Have you given up all hope already? Have you already jumped ship and lost all hope in this season? As a true Chiefs fan, I have yet to give up hope. Sure, the Chiefs are 0-3. So are the Dolphins, Rams, and Vikings, and the Colts. Why? There are hundreds of reasons between these five teams as to why the are all winless. If you told me at the beginning of the season that there would still be five winless teams that didn’t include Detroit, Buffalo, or Cincinnati, I would have laughed in your face. Now, I can see all these reasons. Injuries, unpreparedness, whatever the case may be, I am still very surprised that five teams are winless.
The Chiefs and Colts have had major injury problems, the Chiefs moreso than the Colts. However, it is very hard to lose the quarterback that your whole playcalling system is built around. I have heard the arguments that football players should be “tougher than that” and some even say with all the training they have had they should be “invincible”. But we all know injuries happen. Tom Brady went down three years ago which opened the door for Matt Cassel. Drew Bledsoe went down which opened it for Brady. Its all a cycle. Injuries happen, players come in and substitute, some prosper, some fail. The Colts without Peyton Manning are proving everyone’s worst fear, that they are not a top-notch NFL team without him. The Colts just can’t produce without Manning under center. Sure Indy looked better tonight, but so did the Chiefs today.
In Cassel’s case, he prospered in New England. He came to Kansas City and everyone was excited because the Chiefs finally had a “proven franchise quarterback” who has led a team to 10+ wins. Given, it was with the Patriots. He then came to Kansas City and struggled in year one. During the course of that season, Kansas City had a new head coach, new playcalling scheme, a whole new front office system, everything. The staff suggested and the media called it ”growing pains”. Last year, the Chiefs won the AFC West. Everyone please, let’s take a moment to let this sink in. AFC WEST CHAMPIONS. Given the fact that the Oakland Raiders swept the divison, and San Diego was favored to win it, the Chiefs still came out on top. Why? Some will say weak schedule. Some will say Charlie Weis. Some will say fluke. Whatever it is, it happened. It is history. It cannot be changed. The Chiefs will always be the 2010 AFC West Champions. What are the reasons why we have lost our last 9 games, counting the preseason? Lay blame wherever you see fit. Whether it is Matt Cassel, Todd Haley, Scott Pioli, Bill Muir, the football gods, whoever you feel the most comfortable blaming. Lets take a look at this a little deeper than most will.
Let us begin with Matt Cassel. Oh Matt, how you disappointed us today. (Anyone catch a hint of sarcasm?) You went 17 of 24 with 2 touchdowns, a 70.8% completion rate, and a 102.1 passer rating, which would have been higher without the single interception that cost us the game. Case #1: “Matt Cassel is a terrible quarterback and a horrible decision maker.” Of course, what most “fans” don’t realize is your passer rating was high that Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Mark Sanchez, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan, and even your head-to-head opponent Philip Rivers. Case#2: “Ok, Cassel had a higher passer rating; but he only threw 24 passes.” Sure, all seven of these quarterbacks threw 35+ passes. But of all eight, Cassel was the most accurate. Case #3: “He hasn’t shown his $63 million contract value.” Sure, the past three weeks have been very slow offensively. 27 points on offense in three weeks is not very good. But so far this season, Cassel’s overall completion percentage is 65.9%, higher than 2009 (55.0%) AND 2010 (58.2%). Case #4: “Cassel isn’t a leader on the field: He has no leadership skills.” Here’s a quote I found in an article on Scout.com called “Coach Cassel” by Josh Scotten dated June 17, 2011, during the early summer just about a month prior to the lockout being lifted about just how much Matt Cassel wants the Chiefs to succeed. “Matt’s a guy that is the leader of our team,” says Chiefs starting linebacker Derrick Johnson. “We definitely follow him. He’s stepping up. Our hats are off to him. He wants to get better, that’s his whole motto.” He was first in the locker room during OTA’s, and the last to leave. You cannot tell me that is not dedication to your football team.
Case #5: “Cassel chokes under pressure.” Sure, his decision making at the end of the San Diego game was not great. The play call was not terrible, but it was also not a game-winning-drive type of play call. This is where I blame Bill Muir. (Note, I do NOT blame Todd Haley for this call.) When a team is down by three within the last two minutes of the game, what are do you expect they do? Throw it downfield. Which is exactly what Cassel did on the 24 yard pass right down the middle to Leonard Pope that put the Chiefs in very good position to score. Now, the Chargers were putting pressure on Cassel all game. Why in the WORLD would Muir call a short dump pass to McCluster out of the backfield when the Chiefs needed to gain about 10-15 more yards to put Ryan Succop in position to kick a game-tying field goal? Or why did he not continue to air the ball out down the field where the Chargers looked weak in the 4th quarter? Your guess is as good as mine. Whether Cassel saw Eric Weddle or not does not change the fact that the playcalling was horrendous. My take on Bill Muir is that he is an offensive line coach who is lacking emphasis on the “Line”. I don’t know if he really understand the process of calling plays in the NFL. For most of the first half, these 2011 Chiefs looked like the 1999 Chiefs, even the 2008 Chiefs. Each drive seemed to go in this order: Run, Run, Pass, Punt. Beautiful mix of plays by Muir. Coach Haley if you read this, please, I’m begging you, turn the playcalling over to Jim Zorn. At least he understands situational playcalling. Let Muir go back to focusing on the offensive line for the rest of the season. We need all the help we can get there.
