The K.C. Chiefs And The Wrong 53

Alright. Something is very wrong here. Were these the Kansas City Chiefs we all came to know and love in the past year? Were these the same guys that won 10 games just a season ago?

It all began in the autumn of 2010 when the Chiefs won the first 10 out of 15 games. Here’s what has happened since that 15th game:

  1. A loss to the Raiders on home turf.
  2. A loss to the Ravens on home turf.
  3. Lost our offseason.
  4. Lost our preseason.
  5. A loss to the Bills on home turf.

So, what’s different between our current losing streak and our 10 win season? And don’t say schedule.

The answer may be as simple as, personnel.

The 53 players we have on paper are good players. Is there a reason, after one blowout loss, to doubt that Scott Pioli and company have made the right decisions about player personnel? Maybe. Successfully managing a team is all about making good decisions. So, let’s take a look.

Sunday’s performances of personnel additions in the past 2 1/2 years:

Kelly Gregg- he couldn’t stop the run up the middle, and there were plays he looked ineffective. Chiefs need more on the DL. They also chose to sit NT Jerrell Powe for this game when it looks like they could have used him. It also looks like Powe could have used the experience.

Tyson Jackson- if the Chiefs’ new ninja master taught Jackson some fresh moves, I didn’t see them on Sunday. I did, however, see the Bills gain 163 yards on the ground. One assisted tackle deserves no comment and no accolades.

I’m not placing all the blame on Gregg and Jackson but, they did contribute to Bills QB Fitzpatrick having a 133.0 QB rating.

Steve Breaston- had 2 catches. Cassel looked off, way off, so it’s hard to tell but, we hoped for more than 2 catches per game from him.

Dexter “The Quark” McCluster- continuing to use Dexter as much as they do may be problematic. He’s exciting but, he can’t be counted on. Fumbling the ball to begin the season may be the worst thing that could have happened to this team. Some teams take a play like that and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. The Chiefs needed more team speed when they drafted him, but I don’t know that he’ll hold up physically or be able to hold onto the ball. That mistake was of epic proportions. The only thing that could be worse is fumbling on the last play of the season.

Lilja, Wiegmann and Asamoah- This regime brought these three players in and decided to play them. Charles gained 56 yards on the day and McCluster 42, but Cassel was constantly under pressure from up the middle. Asamoah was caught holding, but should be very good at some point. Wiegmann looked spent and Lilja looked constantly out-manned.

Matt Cassel- I have long been a Cassel supporter, but if this kind of performance continues then it will be time to move on after this year. I had hoped that the 350-pound Green Bay DL landing on him a week ago had taught him a lesson about reading pressure but, Cassel only looked more tentative and nervous in the pocket than I have ever seen him. Sometimes an event like that can negatively impact a QB’s career and he never gets over it. His 64.5 QB rating in the game is not going to help the Chiefs win games, even if we’re playing the worst teams in the league and we aren’t playing any of those teams this season.

Ryan Succop- wide right on his field goal attempt. His total percentage of all field goals made now stands at 80% (45 of 56) and that places him tied for 28th in the league based on last season’s stats.

Kendrick Lewis- 4 tackles.

Justin Houston- 2 tackles. No sacks.

Javier Arenas- 3 tackles and two QB hits.

Thomas Jones- 3 yards rushing and a right hook.

Jon Baldwin- a glass jaw, a bum thumb and a bad-itude.

All the players listed above are players Scott Pioli brought in. The reason for this review is to examine the play of those players Scott Pioli calls the “right 53″ who he has acquired in the past 2 1/2 years. Mr. Pioli often mentions the “right” 53 and infers that there is something in these players’ personalities that sets them apart from other possible players that could have been acquired.

Perhaps Mr. Pioli is not himself one of the right 53. I’m joking of course but, I think most would not disagree that there is something “wrong” with the way this team performed on Sunday.

If that means some of these players were the “wrong” players that shouldn’t have been acquired, I wouldn’t disagree with that at this point.

