Chiefs fans, we’re in trouble. Our captain has abandoned us. Who will we look to for leadership now that he’s gone*? All I can say is thank The Holy Spirit for Thom Jones. We need him, now more than ever. Thing is though, he’ll have to play twice as much to make up for the loss of Vrabel. Looks like its time to get rid of Charles. We can’t afford to be wasting carries on someone who isn’t a leader right now.
*The dwarves? They hide in their mountains seeking riches. They care nothing for the troubles of others. (Master Elrond: October, 3018)
Seriously though, I’m sure some of you are expecting an article full of mockery and snide remarks. Aside from that first paragraph (couldn’t help myself), you’ll get neither. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy Mike Vrabel retired. Ecstatic, actually. We’re a much better team than we were last week. Whoever steps into that position will be a thrill to watch, comparatively.
But if you think I really hate Mike Vrabel, you’re wrong. I do not. He was a fine player in his day, and even as an elder statesman he could’ve been valuable* if used properly. The problem, of course, is that the Chiefs weren’t using him properly. They seemed incapable of it. As long as Vrabel wanted to play, he was going to be a starter for the Kansas City Chiefs. That was evident from the beginning.
*I’m talking mainly about theoretical value here. I place a much, much lower emphasis on intangibles than many football fans, yet I’m not totally blind to their existence. “Locker-room leadership”, however you want to define it, is most definitely a good thing. How good? We simply don’t know. There is no way to accurately judge that. But it has a non-zero value, even I admit that.
But the man walked away, and I respect him for that. Sounds like he’s got a pretty sweet gig lined up, too. Good for him. I bear Mike Vrabel no ill will. It was Todd Haley who kept sending him out there.
more after le jump:
In the NFL, you’re either ahead of the curve or you’re falling behind. Old-school is just another way to say outdated. It isn’t gritty, or smashmouth, or even quaint, for instance, to think running is more important than passing. It’s just wrong. And if your coach doesn’t realize that, then woe be unto your team. Because there are other coaches who do, and their teams now have that advantage over yours. The NFL is a zero-sum game. Smart teams get better at the expense of teams stuck in the past.
Are the Chiefs stuck in the past? This is a question I struggle with. There is evidence to suggest they’re not:
- For the past two years, Scott Pioli has placed a heavy emphasis on passing defense with his draft picks.
- Both Haley and Pioli are on record saying the NFL is a pass-first league.
- Haley makes 4th down decisions based not on traditional lines of thinking, but on unknown statistics that he apparently studies.
- Pioli drafted Jonathan Baldwin and Justin Houston.
- Clark Hunt forced the taxpayers to shell out $250 million for his “revenue-producing stadium.”
All of these are decidedly new-school tactics. And yet, Vrabel. Trotting a 35-year-old, slow-as-molasses linebacker out there for 16 starts in the middle of a playoff race is about as old-school as it gets. Everybody, and I mean everybody, knew Vrabel was done after the 2009 season. Most teams (including the Patriots) probably realized he was done after 2008. The Chiefs would’ve been a better team if they’d limited his role last year. And they wouldn’t have had to sacrifice any of his precious locker-room mojo. Hell, they could’ve made him the captain of their locker-room (I heard Perv Smith was captain of the showers).
Instead, they made him captain of the team and started him every game. And it was that, friends, that angered your boy Big Matt. Not Vrabel himself. I mean what was the guy supposed to do, turn down a chance to play?
That would’ve been some pretty amazing leadership, actually. “Hey coach, can I talk to you for a minute? Look, me and the guys were talking. I appreciate your confidence in me, but, uh…….I’m not good at football anymore. You should play someone who is.”
In any case, Vrabel has done what the Chiefs were not strong enough to do. This is a very exciting time. A time for our young, talented defense to take that next step, unfettered by an overabundance of fake intangibles. Houston, Studebaker, I honestly don’t care who starts. Either one will be a joy to watch after two full seasons of Vrabel.
My question is, was Vrabel truly a stopgap for a young developing team, or is he simply the kind of player our brain-trust likes? Because it wasn’t just Vrabel they signed. He was one of three old, bad players named Mike they brought in that first year (Brown and Goff being the others). There was also Zach Thomas. And of course we can’t forget the aforementioned Jones, who is now a shoo-in for team captain and supreme locker-room overlord. He picks the music, guys. No exceptions.
What I’m hoping is that those guys were brought in just to buy time. We certainly don’t need players like that anymore (we probably never did). But what Todd Haley has proven, beyond the shadow of a doubt, is that he will start those guys every game and praise the job they’re doing no matter how badly they play. We must depend on Pioli here. He simply cannot give Haley any more old, broken toys to play with.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this is going to be an extremely interesting, and telling, free agency. If our first signee is Junior Seau I’m going to be very upset.