God I hate that term. I understand what it’s supposed to mean, and how a rebuild is supposed to work. It isn’t rocket science. If a team allows itself to get old, it will eventually need to commit to youth. We all know this. Every small-market sports fan is intimately familiar with the concept. My problem was that while I heard the word “rebuilding” all the time, I didn’t actually see it happening. I saw a bad team that wasn’t making progress. I saw a front office that was clueless pass the torch to another that was arrogant. “Rebuilding” began to look like a synonym for “sucking.”
I’ve got to be careful what I say here, because I don’t want a bunch of angry commenters using phrases like “laying the foundation” and “changing the culture.” But we can all pretty much agree the 2009 off-season sucked, right? I mean, Scott Pioli didn’t add any good players, so…..
Cue the obligatory protest that it takes years to evaluate a draft class. Fine. But let’s be honest: After one year, most of those picks are looking worse, not better. If the draft was re-done Tyson Jackson probably wouldn’t even be a first round pick. Something tells me Pioli would probably take a mulligan on Donald Washington and Colin Brown, too. And if you take an uninspiring draft class and a bunch of old, bad free agents, what do you get? A bad off-season. More rebuilding that doesn’t actually involve any building.
This year, finally, was different. Pioli brought in two big-name coordinators, signed a few legitimate free agents and had what many consider to be a strong draft. Chiefs Nation is thrilled. I am too, actually. This off-season was much better than the last. We are more talented than last year, no doubt about that. However, Chiefs fans that we are, many of us are exaggerating the greatness of Pioli’s efforts. This is what we do. Bad moves are met with excuses (“Pollard wasn’t even that good, and he was a clubhouse cancer!”), decent moves are hailed as brilliant (Thomas Jones was the best free agent signing in the NFL!”), and actual good moves cause fans of a 4-12 team to predict a playoff appearance.
Let’s take a realistic look at what we actually accomplished this off-season. I’m going to break this down into three parts:
Part 1: The Coordinators
Charlie Weis may not have met expectations at Notre Dame, but his offensive skills are beyond question. Romeo Crennel is replacing Clancy Pendergast. So right off the bat, both of these guys are a step up for us. But some fans are getting a little carried away here. Yes, both had success under Bill Belichick. Everyone does. The bottom line is that our head coach is still a question mark. And coordinators alone can’t compensate for a lack of talent. It’s unreasonable to expect new coordinators to completely turn their units around. Weis has a chance at immediate success, but my guess is Romeo Crennel will struggle mightily. This defense still has serious issues.
Part 2: The free agents
Let me start off by saying that I think Thomas Jones, Ryan Lilja, and Casey Weigmann were all good signings. I’m even mildly intrigued by Jerheme Urban and Shaun Smith. More than anything, it was just nice to see Pioli sign a few players other teams might conceivably want. That was a first.
Some of these guys are likely to be good additions, but some of them are likely to fail as well. Lilja was deemed unnecessary by a team that found room for Andy Allemen. Yeah, that Andy Alleman. Weigmann is really, really old. Smith has never been that good. Urban is fresh off a 186-yard, zero touchdown campaign. And I know we all love Thom Jones and he put up some good fantasy numbers last year, but the harsh reality is he’s a 31-year-old running back who averaged 4.2 yards per carry. All of these guys were worth signing. None of them are likely to have a huge impact.
Part 3: The draft
This is where I’m really going to lose some of you. I love Eric Berry, just like everyone else. Asamoah was a steal, and Moeaki could start right away. Good picks, all. I just feel like we missed an opportunity in that second round. I know everyone loves McCluster and some experts have praised Arenas, but what did we really get there? A nickel-back and a slot receiver? With second round picks? I’m still having a hard time coming to grips with that. I can’t help but think our team would’ve been a lot better off in the long run with some building blocks for the front seven. I heard even Ron Edwards was pissed they didn’t draft a nose tackle.
I don’t want it to sound like I’m complaining about the off-season, because I’m really not. I threw a party (got drunk by myself) after we signed Ryan Lilja. My kid brother just bought me an Eric Berry t-shirt. I’ve even started to wear my pants like Charlie Weis. This was a good off-season, and I’m excited about it. But I think some of you, the “we’re going to win the division” crowd, might be in for a rude awakening. I heard some Raiders fans saying the same thing after they brought in Jason “Cam” Campbell.
But really everyone knows they should’ve stuck it out with Jamarcus Russell, right? He’s got all the tools! And don’t even get me started on the intangibles. I smell a quarterbacks coach job in his future. Either that or an untimely death due to morbid obesity. There’s no middle ground with a guy like that. His star just burns too bright. Me? I’m betting on quarterbacks coach. We will learn the lessons Jamarcus has to teach.