Kent Babb of both the Kansas City Star and its Red Zone blog was nice enough to discuss both the new blog and the Chiefs with me. Here’s the interview…
1. Congrats on Red Zone, your new blog over at The Kansas City Star. What are your plans for the blog?
We’d like Red Zone to be another way for Chiefs fans to get news and get it at any hour of the day, minutes after it breaks. When we hear something from sources, usually the first thing we do is post it on the blog. The same rules apply as they do in the newspaper; for the most part, Red Zone is not a place for rumors or grumblings; it’s a place for news that we feel comfortable enough about that we’ll write it and attach our names to it. But the blog also allows us to be a little edgier, to try different ways to connect with fans that the newspaper might not allow. In my case, I’ll try to be more light-hearted in the blog than I would be in a newspaper story, and if there’s something like Jared Allen‘s quote from a few weeks ago – “I’m happier than a puppy with two peters” – that can’t run in the newspaper, that’s blog material. Essentially, Red Zone is for hard-core Chiefs fans who want to know every morsel of information as it’s happening. But it’s also for those fans who can sometimes take a joke.
2. What is your opinion on the emergence of sports blogs in general?
It’s the way of the future. At first, I was reluctant to embrace the blog culture, and I’m a young guy; I graduated college four years ago right around the time blogs were becoming popular. Now, I have kind of a split mindset. I’m glad there’s an outlet for fans to have an opinion and express it. There’s clearly an audience for that, and for all the reasons I mentioned earlier, it’s terrific that the platform exists. But there also have to be boundaries between blogs and mainstream media so that readers aren’t confused when they read a blog and the tone is different from what they’d read in the paper. The bottom line is that a blog is not a newspaper story, which has strict rules and regulations to preserve credibility. A blog is lighter and looser, and you’re able to have more fun with it because of its audience. Neither one is right or wrong; it’s just the way it is, and I’m glad to see that culture growing.
3. Which Chiefs’ players have surprised you so far this preseason?
I really like what I’ve seen from Brodie Croyle. In a lot of my stories, I like to play devil’s advocate and challenge readers about Croyle and, heck, challenge Croyle about his play. I’m a hard sell, and I’m eager to see what the Chiefs feel so great about in Croyle. They say he can be as good as he wants to be, which is definitely encouraging for Chiefs fans. I watched Brodie at Alabama – I’m an SEC guy – and thought he was a solid quarterback at the front edge of his potential. I think this offseason, coaches made it a priority to improve his confidence and assure him that he’s the starter. Based on what I’ve seen in the first two preseason games, he’s come a long way. Even in his mistakes, he looks better and more relaxed. For instance, last week the Cardinals had terrific coverage on the Chiefs’ receivers. Last year, Croyle might have forced the ball to Tony Gonzalez or thrown it in the direction of Dwayne Bowe, hoping he comes down with it. And last year, that throw might have been picked off. But Saturday, Croyle throw it into the stands. He made a quick decision, and it was the right one. That was an NFL throw.
I also like Bowe, although I’m not sure that’d qualify as a surprise. Same with Brian Waters. Brandon Flowers has shown some really good flashes.
4. Which players do you enjoy talking to the most?
Derrick Johnson is my favorite. He and I have some things in common, and I really got to know him when I did a story a couple months ago about his father’s death last year. He was open and candid with me, and he couldn’t have been more helpful. Those are delicate subjects sometimes, and often players aren’t comfortable sharing them with a stranger. Johnson had never spoken openly about the subject, but he was open and honest with me, and I think it made for a great story.
Brian Waters is very insightful and honest. Tank Tyler is a guy who’s always got a smile on his face, even if he doesn’t feel like speaking to a reporter today. Dwayne Bowe, when he’s in the mood. Devard Darling because of his authenticity and honesty. Glenn Dorsey because he’s comfortable in his own skin. There are a lot of good guys in that locker room.
5. You had a great story on Dwayne Bowe recently. Do you think he’s the Chiefs’ next star?
I think he’s already a star. That guy can flat play, and he’s got the confidence to back it up. This year might be a challenge for him because of all the changes the Chiefs are going through. It’ll be a test of his patience, whether he’s really a star or whether he’ll melt down like Keyshawn Johnson or Terrell Owens have done in the past. I’d like to think Bowe understands where the Chiefs are, and I think he does. But we’ll see how he responds if he goes a game or two without a catch.
6. Glenn Dorsey–what is you first impression?
For my purposes, he’s awesome. He allowed me to spend two days with him in Louisiana this past May. He’s unbelievably intelligent and measured in what he reveals to you. Sometimes you can trick someone into saying a certain thing, but Dorsey isn’t like that. He’s too smart. He’s also as laid back a star players as I’ve ever been around. The attention seems to always surprise him, and he never says no. He signed autographs at training camp almost every day, and I don’t remember a time that he declined a reporter’s interview request. He always makes it a point to say hello to me as he walks by, and that’s not a common thing in today’s NFL locker room.
As far as his play goes, I’m eager to see him perform at this level. I think his tools are off the charts. I watched him in college and marveled at his skills. I think he’ll be a great NFL player if he stays healthy and doesn’t get discouraged by some early speedbumps.
7. What are your thoughts on the current quarterback conundrum?
(By the way, I do think we have a conundrum. We’ve been trying to solve the homegrown QB puzzle my whole life, and still haven’t managed to do so. I also think we know we can’t go into opening day like this…)
Not sure if there’s really a conundrum, but the starting job is Brodie’s to lose. I have a hard time believing the Chiefs are truly comfortable with Tyler Thigpen as the backup. You’re talking about a second-year player backup up a third-year player. Most times when you’re entering your first full season with a young starter, you want a veteran on call if something goes bad. Matt Leinart and Kurt Warner. Phillip Rivers and Doug Flutie. Eli Manning and, well, Kurt Warner. So that’s different from what I’m used to, but from everything I’ve heard from Herm Edwards, they like Thigpen and think he’s up to the job. I have a hunch they’re going to add another quarterback in the next few weeks, just to get a veteran presence back there, in addition to Damon Huard, who I think the Chiefs feel is on a downturn.
Thanks, Kent! Be sure to check out Red Zone. Kent and the crew are doing a fine job of breaking news and keeping Chiefs fans updated over there.