Just a couple of weeks ago I wrote a piece called Todd Haley’s Chiefs Weren’t Built To Win In Today’s NFL. In this post I explained how the most important stats for winning games right now in the NFL are passing yards and scoring points. These happen to be the weakest areas for the 2011 Chiefs team. My thought at the time was that if KC wanted to have any chance of winning games going forward that their number one priority this offseason was getting a new QB that could help fix these problems.
Then Matt Barkley and Landry Jones decided to go back for their senior seasons. That leaves a shortage of possible starting QBs available compared to the number of teams on the market for one. As I see it, there are seven teams that may be looking for a QB this offseason: Indianapolis, Cleveland, Washington, Miami, Seattle, Kansas City, and possibly the Jets. As I see it, there are only five QBs out there to fill those openings: Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Matt Flynn, and Kyle Orton. So that means 2 of these 5 teams won’t get an immediate upgrade. It could be even worse if the Colts decide to keep both Manning and Luck next season. That means the value of these QBs, and therefore the cost to acquire them, will go up.
Luck isn’t going to be an option for KC. Peyton Manning has injury questions, is up there in age, and could cost a fortune in either draft picks in a trade or dollars in a contract. Matt Flynn is a HUGE question mark with limited NFL snaps whose price tag went up drastically with his huge game to end the season. Green Bay may even franchise him so that they can get some draft picks for him to boot. Robert Griffin III is as exciting of a prospect as you can find, but this QB shortage and all the hype around him could make the price to move up and get him pretty steep. Kyle Orton is by far the least exciting of the NFL starting caliber QBs out there, but most still think he is a slight upgrade over Matt Cassel.
So knowing what we know about Scott Pioli to this point, how many of those QB options do you think are realistic? I think Flynn is too big of risk for Pioli. If he were to gamble a big contract (and possibly draft picks) on another back-up QB that showed upside while still having his first one under contract and it blew up in his face, he would be ruined. I don’t see Pioli staking his reputation on Matt Flynn. That means if they want a major upgrade at QB, they will have to get in a bidding war for either Peyton Manning or RG3. It’s possible I guess, but it just doesn’t seem like Pioli’s style. I will be happy to be proved wrong, but I’ve already come to terms with the fact that next year’s QB will be either Matt Cassel or possibly Kyle Orton.
Neither of those options are going to lead to KC becoming a high-powered passing attack that scores 30 points per game. So does that mean that KC can’t be a big-time contender next season? No, I still think they can be, but they’re going to have to take a different path.
Right now the elite teams like Green Bay, New Orleans, and New England are winning with record-breaking passing attacks led by Hall of Fame caliber QBs that rack up huge points and cover for their “less then stellar” defenses. I think the Chiefs’ only hope for becoming a power in the NFL next season is taking the exact opposite approach. That’s how they beat Green Bay. They played great defense and controlled the clock. They even hung with New England for a half doing that with no Jamaal Charles and Tyler Palko at QB.
The NFL HAS evolved into a QB league. It’s 100 percent true and everybody knows it. Because of that, teams are now all trying to copy this design. Defenses are being put together to stop this kind of attack. Sometimes when all the other teams are building their teams to play one way if you are one of the few teams that is completely different, teams aren’t equipped to deal with it. I think that is part of the reason Tebow has been able to have some success. That is now the path I think that KC should take (not getting Tebow, but going against the “pass happy” approach).
I’ll lay out my step-by-step blueprint on how I think they should do it after the break.
So how do we go about building an elite team without an elite QB?
Here’s my plan:
1. Romeo Crennel is the head coach.
As I am writing this, there are reports out there that this has been decided, but so far the Chiefs have been quiet. It may have become official before this posts, but if not, hopefully it’s just a matter of time. The defense has come so far under Romeo and its continued rise to elite status is the corner stone of this plan.
2. Re-sign Brandon Carr at any cost.
Just last week I said that I thought Carr and Dwayne Bowe were equally important. I still think Bowe is vital to this team, and I REALLY hope they bring him back (we’ll call re-signing Bowe step 2b), but with my new plan, Carr is actually the most important in-house FA we have. Part of what made us so effective this season was the fact that BOTH of our CBs could line up in man-to-man without having a safety covering their back at all times. That allowed KC to either blitz more men or clog up the middle of the field with more bodies. If we were to let Carr go that changes, and if we let him go and then Flowers was injured things could completely fall apart. I realize that committing that much money to your secondary never happens in the NFL. However, that is why our secondary would be so special and would create such problems for the pass0happy teams out there.
3. Use the K.I.S.S. method for finding an offensive coordinator.
K.I.S.S. stands for Keep It Simple, Stupid, for those not in the know. The Chiefs don’t need a big name or someone flashy that is going to come in and get too fancy and try to teach the offense a whole new complex system. The new OC will join Chan Gailey, Todd Haley, Charlie Weis, and Bill Muir as the OCs since Pioli took control of the team just three years ago. The Chiefs need consistency. They need a system that Cassel (or Orton) could feel comfortable with ASAP. That’s why, despite his disastrous job in Washington, Jim Zorn may be the best man for the job. Otherwise I would look for someone that has worked under Weis, Haley, or McDaniels before that would have a similar system.
