Maybe it’s because I spent some time in Washington following the Redskins, maybe it’s because I am allergic toward anything I feel is over-hyped, but I have always been skeptical of the “win now” strategy.
In nearly all contexts, putting all of your chips into short-term gambles fails more often than not. In the NFL, where teams can trade away their future ability to recruit young talent for veteran players, this dynamic is particularly acute.
This offseason, the Chiefs sit at a crossroads of opportunity where they are in a very winnable division with a great roster that has only a few obvious holes. If they are successful this year, however, it will not be because they aggressively sought out Peyton Manning or made other huge splashes in free agency. It will be because they built a strong foundation and were able to add the finishing touches this time around.
Looking around the league, there are a few teams that flash and surprise and there are a lot that have been consistently successful over the last few years. The ones that are always in the playoff conversation aren’t talking desperately about making that one big move to take them to the top. They move through offseason after offseason with a business-like attitude, plugging needs and keeping the balance.
This brings us to the Manning discussion.
Although I’m not against trying to bring in Manning, it’s not the sort of move that I like. The money that we spend this offseason could go to a QB who will make the Chiefs a playoff favorite for maximum three years, or it could go to a series of moves like the signing of free agent guard Carl Nicks, who is 26 and could spent the next 10 years being the best at his position for the Chiefs. Ideally, this wouldn’t be an either/or discussion, but with Clark Hunt at the reins, I doubt the Chiefs push the bounds of the salary cap.
If you look at where the Chiefs are now, and where we have been, then it is obvious that this has been a nearly decade-long climb. Key playmakers like Derrick Johnson and Brandon Flowers were drafted before the current regime was even in place, and in an offseason where we have considerable resources at our disposal, we can either build with the long view, or we can set our sights on getting a Lombardi this year.
The problem with this second proposal is that there are quite simply too many other variables at play. Luck goes against even the best teams, and if we were to come out of the next three years with a 39-year-old Peyton Manning and no Lombardi, it would have been a serious shame. During that period of time, the Chiefs could potentially miss the chance to draft the next Peyton Manning and a period of promise could counter-intuitively propel the Chiefs backwards.
On the other hand, conservative, safe picks and free agent pickups could make this team – which, again, is in an easily winnable division – into a perennial playoff team like the Chargers had been for the last 10 years. I’m all about having a killer instinct in trying to make the team better, but I would much rather us build for being a dominant contender for the next decade, not the next few seasons. Tell me the last time the Packers, Patriots or Steelers made headlines with a huge roster move.
The Redskins’ blockbuster trade for RGIII involving three number ones and a number two shows that the Chiefs were never really in that race, and in the end it is good they stayed out of it. Manning, as a free agent, is obviously a different animal, but I have a feeling that KC’s strategy remains the same.
After last season, the Chiefs were left with the something resembling a plan for the first time I can remember. Hopefully they know what they’re doing.