Imagine you are a member of the Chiefs’ inner circle of deciders. You’re under the gun right now, picking free agents to release or sign while also preparing for the best off-season day of the year: the draft.
A smart colleague of mine has a great question she always asks whenever we are about to embark on a big project: “Why won’t this work?”
That simple question, which is usually in the back of the minds of other colleagues and clients anyways, is a terrific method to air often unspoken fears, and to help us make smarter plans to address potential challenges. So here goes, Addicts. This might be painful, but we’ll be better in the end, I promise.
So why won’t the Chiefs’ season work? Here are a few categories of potential challenges.
- Injuries: The dread of every team is a rash of injuries to top players. Can lightning strike the Chiefs twice? Will Berry, Charles and Moeaki come back 100%? Many of our top players have been blessed with injury-free seasons– I won’t name them so as not to jinx them, but you know who they are. What if injuries deplete our roster of key players again?
- Performance: Ryan Lilja said earlier this week that he just had a bad year. What if more Chiefs have a bad year, or, worse, some players were overhyped and we just don’t have the consistent level of playmakers that playoff teams have?
- Cassel: Will we see the Matt Cassel of 2010 or 2011? And if Cassel gets hurt, will Brady Quinn, Ricky Stanzi or perhaps a new QB fare do what Tyler Palko did?
- Built wrong: What if the Chiefs are simply built wrong? What if we don’t have the personnel packages needed to compete with Peyton Manning, or win a playoff game against an elite AFC team?
- Identity: Will the Chiefs establish a strong identity? Will it be defensive toughness, a pound-and-ground offense, or the element of unpredictability? What if we fail to excel at anything, and have an amorphous identify, trying many things but mastering none?
- Chemistry: We’ve seen Raiders teams of the past and last year’s Jets implode with toxic internal chemistry. WIth a much younger team this year and several new players, what if we don’t have the internal chemistry needed to win?
- Coaching: We have a brand-spanking new offensive coordinator and Romeo will serve as both head coach and defensive coordinator. Will we be able to make the best game plans, prepare players thoroughly and make game-time adjustments at the speed with which we need to make them? Or will we flounder, with midseason coaching changes, internal tension and constantly shifting responsibilities?
The second question my colleague asks is “What can we do now to prevent or mitigate these potential challenges?”
I’d suggest two courses.
First, many of these potential challenges can be solved by increasing our depth. Injuries and bad performance are questions of when, not if. The importance of depth makes me rethink my draft selections. It’s so easy to go after immediate starters with draft picks– the payoff is visible and quick. But lack of depth at key positions really hurt the Chiefs last year, and as hard as it is to do, achieving depth at key positions may be as critical a strategy as trying to find an instant starter and perhaps overreaching in the draft. If we add smart depth, particularly with players who can play multiple positions, then we can weather injuries and bad performance better than other teams: a critical competitive advantage.
The second strategy to prevent or mitigate these challenges is to keep bringing in “character” guys. We’re off to a great start in this area, with Berry, Tamba, Derrick, Dwayne, Brandon (Flowers and Albert), Cassel and many more. But who’s going to emerge as the Thomas Jones or John McGraw or Casey Weigmann, the real veteran presence who has respect and experience? It’s entirely possible we have that person already, but we’ll have to wait to see who emerges in order to ensure focus, chemistry and a strong team identity.
With now just two weeks to go until Draft Day, what do you think, Addicts? Why won’t the Chiefs season work, and what can we do now to prevent your worst case scenario from happening?!
p.s. A big shout out to AA’s Tony Rangel for my most awesome column artwork! Thanks Tony!!