4. Sign the best possible offensive lineman in free agency.
It doesn’t have to be a Pro Bowler, but someone that would definitely be a starter for us, not someone that would just “provide competition.” The OT FA class is pretty weak. The best option might be the Bills’ Demetrius Bell. He was an okay LT for Buffalo before going down with an injury. He would be a clear upgrade over Barry Richardson. There are two possible Pro Bowl-caliber OGs that could be available. One is Baltimore’s Ben Grubbs and the other is New Orleans’ Carl Nicks. I’m sure that the Ravens and Saints would love to keep them, but because they have other big names on their teams it’s not impossible that spending big dollars on an OG might not be in their budget (especially NO, who just gave OG Jahari Evans a huge deal last year). Those two would command a huge contract, but adding that kind of physical power house on the interior of the OL to go along with Asamoah and Hudson would be well worth the money. Even if these top names don’t hit the market Pioli MUST sign at least one upgrade to our starting offensive line.
5. Sign a starting nose tackle in free agency.
There are four starting caliber NTs set to hit free agency: Aubrayo Franklin (NO), Antonio Garay (SD), Sione Pouha (NYJ), and Paul Soliai (Miami). Now I can promise you that not all of these guys will hit the open market, but at least one or two of them should. Franklin, who was the big name talked about by some KC bloggers (me), should be available for even less then last season after a pretty quiet year playing in NO’s 4-3 defense. An upgrade over Kelly Gregg, along with re-signing Carr and getting Eric Berry back from injury should ensure that the KC defense is one of the best in the NFL next season.
6. Draft Alabama RB Trent Richardson in the first round of the NFL Draft.
I’ve now seen Richardson mocked to KC in at least 4 different mock drafts. At first I thought that this was too much of a luxury pick. After all, with Jamaal Charles coming back, KC could go with Charles, Jackie Battle, and Dexter McCluster and be just fine. However, Richardson is a very special and very physical player. Drafting Richardson would ensure that KC could go back to being the #1 rushing team in the NFL (like they were just one year ago) without over working Charles coming off his injury. The Chiefs scored just five rushing TDs this season and having one of the strongest RBs in the league in Richardson should help that. It would keep Charles fresh and explosive, and KC could control the clock in most games which would keep the high scoring offenses they face off the field.
7. Draft the best offensive lineman available in the second round of the NFL Draft.
Assuming that KC selected Richardson in the 1st round, the second pick needs to be offensive line. I don’t care if KC signed an OT or OG in free agency, they take the best OL available and figure out who plays where later. My first choice would probably be Mike Adams from Ohio State if he is still available. I would even be okay with KC moving up a few picks to get him. He has some holes in his game but could be an absolutely dominant RT at the NFL level, especially in the run game. If you went left to right on the Chiefs OL with Albert, Nicks or Grubbs, Hudson, Asamoah, Adams, I believe you’d have as good of run-blocking offensive line as any team in the NFL. My second choice would be Kelechi Osemele from Iowa State.
Alternative plan for steps 6 and 7.
Steps 6 and 7 would be thrown for a loop if Richardson gets selected before KC picks (which is definitely possible). In that scenario, I would take the best OL available in the 1st round and a RB in the 2nd. OL options in the 1st would be either OT Jonathan Martin from Stanford or Riley Reiff from Iowa if they were available, if not then OG David DeCasto from Stanford. In the second round, I like Chris Polk from Washington who weighs in at 5’11″ and 222 lbs, or possibly even Lamar Miller of Miami if he fell far enough.
8. Draft for depth in rounds 3-7 of the NFL Draft.
The Chiefs need depth everywhere. So after the first two selections, I would pretty much take the best player available.
In a perfect world, following this plan would mean that KC would have a revamped and powerful offensive line and two amazing RBs to carry the load on offense. They would also have an elite defense on the other side of the ball. The Chiefs had a very good defense down the stretch this last season, and it kept them in games and beat the defending world champs. They had the #1 rushing team two years ago and won the division (and that was with a mediocre OL and Thomas Jones as the 2nd RB). I really believe that with a rebuilt OL, another great RB, and continuing to bolster our up-and-coming defense, this team can buck the current trend and thrive without an elite QB. The Chiefs will just need a QB to protect the football and make a few key throws here and there to sustain drives. I would feel better with Orton in that role, but I think Cassel showed in 2010 that he could play that part.
Finally, not only do I think this plan is achievable, I think it would give us an identity that the fans could get behind. Don’t you miss the days of Arrowhead being feared? Imagine a packed Arrowhead, fans screaming, with an elite defense taking it to the other team while the RBs and offensive line pound the ball down the other teams’ throats! That sounds like Chiefs football to me.
Peyton Manning and RG3 do sound nice, but there may just be another way for the Chiefs to become a contender next season.
As always, thanks for reading and GO CHIEFS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!