a horrible QB in the NFL… exactly… look what Weis did. He made a bad QB look great, in 2009 Matt Cassel had 14 fumbles and 16 interceptions. In 2010 with Weis, Cassel only had 3 fumbles and 7 picks. I left out passing yards because the difference is marginal, same with completion percentage. So you can argue that Weis was a huge departure from the team!
Now its down to the players. There have been several key losses, and some potential star players added. We will start with the departed players. Before the regular season we lost Brian Waters to NE, Shaun Smith to TEN, Ron Edwards to CAR and Mike Vrabel retired. Then the injury bug bit and we lost TE Tony Moeaki at the end of the pre-season, Eric Berry was lost in week 1, and now Jamaal Charles in week 2. Who are we going to lose in week 3? While we sat and watched as players left, the Chiefs also added players, either through the draft or free agency. We added Steve Breaston and Jerheme Urban to help open up the passing game with Dwayne Bowe, and we also drafted Jonathan Baldwin, which was a bit of a reach to begin with, but combined they have 4 catches for 39 yards, while Bowe is 7 for 118…and not a single TD reception between them. So much for helping!
The running game is relatively unchanged, with the only addition coming with Le’Ron McClain from Baltimore to be used as a short yardage back and goal line back. The Chiefs replaced Waters in the starting lineup with Jon Asamoah. He has to step in some time, and he has not looked terrible. For a while it looked as if the rookie Jarell Powe would be the only viable NT for the team to replace to 2 departed starters, but at the last minute they signed Kelly Gregg from Baltimore. This is simply to allow Powe to learn the system and hopefully take over next year. We also added a boom-or-bust player in Justin Houston. He fell in the draft because of drug possession, but has first round talent. His biggest concern, along with Baldwin, is they need to resolve their off the field issues, to become the stars that their talents dictate that they could be. We also got a healthy Cameron Sheffield back, who was lost last year to an injury. So, as far as the players are concerned, we have either remained neutral or added marginal talent. The WR position additions, so far, have BUST written all over the group.
So I go back to my original question…what is missing? The only things I can see are a Head Coach who took a gamble with his team during the pre-season and went light on the players, and now they are unprepared or under prepared for the regular season. Then you had a OC/QB coach that made a mediocre QB look better than average leave the team. Those are the only two things that I can see, and while they seem small on the surface, we can all see that they have greatly hindered this team for the start and possibly remainder of the 2011 NFL season.