Aug 24, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel (7) sits on the ground after throwing an interception that was returned for a touchdown by Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas (not shown) in the second half at Arrowhead Stadium. Seattle won the game 44-14Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-US PRESSWIRE

KC Fans: Is It Time For Optimism Or Pessimism?

Sometimes it is REALLY hard to be a Kansas City Chiefs fan. Unfortunately, for the last decade “sometimes” has actually been most of the time. Years of failure and a young generation of fans that have never seen a playoff win have turned many fans to pessimists. We as Chiefs fans have literally been conditioned to expect the worst. Some (like myself) try to fight this conditioning. We start each new season with a “this year will be different” attitude. Most years by midseason we optimists are forced to admit that we were wrong. We tuck our collective tails between our legs and start dreaming about what the Chiefs can do to make our dreams come true next season.

I’ve stated before that I see my outlook on the Chiefs as one of optimistic realism. In other words, I’m not oblivious to the problems that the Chiefs have, I just choose to believe (or at very least hope) that they will find a way to overcome those problems. The 2010 season was such a rush, because for once the Chiefs actually lived up to my optimism. So when the 2011 season rolled around I decided I wanted to go to the opening day game against the Bills. My optimism runnethed over. I was convinced that they would build on 2010 and take the next step toward building a Super Bowl winner. But as I sat there in my nosebleed seats watching the Chiefs get blown out of the water I had an all too familiar thought run through my mind…

You know the one. It’s the scene from the Adam Sandler movie the Waterboy when Rob Schneider’s character yells out….

OH NO, WE SUCK AGAIN!!!”

After that week one game some people abandoned ship right away. I convinced myself it was a fluke and that week two against the Lions would be different.

“OH NO, WE SUCK AGAIN!!!!”

Over the next few weeks the Chiefs showed some life. About the time my optimism was returning the Miami Dolphins came to town.

“OH NO, WE SUCK AGAIN!!!”

Still, because of a weak division the Chiefs weren’t out of it. They started Tyler Palko for four games.

“OH NO, WE SUCK AGAIN!!!”

They fired Todd Haley, beat the undefeated Packers, and all they had to do was beat the Raiders at home and they could even make the playoffs despite all the agony that they had put us through! Two blocked field goals later, you guessed it…

“OH NO, WE SUCK AGAIN!!!”

Fast forward to the 2012 preseason. After free agency, the draft, and the return of the ACL crew, most KC fans were on the optimistic bandwagon. The first preseason game only fueled the optimism, but after back-to-back loses to the Rams and Seahawks many fans are now starting to sound the alarm once again. I’ll admit that it’s hard to defend a team that losses 44-14 at home to a team starting a rookie 3rd round draft pick at QB. So the question of the day is should we still be optimistic or are we bound to “suck again”?

No one can really know the answer to this right now. The fact is we won’t even begin to get our answer until the Chiefs and Falcons kick off on September 9. In the meantime, let’s set aside our biases and see if we can come to some kind of logical conclusion about where this team stands. So I’ll set aside my “homerish” optimism and some of you will have to set aside your pessimism. What I’d like to do is compare where we are today with where we were last year about this time. We’ll go position by position (including the coaching staff) and I’ll try as much as possible to keep my opinion out of it so you can take a hard look at the roster and make a realistic call as to whether or not we should believe that the Chiefs will be better this year.

Here we go.

Quarterback:

2011 – Cassel, Palko, Stanzi
2012 – Cassel, Quinn, Stanzi

So the question here is simply who would you rather have as the #2 QB, Tyler Palko or Brady Quinn?

Running Back:

2011 – Battle, Jones, McCluster (Charles on IR after 1 game)
2012 – Charles, Hillis, Draughn/Gray

Technically, a year ago at this time KC still had Jamaal Charles, but since he was lost so early and was a non-factor in 2011 the choice here is would you rather have Battle, Jones, and McCluster at RB or JC, Peyton Hillis, and some combination of Shaun Draughn and Cyrus Gray?

Wide Receiver:

2011 – Bowe, Breaston, Baldwin (1/2 season), Copper, Colbert
2012 – Bowe, Baldwin, Breaston, McCluster, Wylie, Copper

So this one takes a little more explanation. In 2011 Bowe and Breaston were the clear starters with Baldwin not having an offseason and then breaking his hand in training camp. This year Baldwin has been a camp star but Bowe missed all of camp with his hold out. The rest comes down to if you’d rather have Dexter McCluster and Devon Wylie or Keary Colbert.