In summary of Matt Cassel, if he continues to play the way he is playing, he will be a great quarterback. If he continues to make the few poor decisions in key moments of the football game, he will not.
On to Head Coach Todd Haley. Head Coach means so many things. Look at the great head coaches of the Chiefs. Hank Stram, Marty Schottenheimer, Dick Vermeil. Each of them had a personality and a work ethic about them that just made fans feel confident that the team was a winner, even in the years they were not. Schottenheimer led us to five straight years of playoff appearances in the early 1990′s. He could have won a Super Bowl in 1997-1998 had he left Elvis Grbac on the bench and played Rich Gannon throughout the playoffs, but that is a whole different story. Dick Vermeil made Chiefs fans believe he had everything under control, which most of the time he did. He made the players work and strive to be the best.
What do you think Coach Haley is doing? Haley is trying to make each player on his team be the best athlete he can be. Since firing Herm Edwards, Todd Haley has worked the whole team hard, the biggest of stories being that the Chiefs team as a whole dropped 338 pounds between the 2009-2010 seasons, and it showed. The team seemed faster and had more endurance than the Chiefs teams of 2007-2008. If Coach Haley had all offseason to work with the team on conditioning, everything might have been different. Less injuries? Possibly. More stamina on the field? Most definitely? A win already? Absolutely. But the team looks sluggish. The offensive line is struggling to move around, like they sat on their couch at home eating potato chips playing Madden 11 and praying they would have a job this fall. What happened to ”Chiefs Will”? Sure, it was the theme of the 2010 training camp, but why couldn’t it carry over into 2011? I don’t blame the players, they can’t help that they didn’t have any reason to work out. I also don’t blame them for getting hurt. I blame the lockout. There was no football conditioning which in turn caused the players to get used to not being hit. I do, however, blame Coach Haley for not making training camp as strenuous for the players. Given, they had three months of catching up to do in a matter of two weeks before the Tampa bay game, but they still could have done more to work on the basics: tackling, catching, passing, running, shedding blocks and tackles, and kicking accuracy. But with the new offensive scheme coming into play, the team had to focus more on learning the playbook rather than the basics, which I believe inevitably hurt them team.
I dont believe Haley is doing a bad job. I just think there are some things in the coaching phase of the game that could improve. Playcalling and execution being the main improvements.
Fans, do you know why the Chiefs seem to be feeling down? It’s because most of the ”devoted fans” have jumped ship and abandoned this season after three games. Three games. Three out of 17 games. With 13 games left to go, and a fairly tough schedule ahead, some fans are feeling as if the team can’t win and won’t win a game this year. I call bull. The way the Chiefs played against San Diego (in San Diego, mind you) gives me confidence that we can win the next two weeks and be 2-3 going into the bye week. The Chiefs come home to Arrowhead to play the winless Vikings, then travel to Indianapolis to play the Manning-less Colts. All three teams, KC, Minny, and Indy, have improved greatly this week, all losing by only three points. If the Chiefs can continue their rise, then they will be 2-3 at the bye week.
As a truly devoted fan, I also REFUSE to join the #Suck4Luck campaign floating around on twitter and facebook. I understand fans are upset and they have every right, because I am too. But I don’t feel like intentionally losing games to get Andrew Luck from Stanford will fix all our problems. Here’s a scenario if we did lose all 16 games.
January 1: Kansas City, 0-16, will have the 1st pick in the 1st round of the 2012 NFL Draft. January 2nd: Kansas City fires Head Coach Todd Haley. February 9th: Kansas City Chiefs announce Romeo Crennel as the new Chiefs Head Coach (unless Cowher decided to come available, which I highly doubt.) February 24th: Romeo Crennel announces Jim Zorn as Offensive Coordinator/ QB Coach. April 21st (or whatever day the draft begins), Kansas City Chiefs select Andrew Luck with 1st pick. Next day, Kansas City Chiefs select Offensive Tackle (to be named later) and Defensive End (also to be named later) in the 2nd and 3rd round, respectively. Luck spends all summer trying to learn the playbook from the 4th offensive coordinator in four years in Kansas City, the 3rd in three years for Luck. Cassel beats out Luck for starting job for preseason and for around 4 games in the regular season unless Cassel plays poorly earlier. Luck takes Chiefs to 6-10, throwing 20 TD’s and 25 INT’s in his first season in the NFL.
Look at the previous five quarterbacks taken first overall. 2011, Cam Newton. Great performances in his first two games, yet one win to show for it over fellow rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert. 2010, Sam Bradford. Really coming on in his second year, yet no wins to show for it so far this season. 2009, Matt Stafford. Finally showing his first round skill, and as long as he stays healthy, his third season will be his best yet. 2007, Jamarcus Russell. We all know how that worked out for the Raiders. 2005, Alex Smith. Smith has not lived up to his first round expectations in San Francisco. Not sure if he will either. He shows sparks of a winner at times, but they end up getting washed out by bad decisions.
I just can’t see Andrew Luck solving the problems and being the saving grace in Kansas City.
I want to hear what my fellow Chiefs fans think. Please comment and let me know what you feel about the season yet to be played, why Luck would be the saving grace, or whatever your heart desires.
In closing, I will ALWAYS support my Chiefs. Through good or bad, wins or losses, I will still support and love my Chiefs. I would hope all my fellow fans feel the same. If you don’t and feel like jumping ship, go for it. We don’t need fans like you anyway.