“We’ve been there,” said cornerback Brandon Flowers, who was a rookie in 2008, when the Chiefs went 2-14. “This team has faced two-win seasons, four-win seasons. It’s easy to be like, ‘Here we go again,’ when something happens wrong.”
A moment later, Flowers shook his head. He has been down this path.
“Terrible,” he said of his first two seasons, when the Chiefs won a combined six games. “That’s how these first two games started off. That’s why we were saying we can’t allow that to happen no more. The leaders on this team stepped up; we won’t allow that to happen no more.”
However it is described, there is little doubt that the relationship between Haley and Pioli is approaching a crucial crossroads. This season is the difference between the coach being fired or signing a contract extension. Everyone involved understands that.
Pioli is famously quiet, holding onto his “one voice” philosophy that the head coach is the only one who speaks publicly. That’s fine, except speculation is a hard thing to control. Haley hears it. He sees it.
The Chiefs can’t accurately be called a finesse team, not when they led the league in rushing last season. But they clearly weren’t — and aren’t — capable of containing bigger and stronger opponents.
Oakland showed the rest of the league the way to handle the Chiefs in last year’s final regular-season game at Arrowhead Stadium. Baltimore took a similar approach the next week in the playoff game. Buffalo and Detroit tried it this year. In those four games, the Chiefs were outscored 150-27.
The Chiefs noticed the trend and tried to muscle up this past summer. They signed fullback Le’Ron McClain and defensive tackle Kelly Gregg from Baltimore. They promoted guard Jon Asamoah into their starting lineup. So far, the moves haven’t worked.