The Blueprint 2K9 V3: Raiding Arizona

The first, and most crucial, step of my original The Blueprint 2K9 came true. Clark Hunt imported the best available young football mind in the game, Scott Pioli, to run his Chiefs, at least football wise.

Step two? That’s where things have gone wrong, forcing me to wad up my previous Blueprints, toss ‘em in the trash and start on a new draft. Josh McDaniels is now coaching the Broncos, Steve Spagnuolo the Rams. Maybe it’s for the best, as a new candidate has emerged that I’m sweeter on than either of my previous preferred head coaching choices.

That being said, let’s get this show on the road…

The Blueprint 2K9 V3: Raiding Arizona

Step 1: Pioli hires Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator Todd Haley as the Kansas City Chiefs’ new head coach.

Every NFL team must have its own identity in order to be successful. Last year, the Chiefs didn’t have one. Well, a positive one anyway. No, I don’t consider “gimmick offense” a positive one. C’mon folks, that’s what the Arrowspread was. Don’t even get me started on the defense. That’s why it didn’t work in the second halves of games all season long. Still, the Chiefs are much, much closer to being an offensive powerhouse than they are to being a defensive one. And that is precisely why hiring Haley makes so much sense.

Haley is the hottest offensive coordinator in the game. He’s devised a deadly pass-first offense that has carried the Cardinals all the way to the Super Bowl. He has the temperament of a head coach. Like I recently stated in a comment thread, we need a boss — not a buddy. We need a Bill Parcells or a Mike Tomlin — not a Herm Edwards or Wade Phillips. This guy has shown that he can deal with the egomaniacs of the NFL; he didn’t take any lip from T.O. as an assistant coach with the Cowboys, and he put Anquan Boldin in his place last week while calling the NFC Championship-winning drive. That proved that he could not only handle the players and the pressure, but thrive in the hectic environment in which a head coach must operate. The Tuna made Haley one of his disciples for a reason.

Lastly, we want a young, hungry coach with lots to prove. Why? Because we want someone who can allow us to forge a coach-G.M.-owner triumvirate that can grow and win together over the course of the next decade or so. Something that lasts. That’s what we are trying to build here. With Hunt and Pioli both 43, and Haley 41, they have nothing but time. Hell, the Hunts kept Carl Peterson around for 20 years — Clark is going to want that same stability with this new regime. With a Haley-Pioli pairing — the two have known each other for a long time and reportedly have a good relationship — that kind of front office stability would be a real possibility.

The critics will have their gripes. They’ll say that he’s not proven. Um, leading an offensive-minded team to the Super Bowl as its offensive coordinator isn’t proving yourself? Then they’ll say why are we hiring an O.C. when our defense was so atrocious last year? Because Haley can mold an offense featuring some serious talent into something special. Because Haley, a Parcells disciple, won’t neglect the defensive side of the ball. Because Pioli, a Belichick disciple, won’t neglect the defensive side of the ball either. Because that’s why you hire the right defensive coordinator.

Step 2: Trade Larry Johnson for whatever we can get for him.

My stance on L.J. hasn’t changed one bit. Third-rounder, fourth-rounder, whatever. Get him out of town and that salary off the books. Houston, New England, New Orleans, Philly, Tampa Bay and others will be interested for sure.

Step 3. Keep Tony Gonzalez.

My stand on Tony G. hasn’t changed either. He may be 32, but he’s hauled in more receptions over the past two years than any other two-year block of his career. Tony has five more good years in him if he wants to play for that long. We’d have to be idiots to trade him for what’s bound to be no more than a third-round pick.

Step 4. Trade for Matt Leinart.