Tight End:

2011 – Pope, Becht, O’Connell (Moeaki on IR before week 1)
2012 – Moeaki, Boss, Maneri

Pope and Becht or Moeaki and Boss? Not much else to say.

Offensive Line:

2011 – Albert, Lilja, Wiegmann, Asamoah, Richardson, Hudson, Gaither
2012 – Albert, Lilja, Hudson, Asamoah, Winston, Allen, Stephenson

As far as the starting lineup goes, there are two differences. First is Wiegmann’s declining ability but veteran experience against Hudson’s strength and inexperience. Then there is the change from Richardson to Winston that I think speaks for itself.

Defensive Line:

2011 – Dorsey, Gregg, Jackson, Bailey, Gilberry, Gordon, Powe
2012 – Dorsey, Toribio, Jackson, Bailey, Poe, Powe, Pitoitua, Gordon

Not all of the guys I mentioned for 2012 will probably make the team, which is a good problem to have. So I guess it comes down to if you would rather have Gregg and Gilberry or Powe, Toribio, and Pitoitua.

Linebacker:

2011 – Hali, DJ, Belcher, Studebaker, Houston, Sheffield, Greenwood
2012 – Hali, DJ, Belcher, Houston, Studebaker, Siler, Sheffield

The only real difference this year is that Houston has had a full offseason and is the undisputed starter on his side. Also, Brandon Siler is back from his Achilles’ injury.

Defensive Backs:

2011 – Flowers, Carr, Arenas, Daniels, Brown, Lewis, McGraw, Washington, Piscatelli (Berry on IR after week one)
2012 – Flowers, Routt, Arenas, Brown, Daniels, Menzie, Berry, Lewis, Elam

This one is very hard to judge for me. Carr is gone and has been replaced by Routt. Eric Berry is back from his injury but both Flowers and Lewis are banged up and could miss time. Depth-wise the Chiefs have replaced McGraw and Piscatelli with Menzie and Elam.

Special Teams:

Special teams’ key players are all the same as last year with the addition of Devon Wylie as a possible return man.

Coaching Staff:

2011 – Haley, Muir, Crennel, Hoffman
2012 – Crennel, Daboll, McMahon

Crennel vs. Haley. Haley/Muir vs. Daboll. Hoffman vs. McMahon. You could debate quite a bit on any of these areas. I think the big differences are Haley’s overall attitude versus Crennel’s and then how Daboll is running the offense versus how things were working under Haley/Muir.

So now that we’ve looked at this team versus last year’s team I want everyone to stop and think without any of your own homer/hater tendencies about how this team stacks up against last year’s squad. Is this a better group of players or not? Do you feel better or worse about the coaching staff? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Now that you’ve made up your mind, I have to put my 2¢ in as well. I don’t think there is any question that the 2012 roster is better than the 2011 roster. I don’t know that I can judge how the 2012 Chiefs compare with the other 2012 NFL teams, but they are clearly better off than they were last year. Getting the ACL crew back is huge. Peyton Hillis over Thomas Jones is huge. Eric Winston over Barry Richardson is huge. Justin Houston and Jon Baldwin look like they might be break out players this year. Dexter McCluster seems to have finally found his home in the slot. Abram Elam over Sabby Piscatelli as the back up safety makes me feel much better. Finally, the working relationship between Cassel and new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll seems 100 percent better than Cassel had with Todd Haley.

The only downside I can see to this season is the early injuries in the secondary. If both Flowers and Lewis miss extended time and Stanford Routt can’t live up to the standard that Brandon Carr set then the secondary could be an issue. Otherwise I don’t see any reasons to believe this team won’t be better than last season, even if they did get land blasted by the Seahawks on Friday night. If the Chiefs can lose Pro Bowlers like Charles and Berry, have their first-round pick miss half the season, start Tyler Palko at QB for four games, start Barry Richardson at RT for 16 games, have Sabby Piscatelli on their 53 man roster, and fire their coach midseason and still win seven games and be in the running for the division, then there is no reason to believe that they can’t do much better than that this year.

So even though Friday was HORRIBLE, I haven’t lost all of my optimism and I’m certainly not ready to say…

“OH NO, WE SUCK AGAIN!!!”

So where do you stand? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

As always, thanks for reading and GO CHIEFS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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