Todd Haley appeared to be the only one who came to the game with any intensity. Or maybe he has lost this team. I doubt that but, it was clear that the Chiefs didn’t show up prepared. When players 1 through 53 (or 46, or whatever it is) so completely don’t show up, I do wonder if it’s the coaching. However, in this case I don’t get that feeling because all of his players seem to be in line with what he’s trying to accomplish. Even though Haley is publicly taking the blame for them, whether or not that’s genuine, the players all appear to be backing him. One way or the other.

The day after the game Coach Haley pointed to “near misses” that were “momentum killers” and gives the example of Leonard Pope’s catch in the end zone being ruled a non-TD. He also points out that on tape the team appears to be giving all they’ve got even through the end of the game.

So, what’s wrong with the picture he’s painting? He’s saying his players are giving good effort but, it was his fault?

That points to the idea that the players he has just aren’t good enough. That means player personnel is the issue. Not player preparation.

You can put a pig in a dress… but, it’s still a pig.

One of the big problems last season was converting third downs. Sunday the Chiefs converted 23% or 3 of 13. That’s not very good. In the off season I thought Baldwin and McCluster would help remedy that which, of course, didn’t happen.

Third-down conversions is just one of many problems that are recurring. Unresolved. Unaddressed.

Or maybe it hasn’t gone unaddressed. Maybe it was just not addressed by the “right” people… or the “right” personnel.

It’s the players on the field, who are not executing, that makes this a problem. Not Haley standing on the sidelines, all blame aside.

At some point, if I’m Clark Hunt, I have to think something, or someone, is not right here. Maybe that’s because they haven’t really found the right 53, no matter how right they think they are.

This is not an overreaction. It’s a legitimate question. Have the Chiefs made the right personnel decisions in the past three years? We thought they were making progress. Sunday’s game says different.

So, progress may not be possible with the current “right” 53? That question shouldn’t be so shocking to even the most ardent Pioli apologists.

What about the players we’ve just released in the past month? Could they have been part of the right players to keep on the roster? Verran Tucker appears like a better choice than Terrance Copper according to most people I’ve talked to. Maybe Tucker wasn’t the right kind of guy.

I’m not calling for Pioli’s head and I’m still behind Todd Haley all the way. I really am a Pioli supporter but, I’d like to point out that Mr. Pioli is not infallible. I’m not saying Scott Pioli is wrong on his decisions about finding those guys who have the personal qualities of “rightness.” I’m questioning whether or not he has sacrificed obtaining players with some other abilities and skills that are football related, by doing so.

You can see how we got here, too.

All too often people will make decisions  from an emotional place and when that happens, others can step in and take advantage of them. I’m sure Clark Hunt gave a considerable amount of thought to the recent and painful history of bad behavior by former Chiefs players and consequently wanted to hire someone to be his GM who would only bring in high-quality people. The problem with that is that only bringing in high-quality people doesn’t guarantee that those people are the best football players with the best football skills. They might be gym rats who are self-motivated and have high moral values but, does that mean they’re the best footballers?

I know some will reason that half of the teams in the league are 0-1 right now which is supposed to make my questioning player personnel decisions inappropriate or premature. However, no other team in the league lost the way the Chiefs lost. To be honest and accurate this was a horrendous loss… on our home field… on an emotional opening day after… supposedly… three years of finding the right guys and three years of developing them.

There are no apologies or excuses that work in this situation.

For all the talk that Mr. Pioli does about bringing the right kind of players to K.C., isn’t it odd that the best players on the Chiefs depth chart appear to be guys that were drafted by Carl Peterson? DJ, JC, Hali, Albert, DBowe, Dorsey, Flowers, Carr and Colquitt. After three drafts and three offseasons of free agency, you wouldn’t suspect that to be true.

Maybe we could use some more of the players that Pioli implies, are the wrong guys, when he “says” he’s looking for the right guys. And maybe, just maybe, those guys would be more talented than the guys we’ve got.

And finally, to the point, we should be looking for… the best 53.

Even if in some cases they are the wrong 53.

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