Update: The Cardinals cannot afford to pay Kurt Warner and Matt Lienart a billion-kajillion dollars. Especially with Dansby an UFA and so much money tied up in the two receivers. Oh yeah, and the Bidwells also have a history of being cheap. The Cards will resign the guy that took them to the Super Bowl and Leinart will likely demand a trade. Getting a lot of comments on this, so I wanted to tackle it and offer a rebuttal in the post…

Now this was a curveball lots of you probably didn’t see coming. But let’s face it — Tyler Thigpen isn’t a franchise quarterback. He only completed 54.8 percent of his passes in a spread offense featuring Dwayne Bowe and Tony Gonzalez when the Chiefs were consistently down facing prevent and soft defenses. We all laugh at JaMarcus Russell, but his completion percentage this season was 53.8 with a much, much worse compliment of receiving options. Sure, Tyler can run, but it’s not like he’s Michael Vick. Thiggy Smalls finished his second season playing small. Any hopes I had for him becoming a franchise quarterback basically went down the drain.

Since it looks like we will be giving up roughly a 2010 first and a 2009 third to get Matt Cassel, why not go out and get the guy who beat him out in college? Either way, with Thiggy not the answer, we are going to have to surrender a first-round pick to find a good, young quarterback. I like Cassel and I love Mark Sanchez (regardless of whether I think Pioli would draft him — I don’t), but if we are going to go with a Trojan then why not go with the guy who led USC to a National Championship?

More importantly, Leinart has been in the league for three years. Haley has been grooming him for two of those years. He’s a smart kid, so I’m sure he knows Haley’s offense like the back of the hand (or Paris Hilton’s ass). He has the leadership ability and swagger that all the greats have as well.

For the record, Leinart had a 56.8 completion percentage in the only season he started 10 or more games, which was his true rookie season. Also, you can’t punish him for being stuck behind a two-time MVP QB, with a new coach who is obviously more interested in winning now and keeping his job than grooming a young QB. This step requires somewhat a leap of faith based on Leinart’s college career and combine performance, but it could be a homerun for a franchise that hasn’t had a good young QB in…forever.

I think Leinart and Haley could get off to a fast start in Kansas City, especially considering who this Blueprint calls for us to draft.

Step 5. Sign either Bart Scott or Karlos Dansby at linebacker.

These guys are playing outstanding. The Cardinals and Ravens will have a hard time re-signing them as well. Scott almost signed with the Browns back in 2006, and the Ravens have a ton of other free agents. As for Dansby, the Cards will likely re-sign Kurt Warner and have a ton of money tied up in the offense (Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald and possibly Edgerrin James, should he stay now). I am confident we can land one of these players. I prefer Dansby, but Scott is a helluva player, too, and will probably be easier for us to sign.

Step 7. Sign another linebacker.

Since we could use two linebackers, we need to bring in someone from this group as well: Angelo Crowell, Channing Crowder, Leroy Hill and Michael Boley. This free agent class is stacked when it comes to linebackers, and we need to take advantage by signing two to go with Derrick Johnson. Demorrio Williams can serve as quality depth.

Step 6. Sign Derrick Ward

I’m still extremely high on Ward. Again, according to the Football Outsiders, he performed better than any other back in football this season:

Top 5 running backs

1. Derrick Ward, Giants: 375 DYAR (274 rushing DYAR, 102 receiving)
2. Kevin Faulk, Patriots: 365 DYAR (180 rushing, 185 receiving)
3. DeAngelo Williams, Panthers: 361 DYAR (367 rushing, -6 receiving)
4. Clinton Portis, Redskins: 336 DYAR (285 rushing, 51 receiving)
5. Thomas Jones, Jets: 325 DYAR (253 rushing, 72 receiving)

Ward ahead of Williams?!? You can thank each player’s performance in the passing game. If we look strictly at how the running backs did carrying the ball out of the backfield, Williams is numero uno, with Brandon Jacobs (308 rushing DYAR) right behind him. Because those players had no impact in the passing game, though, guys like Ward and Faulk jumped ahead of them. A first down is a first down, regardless of whether it came through the air or on the ground, and Ward (58) grabbed enough of them to pull himself ahead of Williams (51). Ward was excellent as a receiver, averaging 9.4 yards per reception

Pretty impressive stuff. With Brandon Jacobs also a UFA and Ahmed Bradshaw in the fold, Ward is as good as gone. Ward also went to college at Kansas’ Ottawa University. I think this guy would be a perfect compliment to our passing game. He’s got Pro Bowl skills, I’m telling you. The Giants have a great O-line, but he was better than Jacobs this year, and that’s saying something.

