Now that we’re a bit removed from Peytonpalooza and the first rush of free agency, let’s talk about what this new and improved Chiefs team will look like in 2012. Remember, even without our future first draft pick factored in, we will have at least ten new starters compared to most of last season, with Charles, Berry and Moeki returning from injury; Jonathan Baldwin, Justin Houston, Rodney Hudson and a new nose tackle likely new starters; and new free agents Eric Winston, Peyton Hillis and Stanford Routt starting immediately. At minimum, that’s almost half of our starting offensive and defensive lineup getting upgrades from 2011 (Brandon Carr excepted), which means we have a whole new, and better, team, Addicts!
For our new Chiefs then, what will be our defining character? To set some standards, here are a few examples of defining characters of teams past:
- Air Staubach: Remember Roger Staubach to Drew Pearson? And in the late 70’s, they added Tony Dorsett, the original TD. Now that was a high-flying offense!
- Steel Curtain: The Steel Curtain was the blue collar symbol for a team and an entire city, both for the offense and defense. Mean Joe Greene, L.C. Greenwood, Ernie Holmes and Dwight White were perhaps the best defensive line to ever play the game. Add to that the blue-collar work of Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris and Lynn Swann, and you had a team character that rallied an entire city.
- Da Bears: Despite the shenanigans of Jim McMahon, the Bears were defined by the nastiness of Mike Singletary. That defense was flat-out dominant, and it was driven by Singletary’s singular focus and intensity.
- Precision Passing: Both Tom Brady and Peyton Manning redefined passing in the 21st century. Their mastery of complicated offensive playbooks, tested in the heat of the moment, literally changed how teams defend and play offense. For both the Patriots and the Colts, Brady and Manning created a team character built on precision, execution and calmness.
With the dust settled a bit and the draft a month away, I think we’re getting clearer on what the defining character of the 2012 Chiefs will be. What do you think, Addicts? Will it be a shut-down, Singletary type of nasty defense? Will it be a ground-and-pound return to Marty-ball ? Will it be a bend-but-don’t-break team? Will it be the “greatest show on turf”? Or will it be a “cardiac kids” team with every game going down to the wire? Let’s take a look at potential defining traits for our defense, offense and special teams and then I’ll take a stab at what our overall character may be for 2012-13.
Our defense is going to special this year. We have one of the league’s best past rushers in Tamba Hali, and I think we all believe that Houston is going to have a breakout year. We’ve got one of the league’s best Lock Down Corners in Brandon Flowers and the reincarnation of Ed Reed in Pro Bowler Eric Berry. And our run defense, with Derrick Johnson and the suddenly impressive tandem of Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson, gives us one of the best units around. We can shut down the run, shut down the pass and maybe this year, get some sacks with consistency. No doubt about it, we’ll have a dominant defense. Will it be like the Lewis’ Ravens or the Steel Curtain of old, or will it be have the Singletary nastiness?
Clearly, we are building the Chiefs to run. With Jamaal back, Hillis running over people, and now a killer line with the addition of Eric Winston to go along with Brandon Albert and Rodney Houston, I’m seriously having flashbacks of Okoye/Word and the tandem of the Priest and the running back Who Shall Not Be Named. But, hold on, not so fast. We also have Bowe, Moeki, Steve Breaston and Baldwin. Baldwin, i think, is going to have just a monster season, by the way. All of them can catch, run, find the seam and block. We know Matt Cassel excels when the running game is working, his receivers are running precise routes and the O-Line is giving him enough time. Add in an Offensive Coordinator in Brian Daboll who likes to mix it up with a few trick plays and surprises, and we’re in for a potentially juggernaut year for the offense. Will we be thunder-and-lightning good, see Cassel return to Pro Bowl form, or both?
Some teams throughout history have developed a team identity around special teams. Certainly, the Devin Hester-led Bears have it. I hate to say it, but the Raiders have it with Sean Lechler and Sea Bass. The Chiefs had it with the X-Factor, Dante Hall. Do the 2012 Chiefs have it? Can Dustin Colquitt and Ryan Succop blossom into field position determiners? Will we find a return man and blockers who can score on any kickoff or punt return?
Verdict: What is the Chiefs’ defining character?
The easy answer is the Steel Curtain. We’ll have a power running game and a tough-as-nails defense with flat out, blue-collar ballers all over the field. But I think the Steel Curtain won’t do the 2012 Chiefs full justice, as high a marker as that moniker is.
I think the Chiefs have the talent, toughness, determination, coaching, fitness and smarts to be something even greater. We know we’re going to be tough – like Tamba and Derrick tough, lockdown Brandon tough, and Albert/Winston tough. But with a host of former college team captains and a plurality of players with high football IQ’s, we may also be defined as the smartest football team. I mean, what happens when you take tough and mean and nasty and smashmouth, and add in creative and unpredictable game plans, smart half-time adjustments and overall preparedness, both mentally and physically? In game terms, we could just as easily send Charles snaking through a hole, have Hillis pound it for five yards, send Baldwin and Bowe on crossing routes, have Moeki and Kevin Boss find the soft spot in the zone or have Dexter take a swing pass for 15 yards. On defense, opposing offenses could see the Romeo bend-but-don’t-break defense, see a bull rush by Houston and Hali, have Berry and Flowers shut down receivers or see Derrick fly over the line to snuff a running back for a loss.
We will be tough as nails, but also much, much smarter than the average Donkey.
My vote for our Chiefs’ character is simple: a team of warriors. In history, warriors were not just the most dominant fighters. They also upheld a code of honor and ethic and were intellects. This combination – strength, speed, smarts and character – is our new team. What do you think, Addicts? What will the Chiefs’ defining character be in 2012?!