Fortuna is the Roman Goddess of luck and fortune. She can bring both good and bad fortune.
If she’s real, one has to wonder what the Kansas City Chiefs did to piss her off.
The Kansas City Chiefs knew they were facing a tough task when the 2011 NFL schedule told them they would have to go to New England to play the Patriots on Monday Night Football.
What they probably didn’t bet on, however, is that they’d be facing the Patriots with their backup QB, backup strong safety, backup TE and fourth-string running back.
The good news here is that their fourth-string running back turned out to be better than their second- and third-string running backs. The bad news is, they haven’t seemed to have figured that out yet.
The Chiefs still have weapons, but it is going to take one hell of a game plan for their offense to keep pace with the Patriots, particularly when that offense will be led by a man making his first NFL start ever.
Yes, Todd Haley’s team has been put in a tough spot indeed and while Fortuna certainly hasn’t been kind to them thus far in 2011, perhaps there is a way they can get back in her good graces.
The go-to NFL strategy in situations like this tends to be to play things quite conservatively. The thinking being to try to play good defense while not stretching the QB too far. Fill the game plan with simple throws and lots of creative runs. Hope the QB can avoid mistakes and manage they game while the simultaneously playing for a strong day and probably a couple turnovers from the defense.
There are probably a lot of situations where this strategy will best serve a team. It could be particularly effective for a team in first place, who is facing a fairly evenly matched opponent. A team that perhaps only expects it’s starting QB to be out for a week or two. A team with a chance.
The Chiefs, unfortunately, are not that team. The only thing they really have going for them right now is that they are within a game of first place in the terrible, terrible AFC West. While anything can happen in the NFL, it is probably very unlikely the Chiefs have enough talent to win the division by facing their upcoming murder’s row stretch of games by playing it safe. With Matt Cassel, Tony Moeaki, Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry, the Chiefs might have had a shot this season. But those guys are gone.
What they’ve got this week is Tyler Palko vs. Tom Brady. Tom Freaking Brady. The Patriots are going to score some points. If the Chiefs have a prayer of hanging in this game, they’d better scores some too.
We’ve seen before how making massive changes to an offense mid-season can revitalize a team and make them competitive. Herm Edwards and Chan Gailey did it back in 2008. They were down to Tyler Thigpen at QB who had been absolutely horrendous earlier in the year in a start against the Falcons. At the time, Thigpen was running the offense designed for Brodie Croyle/Damon Huard. He sucked at it. It wasn’t his bag.
So later in the season when Thigpen was the last man standing, the Chiefs had a decision to make. They could have taken the conservative approach or they could be bold and change the offense to fit the talents of their new QB.
The chose the second option. Chan Gailey spread out his offense and let Tyler Thigpen start winging the ball all over the field while also using his speed and athleticism to make plays with his leg.
How well it worked is up for debate. The Chiefs won only one game with Tyler Thigpen as their starting QB but anyone who watched those games can tell you that the Chiefs were competitive in almost all of those games. Kansas City was particularly dangerous in the first half. Teams seemed to figure out what they were doing late in games but KC still nearly beat some very good teams with this strategy.
It is also important to note that the 2008 Chiefs were absolutely terrible. Chan Gailey and Herm Edwards were throwing up a Hail Mary for their jobs and it damn near worked. Had Thigpen managed to string together four or five wins down the stretch, you could make a case that Herm and Chan would have been given another year. Remember that when Scott Pioli came to Kansas City Thigpen was still on the team and many fans wanted Thigpen to remain the starter. When Matt Cassel arrived, I read endless breakdowns comparing his numbers to Thigpen’s.
It could be argued that the 2011 Chiefs are in a similar boat to their 2008 counterparts. There is uncertainty at the QB position and the head coach’s job could be in serious jeopardy. Offensive coordinator Bill Muir is unlikely to be back in that position next season.
The difference between this team and the 2008 group is that they are vastly more talented. Even without Cassel, Berry and Charles, the 2011 Chiefs have enough talent to wipe the floor with the 2008 Herm Edwards squad. What is to stop Haley, a former offensive coordinator, from taking over and re-designing the offense to suit Palko? With his job potentially in jeopardy, does he have the luxury of playing it safe with Tyler Palko as his QB?
I’m not saying the Chiefs should go back to the spread-pistol offense Gaily was running. I’m no offensive football mind and I certainly don’t know anything about Tyler Palko’s strengths and weaknesses.
What I do know, however, is that the Chiefs’ most potent playmakers are Dwayne Bowe, Steve Breaston and to some degree, Jonathan Baldwin. I also know the Chiefs probably have no chance of bearing any of their next five opponents by playing it safe. That is why I think that for better or worse, the Chiefs need to let it all hang out against the Patriots. Whatever tricks they’ve got up their sleeve, they need to pull them out. The Patriots will likely expect and game plan for Kansas City to come out running the ball and playing it safe. The Chiefs aren’t strong enough to do what their opponent expects and still win.
So why not let Palko throw it? If I remember one thing about the Tyler Thigpen era it was that although the Chiefs lost all but one of his starts, those games were entertaining. With seven games to go and almost know hope of the playoffs, I’d rather be entertained watching Palko or Stanzi chuck the ball around the field then watching Thomas Jones fall on his face for a one-yard loss 30 times a game.
The only thing that might hold the Chiefs back from taking a super aggressive approach this week is their close proximity to first place in the AFC West. As the games where on though, that dream is likely to slip farther and farther away.
If the Chiefs strike now, however, who knows?
Machiavelli said that Fortuna only rules half of a man’s fate and that she favors a bold young man over a timid elder.
Maybe Old Man Bill Muir has been the problem all along. Perhaps he’s made Fortuna angry? Perhaps it is time for a change.
I doubt any amount of fortune can help the Chiefs beat the Patriots Monday night.
But then again, what have they got to lose?