“The Chiefs were no better in 2009 than they were in 2008.”
It is the Chiefs fans 2010 January lament. Who can blame them?
It is hard to argue against the idea that the Chiefs did not improve in 2009. Their defense gave up only 16 fewer points than the 08’ squad. The offense scored a whopping 3 points more than Tyler Thigpen and the “Arrowspread” offense. The variance in the numbers between 08’ and 09’ are so minuscule that is it hard to find any real difference between the season that got Herman Edwards fired and the season Todd Haley lead the team, disappointing so many. To most long suffering Chiefs fans, it was just different faces getting the same results.
I’m not here to tell you not to be angry about all the losing. I am here to try to give you an objective look at why the Chiefs 09’ season was not a lateral move. I actually think Haley did a remarkable job, given the circumstances he inherited.
To understand why the 09’ season wasn’t a waste, we need to first review how the Chiefs got into their current 3-year skid. I want to start by going on the record that I don’t think there was anything wrong with the way Herm Edwards was trying to build the Chiefs in 2007. He was a victim of Carl Petersons iron grip. When Herm was first hired, he wanted to rebuild the team. Peterson, however, forced him to build on Dick Vermeil’s table scraps. Thus, Chiefs fans were forced to endure a pointless 9-7 season followed by a playoff butt whooping by the Colts (again) and then a 4-12 season that finally proved Herm’s original point, that the Chiefs were too old and needed to be rebuilt. By the time Herm was finally given the authority to do things his way, it was too late. Carl was on his way out of town and Clark Hunt needed to bring in a new boss. Scott Pioli needed to decide if the direction Herm Edwards was taking the team was the direction he wanted to go. It wasn’t and Herm was fired.
I am not saying that I think Herm was a good coach. I don’t. His team was fat and out of shape, undisciplined and complacent with losing. I think Pioli recognized that and decided Herm wasn’t his kind of coach. While Herm was an unfortunate victim of Carl Peterson’s ineptness, he didn’t make himself an attractive choice for his new boss.
I bring all this up to illustrate the differences in the Chiefs 3 losing seasons. While it may be a 3-year skid for the fans, it is really 3 separate seasons that began going in 3 separate directions. The first losing season (4-12) was the last gasp of Dick Vermiel’s old team, with Herm as head coach. The second losing season, (2-14) Herm’s last, was year 1 of a rebuilding project. A poor record was to be expected. The new brass decided the needed to do things their way and let Herm go.The organization needs to be on the same page.
Thus, losing season 3 was not an extension of “Dick Vermeil’s Last Gasp with special guest head coach Herman Edwards,” nor was it year two of “Herm’s Youth Movement.” It was year one of the “Pioli/Haley Project.” The new regime was not responsible for the sins of the past. They were not required to come right in and continue the path Herm had set, simply win a few more games in 2009, especially if they didn’t think Herm’s path was the long term answer to success. Scott Pioli was not hired to keep everyone happy with an 8 win season, he was hired to win multiple championships and he and Todd Haley set out to go about their plans as they saw fit.
“Well that’s all great Patrick,” you say, “but that still doesn’t explain why you think the Chiefs took a step forward this year.”
Actually, it does. You see, I needed to point out the severity of the disorganized mess that was the 07’ and 08’ seasons to prove that Pioli and Haley’s first season was a step forward.
Pioli and Haley did what Herm wanted to do in his first season. They did it in the face of harsh criticism. They did it with a very difficult schedule. They had the guts to turn over the roster and sort things out. They looked for their kind of guys. They installed the defense they believed was best for the team to run. They installed the offense they wanted, despite pressure to keep an offensive coordinator they were never going to keep past year 1 anyway. They made mistakes and for the most part, owned up to them. They endlessly searched for players to improve the roster. Some worked and some didn’t. They were relentless.
Through the entire turnover, through installing a new offense, defense, coaching philosophy, though adding a ton of new players, including a new QB, the Chiefs still won two more games than they did the year before. They Chiefs could have easily took a step back. They could have had another 2-win season. They didn’t.
Instead, they set the table for Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel. They identified an offensive playmaker in Jamaal Charles, whether by design or by accident, it doesn’t really matter. The converted Tamba Hali from an average DE who had hit the wall to a pass rushing threat at OLB in one season. They established their own culture. All of these things, plus adding on 2 wins, were a move forward.
So yes, I believe the Chiefs took a step forward in 2009 and I think it was a big step forward. A lateral move would have been hiring Todd Haley but keeping Chan Gailey or keeping players they didn’t want so they could continue to run a 4-3 when their eventual goal was to run a 3-4. A lateral move would have been sacrificing everything they accomplished by installing their program, to win 2 or 3 more games in 2009. A lateral move, like the one Carl Peterson forced Herm Edwards to make when he arrived in Kansas City, would have been must more disastrous in the long run, than 2009’s 4-12 season.
Pioli and Haley still have much to prove. They need to continue to move forward and build upon what they have begun. The ship is pointing in the right direction, all we can hope for now is that the captains know where they’re going.