The K.C. Chiefs: It’s All A Set Up

“No Sicilian can refuse any request on his daughter’s wedding day.”

~Tom Hagen, from “The Godfather”

It’s all a set up. From setting the table for dinner to setting your daughter up on her wedding day… it’s happening everywhere, every day, all the time. The NFL owners are trying to set themselves up for unparalleled pecuniary amalgamation. The same could be said for the players association but, I’m not going to be stepping in that pile-o-pooh (except maybe I just did).

What the K.C. Chiefs have been doing, is setting themselves up for success: off and on the field.

At the end of the 2009 season the Chiefs took a team-wide needs inventory and saw that they had a rather hefty hole in the middle of their offensive line that was, well, offensive. To set themselves up for better results in 2010 they signed Casey Wiegmann. Better results were immediate and the Chiefs led the league in rushing with Wiegmann playing an important role in that process.

However, Casey Wiegmann is obviously not the long term answer at Center, the Chiefs knew he would not be setting them up for the long run and drafted Rodney Hudson in this year’s draft. Hudson may be the Center of the future hopefully setting up the Chiefs for years of success and stability at that position.

Coach Todd Haley has been trying for over two years now to set the Chiefs up at wide receiver. Imagine going from the Kurt Warner-Larry Fitzgerald-Anquan Boldin combo in 2008 to the Matt Cassel-Dwayne Bowe-Chris Chambers combo in 2009. Haley has spent a load of energy attempting to set the Chiefs up at wide receiver with not much success his first year and some success in year two.

Now, the Chiefs may be set up for a long time if both Dwayne Bowe and Jonathan Baldwin can play at the high level Haley was able to get Fitzgerald and Boldin to play at. Their upside may even be higher. However, Arizona’s 3rd and 4th receivers have been much better than the Chiefs number 2. So, the Chiefs will need to add other pieces to their receiving corps to set themselves up for success in the receiving game.

Todd Haley is working from an experience base which shows that a pair, or corps, of good receivers is, at least entertaining, if not directly responsible for, setting the whole offense up for success. Haley’s first stint as wide receiver’s coach was in 1996 with the N.Y. Jets. The Jets already had WR Wayne Chrebet and they drafted WR Keyshawn Johnson in Haley’s first year. Those two wide receivers did well together for a few years but, it wasn’t until the Jets added RB Curtis Martin in 1998 that their offense began to pop. The Jets were 1-15 in 1996 under Rich Kotite and 12-4 in 1998 under Bill Parcells so, Haley saw first hand how setting up a team from top to bottom can impact the results.

When Matt Cassel missed a game last season in week 14 because of an appendectomy it became acutely apparent that there was zero depth at QB. The Chiefs had not set themselves for that.

The Chiefs current starting QB reality is due to another team (the Pats) setting themselves up by deftly scouting then cleverly drafting solid play callers late in the draft. By buying low and selling high the Patriots know a thing or two about setting themselves up.

Of course setting yourself up extends to play calling too.

To be effective offensively you must set yourself up. Another way to say this is… every play is made possible by a setup play.

This is where I think a lot of fans miss out on Todd Haley’s brilliance. Let’s look at his record on kick-offs. Will he defer? Unpredictable. Will he kick an on-side kick? Unpredictable.

What’s so brilliant about that you ask? Haley’s unpredictable play calling forces the other team to cover all possibilities. By having to cover all possibilities it allows the Chief’s play makers more room to shine. He’s setting his players up for an increased possibility of success.

Todd Haley is doing the same thing with team conditioning. He’s setting the Chiefs up for an increased likelihood of success in the fourth quarter.

Of course there are times that Todd Haley is wanting to look predictable so that the unpredictable will work. At other times, being predictable is the best way to set yourself up for a 19th nervous breakdown (a Stones reference… you’ll have to YouTube it).

For many of us Chiefs fan we’ll remember the frustration of Marty-ball. You could almost always predict what Schottenheimer was going to do in short yardage situations: ram the ball down their throat… even if the defense had stacked against the run. That’s a good example of setting yourself up… for failure.

The John Elway led Broncos used to set the Chiefs up with their zone blocking sweeps that eventually led to a killer bootleg by Elway. That’s a good example of setting yourself up… for success.  If you’re the Broncos.

The 2010 Chiefs used Mike Vrabel in enough goal line packages that when they decided to throw the ball to him they had set themselves up… royally.

With his recent retirement announcement it should be noted that bringing Mike Vrabel to the Kansas City Chiefs was one of Scott Pioli’s smoothest moves, helping to set the Chiefs up for their current success. His skills and leadership were unquestioned.

The Chief’s recent successful running game is the clearest example of the philosophy of setting yourself up. Thomas Jones battering style of running sets the opposing team up for contact that often never comes when Jamaal Charles enters the game, flips into hyper-drive and creates a whiff and whiz noise. They’re the whiff and he’s the whiz.

When it comes to… setting yourself up… there have been some epic fails:
·        The 2007 Oakland Raiders thought they were setting themselves up for the next 10 plus seasons when they drafted QB JaMarcus Russell out of LSU. They were really setting themselves up for failure because Russell turned out to be epic in that department. He only knew how to set himself up.
·        Jerry Jones thought he was setting himself up for some all time Super Bowl record attendance accolades when he sold tickets for temporary seating that never materialized at the Palace-Not-Really-In-Dallas. He only ended up giving the Super Bowl a couple of big black eyes.
·        The 2002 K.C. Chief’s draft. Ryan Sims. Enough said.

Ongoing team success is dependent upon how well you have set yourself up. Many people are excited for Mike Vrabel to move on and make space for Andy Studebaker, Justin Houston and some of the other young guns we have lined up at OLB. The good news is that we have a bunch of guys lined up and ready to go.

We don’t know for a fact that we have someone lined up in the wings, ready to take over, who we’re sure will do as good or better than Mr. Vrabel. The reality is that… that kind of situation is rare. Such as when Steve Young was waiting in the wings when Joe Montana was holding the reins. That set up was a pretty sure thing.

The K.C. Chiefs are just now reaching the plateau where most all of their first level players are strong enough to compete with anyone in the league. It has taken some time to… set themselves up for that.

Acquiring and preparing second level players to be ready to step in immediately and play at the highest level is what the Chiefs are working towards. That will be one hell of a set up. I don’t think the Chiefs are too far away from that reality.

Now that Mike Vrabel has moved on, we’ll all see how well the Chiefs have set themselves up. Because you know, it’s all a set up.

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