Don’t give me this Jamaal Charles and Kolby Smith B.S. either. Neither of those guys have shown anything that should lead anybody to believe they can handle being a feature back. Honestly, I don’t even think those two make up a decent platoon. The more I think about it — and I have since the last version — the less I like them.

Step 7. Sign center/guard Jason Brown

This is an under-the-radar signing that could help bolster our line immediately. Brown has started every game for the Ravens over the course of the last two seasons. He’s also quick for an offensive lineman, which would lend versatility to the offense. Again, the Ravens basically have too many other free agents to make Brown a priority.

Step 8. Pass on Terrell Suggs and Julius Peppers, roll the dice on Kenechi Udeze.

I’m sticking to my guns on this one. Suggs is going to command outrageous money and the Ravens will want to keep him — especially if they lose Scott. Peppers isn’t a possibility here because he wants to play in a 3-4, and we don’t have the personnel to make that switch. Or at least I don’t think we do.

Meanwhile, Udeze is a former first-round pick and teammate of Matt Leinart. He sat out this year due to acute leukemia, which he apparently has made a full recovery from as he recently said “I’ll be back next year.” The Vikings are pretty well stocked at DE, and we might be able to get Udeze at a bargain basement price considering his recent health. He’s still only 25, and with his pedigree and the potential (4.7 range 40) he’s more than worth the gamble. Of course, we’d have to thoroughly, thoroughly check him out and clear him medically first.

Step 9. Draft Michael Crabtree with the No. 3 overall pick.

Crabtree is going to be the next Fitzgerald. Write it on the chalkboard 100 times, Addicts. 1,000 times if it doesn’t stick. Fitz has carried the Cards to the Big Game. Crabtree has similar talent and posted better college numbers in a stronger conference. Additionally, with Bowe and Crabtree in the fold, along with Leinart, Haley could pretty much run the same potent offense he is currently running in Arizona. One could argue that with Mark Bradley playing Steve Breaston and Tony Gonzalez blowing Ben Patrick and Leonard Pope out of the freakin’ water, that the Kansas City passing game would actually be more loaded.

Step 10. Draft UCONN OT William Beatty early in the second round.

This is the guy I like to round out the offensive line (Branden Albert, Brian Waters, Jason Brown, Wade Smith, Beatty). The way he is rising reminds me of Sam Baker last year and Tony Ugoh two years ago. That’s a good thing. He’s huge — 6-foot-6, just over 300 pounds — but has a frame that can carry about 20 more pounds or so. He has outstanding athleticism and feet as well. As I recently wrote over on NFL Mocks, “the big man moves like an NBA power forward.” I really, really like this kid. I think he’s just scratching the surface ability wise. Let’s face it; the Big East isn’t what it once was, so he wasn’t playing against the best of the best by any means. Also, where he went to school and played could cause him to slip just a bit. That’s not a guarantee (see Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie), but it could happen.

Step 11. Draft Defense, Defense, Defense.

Keep drafting players to play in the front seven. With what we have and what I have us signing, I’m confident Pioli could fill all remaining holes via the last five rounds of the draft.

Addicts, what do you think of the latest Blueprint?

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Tags: 2009 Nfl Free Agents Bart Scott Derrick Ward Free Agency Jason Brown Kansas City Chiefs Karlos Dansby Kenechi Udeze Matt Leinart Michael Crabtree Scott Pioli Todd Haley Tony Gonzalez William Beatty

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