To call the 2011 season anemic for the Kansas City Chiefs would be an understatement. The 2011 Chiefs looked finished before they began, opening the season with an embarrassing 41-7 loss against Buffalo. Kansas City never truly managed to pick up the pieces from that point forward. They did manage to rattle off four wins during the month of October, but those were wins against teams that were clearly inferior. The good news for Chiefs fans is that the team has added a few pieces during the summer, but that doesn’t mean that it’s all smooth sailing from here.
One of the most significant differences this season will be on the sidelines, as former Chiefs coach Todd Haley was fired near the end of the 2011 season. He was replaced by assistant Romeo Crennel, who took over on an interim basis and went 2-1 over the last three games. Crennel received and accepted an offer to become the full-time head coach in January.
Crennel’s hiring into the position comes off as a gamble by the Chiefs. There are a few upsides to his coaching, as he’ll definitely be able to bring a few positives to the team. Crennel has always been a coach who seemed to have a strong rapport with his players, so it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect that the 2012 Chiefs will have more of a team mentality. Despite this advantage, it’s difficult to overlook his spotty track record with the Browns during his last head coaching stint. He was 24-40 during his tenure with the Browns, with the lone bright spot of his time in Cleveland coming during the 2007 season when the team went 10-6.
Targeting Crennel as the sole reason for this would be misguided, though, as the Browns spent many of those years cycling through mediocre players. The Chiefs certainly have some players who fit this description, but they also have highly talented players heading into the 2012 season. The defense is led by returning Pro Bowl linebackers Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali, and the offense will continue to be anchored by Matt Cassel, Dwayne Bowe and Jamaal Charles.
In addition to their returning personnel, the 2012 Chiefs have also made upgrades in other areas. Although the offense has several weapons, it’s not been loaded with enough talent to give defenses much trouble. This led to last year’s team finishing 27th in the league in total offense. A couple of key additions have been made in an effort to change this. Former Raiders and Giants tight end Kevin Boss signed with the team earlier this year, and he’s expected to make significant contributions on offense.
Perhaps more importantly, the team signed former Browns running back Peyton Hillis. Hillis had a monster season in 2010 before regressing significantly during a 2011 season marred with injuries and questions about his work ethic. Expect him to be motivated to make a turnaround in 2012, and if he is, this year’s Chiefs will have a dangerous rushing attack.
The changes made by the Chiefs may pale in comparison to other teams in the division, especially the Denver Broncos. As everyone knows, the Broncos signed four-time MVP Peyton Manning earlier this year. This upgrades what was arguably the weakest skill position on a team that many now expect to compete for a Super Bowl. Last year’s AFC West was an incredibly close race, with the Chiefs only winning one less game than the division-winning Broncos. Kansas City’s ability to succeed will hinge not just on their own improvements, but how much or how little the other AFC West teams have improved.
Chiefs fans have reason to be excited. Last year’s team was very competitive at times, and the additions they’ve made in free agency and the draft will make them even more challenging. Whether they can sneak in and steal some of the hype from the Broncos and Manning will be one of the more interesting subplots this year. The 2012 season kicks off on September 9th at home against the Falcons, and includes games against the Saints in Week 3 and Pittsburgh in Week 10. The team has a chance to surprise everyone in these games, so 2012 should be one of the more memorable Chiefs seasons in recent memory.
2012 Kansas City Chiefs Schedule
- Fri, Aug 10 vs Arizona Cardinals
- Sat, Aug 18 @ St. Louis Rams
- Fri, Aug 24 vs Seattle Seahawks
- Thu, Aug 30 @ Green Bay Packers
- Sun, Sep 9 vs Atlanta Falcons
- Sun, Sep 16 @ Buffalo Bills
- Sun, Sep 23 @ New Orleans Saints
- Sun, Sep 30 vs San Diego Chargers
- Sun, Oct 7 vs Baltimore Ravens
- Sun, Oct 14 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Sun, Oct 28 vs Oakland Raiders
- Thu, Nov 1 @ San Diego Chargers
- Mon, Nov 12 @ Pittsburgh Steelers
- Sun, Nov 18 vs Cincinnati Bengals
- Sun, Nov 25 vs Denver Broncos
- Sun, Dec 2 vs Carolina Panthers
- Sun, Dec 9 @ Cleveland Browns
- Sun, Dec 16 @ Oakland Raiders
- Sun, Dec 23 vs Indianapolis Colts
- Sun, Dec 30 @ Denver Broncos