The Injury Excuse

As we all know, the Chiefs have dealt with some devastating injuries this year.  To their credit, they have not used this as an excuse, at least not that I’ve heard.  Scott Pioli, in fact, was recently quoted as saying that, “No one else cares about your problems.”  Herm Edwards complained about injuries when he had one of the healthiest teams in the NFL, so it was a real breath of fresh air to see Pioli take the high road when his team actually has lost some of its best players.

Haley, although prone to the occassional idiotic soundbite, is not an excuse-maker generally.  This is probably what I like best about him.  He did come dangerously close to insinuating that the four-game winning streak was due to his ridiculous preseason “freshness” strategy, but the blowout loss to Miami stopped that thought process in its tracks.

Maybe Haley just can’t talk about injuries because of what a dismal failure his injury prevention strategy was.  The whole topic is probably somewhat taboo for him at this point.  And as the season gets uglier, he may be sorely tempted to reach for that excuse in order to save his job.  But I don’t think he will.  At least I hope not.  If/when Haley loses his job, I would at least like my favorite character trait of his to remain intact.

Still, whether or not Pioli and Haley use injuries as an excuse, the PR department most definitely will.  I’m fully expecting to read an article from Josh Looney at some point referencing the Chiefs’ “historic bad luck.”  It will likely come in the form of some sort of seemingly innocuous fun-fact.  “Did you know no team has ever had 3 starters tear ACLs in the first month of the season?  Weird, huh, guys?”  It will sound innocent, but the directive to write that article will have come straight from the top.

And even if Looney doesn’t go there (which he will), the apologist brigade certainly will.  In fact, they already have.

What I’m saying is, Pioli and Haley may not publicly make excuses, and for that they deserve some dap.  Still, the excuse will most definitely be made, on multiple levels.  The question is, just how valid is the injury excuse for this year’s Chiefs?

Your boy Big Matt’s take after the jump:

Losing Jamaal Charles was a major blow, no one can dispute that.  Thom Jones would’ve gotten his carries even if Charles had been healthy*, but the downgrade from Charles to Battle is significant.

*In Thomas Jones’ 67 years in the league, he has never averaged as many YPC as Jackie Battle, special-teamer, is averaging this season.  There is only one conclusion to be reached here: Battle has a lot to learn about leadership. 

Tony Moeaki and Eric Berry were arguably the most promising youngsters on this team, so obviously losing them was a massive bummer as well.  Berry, in particular, was a shot through the heart (and you’re too late).  Many is the afternoon I’ve spent wondering what our defense would look like with him patrolling the secondary.  The fact that we lost him is still, two months later, very upsetting.

A lot has been made of the Chiefs lack of depth this season.  I’m no big fan of Pioli, but I’ve been hesitant to level criticism specifically on that front.  As has been said by others, there is simply no replacement for Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry.  Not on any team.  So while Pioli’s ultra-conservative pace in talent acquisition has been damaging, I thought the starting lineup was really where that showed the most.  Now I’m not so sure.

Going from Charles or Berry to any backup is going to be a huge downgrade, no question.  But looking at our roster, it’s hard to see an injury to a starter that wouldn’t have been absolutely devastating.  We could recover from losing Barry Richardson, sure, but that’s only because of how bad he is, not because we have a quality backup.

Think about it.  What would this season have been like if it was Brandon Flowers and Dwayne Bowe that got hurt instead of Berry and Charles?  How about Brandon Carr and Brandon Albert?  Ryan Lilja and Tamba Hali?  Jon Asamoah and Derrick Johnson?  As crazy as this sounds, we might’ve been better prepared for injuries to Berry and Charles than anyone else.  Jon McGraw and Jackie Battle are probably the best backups we have.

If any of our starting defensive linemen go down, Amon Gordon is the replacement.  We were one Kendrick Lewis hammy tweak away from seeing the worst player in the NFL (Piscatelli) in our starting lineup.  Jovan Belcher should be a backup, but instead he’s a starter…..without a backup.

It’s hard to see how we got to this point.  Pioli used to love talking about how much he’d improved the back end of the roster.  Here we are, three full offseasons into his tenure, and the back end of our roster is a barren wasteland, worse than any I’ve ever seen.  Pioli should have to answer for that.  Because if he isn’t pursuing the top players, and he isn’t signing quality backups, what  the hell is he doing?

But hey, maybe I’m way off base here.  Maybe Scott Pioli really has done the best he could to improve this roster.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to get some work done so I can watch Tyler Palko start at quarterback for us tonight.  In Pioli I trust.

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Tags: Scott Pioli Todd Haley

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