What excited me most about the 2011 season wasn’t how good I thought we’d be. Our 2010 schedule was a basket full of delicious cupcakes, and I understood that. I think most of us did. I wasn’t expecting big things from the Chiefs this year. Playoffs, maybe, and that elusive playoff win seemed like a faint possibility. I did put money on the Chiefs to win the Super Bowl, but I wasn’t exactly looking at that as a sound investment. I figured we could be anywhere from kinda bad to pretty good.
And yet, I was VERY excited for this season. Why? Because, in my mind, the excuses had finally run out. For three years we listened to Herm blame players, injuries, youth, the schedule, the strength of the yen, the zodiac, and various books of the Bible for his team’s misfortunes. Then Haley came to town, and while he himself is not an excuse-giver, the excuses were definitely there. KC fans had at that point grown to love excuses almost as much as we love barbecue. For the past two years I’ve watched the fan base spin any failure before the organization even gets a chance to.
This season, though, was going to be different. The excuse well had finally run dry. Our coach isn’t new, our GM isn’t new, our defense isn’t new, and Tyson Jackson was heading into that magical third year (LOL). And most importantly, to me, you can’t claim to be “rebuilding” a year after winning the division. After five years, I thought I was finally done hearing that word.
Alas that I may have thought wrong. I realized at the end of Sunday’s game that the door is now open for the same old excuses to creep back into the discourse. Find out EXACTLY how its going to happen after le jump:
There are the injuries, of course, and people will certainly point to that. Rightfully so, to some extent. Even if Scott Pioli had assembled a decent roster, there is no replacement for Jamaal Charles or Eric Berry. Not on this, or any team. But Sabby Piscitelli and Thomas Jones are two of the worst players I’ve ever seen on an NFL field. Given, by his own account, a limitless budget to work with, these are the guys Pioli signed in case our starters went down (or to be the starter, in Jones’ case). These players were chosen to play football for us, and now they are.
The Moeaki injury, while an undisputed bummer, is something Pioli knew would be a possibility when he made the pick. So we can’t really act like that was out of his hands. The guy had a really troubling injury history. Yes, it sucks that our players got hurt, but players get hurt every year. Its a GM’s job to make back-up plans. I think we can officially list back-up planning as a Pioli weakness.
Honestly though, it isn’t the injury excuse I’m worried about. Its a deeper kind of bullshirt that troubles me. We’ve now eased back into the state of being where a certain kind of loss is called progress. Where we’re bad because of circumstance, and it’s nobody’s fault. Where a handful of wins and competitive losses will be hailed as a success. And where, most importantly, the fan base is mollified and the franchise’s real problems are masked yet again. Here’s how its gonna go down:
The Chiefs are going to win one of these next two games. I doubt they’ll look good, but they’ll win. People will say the team rallied around Haley and displayed toughness. We’ll be awash in inspirational tweets from players (this has actually already started). They’ll still be playing bad football, but they won’t get blown out every week. Just some weeks.
The phrase “small-market” will be used repeatedly by people and sites connected to the Chiefs. Specifically, this will be used to explain our lack of depth. “Hey, we’re a small-market team.” No mention of the endless cap space or generous revenue-sharing.
As the season goes on, Cassel’s play and the injuries will be the main talking points. Haley’s horrendous offseason strategy and Pioli’s continued frugality will fade from the discussion. Our positive expectations heading into this season will slowly be forgotten. Even the normal expectation that every team has, the expectation to compete, will be obscured. If we compete, hey, bonus. Todd Haley is an amazing coach and Scott Pioli is a personnel genius. If we don’t, it’s because we’re (sigh) rebuilding.
For Chiefs fans, rebuilding is just another way to say losing. It doesn’t matter what steps are actually being taken. If we’re bad, we’re rebuilding. End of discussion. But I want to remind everyone of three things:
1) Our coach and GM have had three full offseasons together to remake this team in their image. When Haley arrived, he had that infamous ”Wait til I get my guys in here” quote. Three years later, and our roster is stocked with “his guys.” None of them are good.
2) Scott Pioli talks a lot about sustainability. He and Dayton Moore have that in common. Constant talk of patience, acting like it takes years upon years to turn a franchise around. Meanwhile, all around us, other teams change their fortunes drastically with one or two years of smart moves. Our explanation is always, “We’re not going for a flash in the pan. We’re creating a team that will consistently compete for championships.” In other words, fast turnarounds are bogus, a snail’s pace leads to lasting success. I’d like Scott Pioli to explain how many years it takes to create this sustainability. And just for laughs, I’d like him to do it with Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis (Saints’ GM) in the room.
3) Simply doing less than other teams does not constitute rebuilding. We’re not the only team that makes draft picks. Every team makes their picks, and every team tries to develop their players. That isn’t rebuilding. That’s something everyone else is doing every year. From what I can tell, in KC, “rebuilding” means losing and spending less than other teams.
The excuses will creep in. They’re already starting to. Straw men will be built and argued against, erroneous comps will be drawn, and at the end of it all, our fan base will somehow be at exactly the same place we were in this regime’s first year. Bad team, bad record, pat on the back for everyone involved.
Some day, some how, our team will actually be good again. Every excuse we create delays that day a little more.
Two more quick takes before I ride off into the sunset (Dunkin Donuts):
1) re: Suck for Luck- Personally, I’m still rooting for wins and a Cassel turnaround. But that’s my bag. If you want to suck for Luck, I won’t blame you for that or question your fanhood. I once wanted the Royals to suck for David Price. Instead they swept Detroit in a meaningless final series, fell to the second pick, and got Mike Moustakas. So believe me, I understand where you guys are coming from.
2) Dig this Haley quote from Mellinger’s article on Saturday. “Some of the tweeting and things that are going on even here locally,” he says. “There’s no facts. It’s just conjecture, rumor, for whatever reason. It’s not right. That’s not right, that’s not fair.” Again, Haley is referencing ”speculation” here. This team won’t tell anyone anything, and when someone so much as tweets a well-known rumor, its “not right, not right, and not fair.” This attitude, from people in charge of a professional sports team, is mind-boggling. They simply do not understand the relationship between team, media and fans. Weird, wild stuff.
Follow your boy on twitter…..and prepare to be underwhelmed.