What a season.
After last year’s turn around from 4-12 to 10-6 division champ, it’s not what we all would have wanted. That having been said, what record would you have predicted for KC if someone told you that Jamaal Charles, Eric Berry, and Tony Moeaki would all be lost for the season by week two, Matt Cassel would miss the second half of the season, Tyler Palko would start four games, Todd Haley would be fired, and the Chiefs would be the second lowest scoring offense in the NFL? Before all of that happened, I would have put the window of Chiefs wins this season between 7-11. If you had told me all of those things would happen I would have guessed that they’d win about two games. Instead, the Chiefs won seven games and were an overtime loss to the Raiders away from winning the division.
Now, let me be very clear. I know this team is not a Super Bowl contender yet, even when everyone is healthy. The offense was HORRIBLE this season, flat out HORRIBLE. They scored the fewest points of any team in the AFC. The fact that Jacksonville, Cleveland, and the Manningless Colts all scored more points than the Chiefs tells you all that you need to know. It also tells you just how good the defense is becoming that the offense was that horrible and the Chiefs still won seven games. Those three teams that I mentioned above only averaged 3.67 wins/team. The Chiefs’ defensive stats may not look elite when you just look at the numbers (11th in yards allowed, 12th in points allowed). However, multiple games where the Chiefs offense couldn’t stay on the field wore this defense down at times. I think this defense has proved that if the offense can just move the ball enough to let them rest and score a few points, the defense will hold up their end of the bargain.
It’s easy for fans to get carried away at the end of a disappointing season. Many fans may be crying for the Chiefs to fire Scott Pioli, hire Bill Cowher, trade the entire next two drafts for Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck or RG3, and then sign every high dollar free agent on the market. That all sounds very exciting, but it’s about as realistic as me winning both the Power Ball and the Publishers Clearing House in the same year.
So what should the Chiefs do?
They should keep the band together. I’ll explain after the break.
The absolute number one priority for this offseason is re-signing Dwayne Bowe and Brandon Carr. At first I thought that Bowe was the top priority since he’s been far and away the key to the KC passing game for the past three seasons. Then I thought Carr was the top priority because it has become clear that having two corners that can play man-to-man coverage is part of what has made the KC defense so tuff this season. I have now decided that the top priority is signing both of these two. That’s step one.
Step two to keeping the band together is making Romeo Crennel the permanent head coach. This defense has improved so much in Romeo’s two years. The defense he took over and the defense that was on the field yesterday are light years apart, and that’s without Eric Berry on the field. The Chiefs can’t afford to let the one area of the team they’ve got going for them slide and that’s just what will happen if they let Romeo walk out the door. Yes, they need to find a new OC (more on that in a second), but the defense needs to see as little change as possible.
Step three to keeping the band together (and this is where I’m going to lose some of you) is either re-signing Kyle Orton to be the QB next season or keeping Matt Cassel and reuniting whichever one it is with Josh McDaniels as the offensive coordinator. Is Kyle Orton fantastic? No. Do I think he’ll ever be an elite QB? No. Have I used this same column to advocate for the Chiefs getting a franchise QB? Yes. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about it these last few weeks, and I just don’t know that there is a safe enough bet for them getting a sure-fire franchise QB that I’d be willing for them to mortgage their future for it. The 49ers went 13-3 this season with Alex Smith at QB and the Ravens went 12-4 with Joe Flacco. I do think Kyle Orton can be as good as those two. The keys to those teams are great defense and a solid running game. I believe that the Chiefs are about there in those departments. I realize that I’ve already written about how most of the Super Bowl winners are teams with great QBs, but given where the Chiefs team currently is I think they are a lot closer to being the Ravens than they are the Saints.
Now, would I like to see Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck or RG3 playing for the Chiefs next season? Sure, but not at the expense of the all-around future of this team. If the Colts cut Manning before they have to pay him the $28 million roster bonus, then sure, they should go for him, but if the Colts do pay him then they are going to want a king’s ransom for him. The Chiefs shouldn’t give up their future for a QB that may or may not be what he used to be. The same for RG3. If he falls to them, great. If he falls to the point where the Chiefs would only have to move up a couple of picks and it won’t cost much, then fine. What they shouldn’t do is mortgage the future for an unproven player that I for one, worry about staying healthy in the NFL.
So if neither of those options fall into the Chiefs’ lap that leaves them with either Cassel or Orton. I’d take Orton, hands down. The stats may look similar, but my personal eye test says Orton is the way to go. This probably won’t happen. Orton’s post game comments yesterday certainly sounded like a good-bye speech. Pioli just needs to be man enough to admit that it’s the best thing for the team to do. When that doesn’t happen, before you throw yourself off a cliff because the Chiefs are rolling with Matt Cassel as the QB again next year, keep this in mind. After a year with Matt Cassel as his QB, McDaniels wanted to trade away a Pro Bowl QB in Jay Cutler to bring in Cassel. After one year with Orton, he used a first round draft pick on a QB (assuming you count Tebow as a QB).
Now on to McDaniels. Like most of you, I don’t like Josh McDaniels, at all. He’s a smug, cocky little man that just rubs me the wrong way. Here’s what I do know. He came in and ran off Denver’s franchise QB and Pro Bowl WR and somehow their passing game still flourished. His defenses were horrific, and he was an all-around HORRIBLE personnel man, but his offense was good. In KC that is all he would need to focus on. Now you can point out that the Rams offense this season was horrible. It was, in fact it was the only offense that scored less points than the Chiefs. However, he was dealing with a banged-up 2nd year QB who was trying to learn a whole new offense with no WRs to speak of for most of the season and a terrible offensive line. We know Orton and Cassel can run his offense and if they re-sign Bowe, then the KC WR core would be even better than what he had to work with in Denver, plus he’ll have Jamaal Charles to work with, too. If you put McDaniels’ offensive production from Denver on this team with Romeo’s defense from this season (plus Eric Berry), you have a playoff team. Plus, you have all your draft picks to shore up other areas. Plus, McDaniels knows Pioli, Crennel and both QB options, so he should be able to “work well with others” in that environment. Finally, if for some reason, the Chiefs let Bowe go (bad idea), Brandon Lloyd has said he would like to follow McDaniels to wherever he goes, so we’d have a replacement (albeit not as good) to fill the void.
Everyone has killed Pioli for not having enough depth on this team. That problem will persist if the Chiefs trade away all their good draft picks for the next couple years. They need to shore up the offensive line, add a few more players to the defense to make sure they become elite, and add more all around depth.
We all want the Chiefs to be good next year. Major changes can be exciting, but teams like Green Bay and Pittsburgh have shown that consistency is to be valued. When teams have massive change and turnover multiple times in a small span of time it usually spells disaster. The teams that stay the course usually are the ones that become consistent winners year after year. The Chiefs had a disappointing season, but it’s not time to break up the band.
Finally, some things that made me smile yesterday to start the new year:
* Knowing that Phillys Rivers’ fumbled snap in the KC game cost them the playoffs.
* Listening to Raiders coach Hue Jackson fume after their loss to the Chargers:
“Here’s your time. Here’s your time to make plays. We didn’t get ‘em stopped. And we didn’t make enough plays, so yeah, I’m pissed at the team.”
* This tweet by ESPN’s Chris Mortensen:
Funny/sad note from Denver Post on rookie Chris Harris in post-game locker room “We don’t get no hat or nothing? We don’t get no shirt?”
* The fact that I got the KC Chiefs Toaster for Christmas.
Happy New Year, Chiefs Fans!
As always, thanks for reading, and GO CHIEFS!!!!!!!!!!!