Lessons To Learn, Reasons To Watch

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This one was a little easier for me. Getting punched in the face is always easier when you see it coming. Yes, I was surrounded by Lions fans, but they weren’t about to rag on us. They understand. I was thus free to eat my wings, drink my beer, and ruminate on how exactly we got here, and what is to be done.

There are lessons to be learned from the 2011 Chiefs. The first and most obvious is that you have to be able to think for yourself to intelligently follow a football team. I’m not looking to rub anyone’s face in anything here, but some of us have known all along there were problems with Pioli and Haley. Some haven’t. If you regularly accused your fellow fans of being an idiot, a bad fan or a “hater” because they voiced concerns that have now been proven valid, you should think long and hard about that.

When your coach clearly values intangibles over talent, it isn’t bad form to point that out. When your GM picks a gigantic tin robot third overall, it isn’t being a Negative Nancy to think there may be consequences for that. If nothing else, this season should once and for all teach Chiefs Nation that there is such a thing as legitimate criticism of the Chiefs. I thought Herm’s years were a master’s course in that lesson, but when this regime rolled into town, it seemed like most of Kansas City was all too eager to forget what we’d just learned. Let’s not let that happen again. It reflects poorly on us.

The next lesson is that when your coach and GM repeatedly say dumb things, they probably also think some dumb things. Did you guys catch Haley talking about his “quarter of the season” system again in yesterday’s presser?  Yep, still doing that.  It’s weird, it’s meaningless, and it’s something our coach apparently spends a lot of time thinking about. This is the same guy who once said Quinten Lawrence and Brodie Croyle were part of his core. He said our running game was going to be better under Bill Muir. He said Thom Jones was going to be quicker this year. He told Peter King the reason he didn’t give Jamaal Charles more carries than Jones last year is because it would’ve been anti-team.

Scott Pioli said picking Javaier Arenas and Dexter McCluster in rd 2 would greatly improve our “team speed.” He said he nearly traded up for Donald Washington. He said, “Don’t go anywhere” after picking Tin Man and when asked why he didn’t trade down, said, “No one was calling.”  He said (and continues to say) Jackson would be the LDE of the future.* He coined the phrases “right 53″ and “substance over sizzle.”

*Has anyone else noticed how vague Pioli is about Jackson and what his supposed “LDE of the future” status entails? “He plays the position the way we want it played.” “He does everything we ask him to do.” What exactly are you asking him to do, Scott?  (Crickets.)

I’m not saying any one of these things is necessarily a deal breaker. But there was plenty of smoke before this all-out forest fire started. We have to actually listen to what these guys say. If it sounds really dumb, it probably is really dumb.

My reasons not to jump ship after le jump (ship):

There are more lessons, of course. We’ll become all too familiar with them as this farce of a season plays itself out to its gruesome end. I’m hoping someone, at some point, asks either Clark Hunt or Scott Pioli to comment on just how far below the salary cap we are. Because here’s the hardest lesson of all: the only real losers here are the Kansas City fans. It’s our $, our time, our hopes, and our pride that are flushed down Clark Hunt’s golden turlet. Hunt will come out of this totally unscathed, and much richer. Pioli will still have his job, and his precious secrecy. What we’ll have is a heaping helping of humiliation, served up every Sunday (and two Mondays!). Kansas City sports, baby, you gotta love it!

I may sound sour, but the reality is I’m still very much looking forward to watching these games. And its not just morbid trainwreck fascination (although there is some of that). There are still plenty of reasons to watch this team. Here are a few of mine:

  • D-Bowe- He’s my boy. We all know this. I’m not going claim he’s perfect; I realize he tends to light it up when it matters least. But the guy is a phenomenal talent and a joy to watch. He’s also hilarious. I’m hoping as Haley’s authority continues to diminish, we’ll see more on-field celebrations from Bowe. I miss that aspect of his game.
  • Rookies in the front 7- Justin Houston, Allen Bailey and Jerrell Powe are three guys I’m definitely looking forward to keeping an eye on. Our front seven continues to be a weakness. Glenn Dorsey has always been vastly overrated by Chiefs fans. Jovan Belcher, originally touted as a diamond-in-the-rough find by Pioli, instead looks like the next Pat Thomas (who was the next Nap Harris). Kelly Gregg is a cross between Vrabel and Humpty Dumpty. Tyson Jackson is made of tin. Derrick Johnson, after seeing another year of his prime wasted, will turn 30 next season. Outside linebacker is seemingly the only position where we have any talent. If this defense is going to turn the corner next season, we’ll need major contributions from these rookies. Houston is starting right now, and Bailey is in the rotation. It’s time to get Powe some snaps. These guys all have major upsides. This season should serve as a perfect opportunity for them to get their feet wet, and for us to find out what we have.
  • Pioli’s Guys- In three years here, Eric Berry is the only legitimate playmaker Scott Pioli has added to this team. The “personnel genius” tag looks sillier by the day. The spotlight needs to be on Pioli’s top guys this season. Tyson Jackson, Matt Cassel, Dexter McCluster, Javier Arenas, Jonathan Baldwin and Rodney Hudson all cost us a second-round pick or higher. You could make the case that our GM added more problems than solutions with those picks. We need to see something from a few of these guys, or Pioli is going to have some serious explaining to do. Not that he’ll actually do that, but you know what I mean.
  • The guys from 2010 who weren’t drafted with team speed in mind- Berry and Moeaki may be gone, and the 2nd round may have been a gigantic whiff, but Jon Asamoah, Kendrick “Louis” Lewis and Cameron Sheffield are still in the fold. Potentially solid players there, Asamoah in particular.
  • Verran Tucker- We kept him, right?
  • Thom Jones- In case of emergency, break old, decrepit glass. Now Haley can do what he’s always wanted to do: feature the worst ball carrier on our team. This might not seem like a reason to watch the games on the surface, but the Chiefs offense will not move the ball relying on Jones. My hope is that as Haley gets desperate for points, he’s more willing to let Cassel air it out. This should coincide with Baldwin’s return. I’m not saying our passing offense will be good, I’m saying Charles’ absence will eventually force the Chiefs to take the training wheels off our quarterback. And then we can more accurately determine if he’s any good. I still don’t think that case is closed. I want to see what Cassel can do with the green light from his coaching staff and Breaston, Baldwin and Bowe on the field. Only then will I feel comfortable pronouncing final judgement.
  • Our pass defense will make exciting plays- Tamba Hali still looks like an amazing force in the pass rush. Wally Gilby is great there too. Throw Houston in the mix and you’ve got the potential for some legitimate mayhem. HGH, I call them. Those guys combined with our corners should create some turnovers, at the very least. Too bad the middle of our pass defense is so, so porous. You gotta think the word is out on that.

I’m depressed, just like any of you. But this feels familiar too. Study the leaders, assign blame, look to the future. We’ve been here before. This is what we do.

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