“Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill.”
As we try to diagnose what is wrong with the 2012 Kansas City Chiefs, we may need to evaluate what the players and coaches are saying almost as much as we examine their performance on the field.
Some folks will tell you that words don’t matter. I don’t think that is necessarily true. We’ve seen recently, with the attacks on the American Embassy, that words can be enormously powerful. Words can inspire and incite greatness.
But words can also defeat. If you were to wake up every morning, look at yourself in the mirror and say “I hate myself, I am a worthless, worthless human being,” and you continued to run through that mantra over and over again in your head throughout the day, it would be pretty difficult to feel good about yourself. You might struggle in social situations. You would begin to lose your confidence.
Let’s not have any illusions about words; they can be difference-makers, but they aren’t the only factor in whether we succeed or fail. For instance, I can tell myself over and over again that I could play nose tackle for the Chiefs in the 3-4 defense but no matter how high my confidence, I’d still likely be killed on the very first snap if I ever stepped on the field at Arrowhead in a real game.
The situation with the Chiefs this season is curious. In 2009, we knew the team was full of bad football players. Same with 2008. It made sense that they were getting smacked around. We didn’t like it. We wanted to see guys develop faster, play better but we also weren’t ignorant to reality.
Football fans are pretty smart. We have a tendency to be be homers, for sure but we’re smart enough to know when a team is talented, when they are over-achieving and when they are under-achieving. Most KC fans I talked to last season expected the team to take a step back. Folks seemed to agree that the team had improved but still have a little ways to go. We didn’t foresee the injuries of course and when it was all said and done, I think a great deal of Chiefs fans were pleasantly surprised that the team managed to win seven games in a season in which Tyler Palko started four contests.
In 2012, however, we’re all scratching out heads. The talent is present on this team. That is plain to see. But the Chiefs aren’t harnessing their talent to help them win football games. They look lost, lethargic and apathetic. They’re out of sync.
The problem with the 2012 Kansas City Chiefs isn’t physical. It’s mental.
And you need only to listen to this group talk to understand.
“We’re trying to get it better and we will get it better. Coach Crennel is adamant about that. We’ve got to play at a high level. We’re NFL players that have to be on the same page. This game is hard. Offenses are very hard. But at some time we’ve got to put our foot down and we’ve got to stop them from scoring. We’re letting people score way too many points.”
Oh DJ. This game is hard? Offenses are very hard?
Does that sound like a leader to you? Does it sound like a man who is going to mentally be able to go out there and dominate? Frankly, he sounds scared. Johnson sounds like he is playing tight football and I think his on-field performance confirms that.
Can you imagine Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens saying something like this after two humiliating losses?
“Effort is between you, and you, and nobody else. So that team that thinks it’s ready to see you, they think what they’ve seen on film, they ain’t saw what film shows, because every day is a new day. Every moment is a new moment. So now you’ve got to go out and show them that I’m a different creature now, then I was five minutes ago, cause I’m pissed off for greatness. Cause if you ain’t pissed off for greatness, that just means you’re okay with being mediocre, and ain’t no man in here okay with just basic.”
Why isn’t Derrick Johnson “pissed off for greatness?” Why aren’t all the Chiefs pissed off?
They don’t sound like a group that believes in themselves. They don’t even sound like the believe in one another.
Yesterday, head coach Romeo Crennel was asked about rookie guard Jeff Allen. The starter, Ryan Lilja, is a little banged up and Crennel was asked he felt about the possibility of Allen having to start.
“Against this particular team, it’s probably not the best because of the varying pressures that they bring, but he’s a smart young man and has gotten good work yesterday and [will get] good work today and tomorrow, and we’ll have him prepared the best we can,” said Crennel.
I’m sorry? What?
Allen looked fairly decent in the preseason. Is this the way you get a rookie ready to potentially make the first start of his NFL career? You talk about how tough the opponent is and how you “prepare him the best we can?”
If his own coach doesn’t sound like he believes in him, how is Allen supposed to go out there and believe he can hang tough?
Last night, the New York Giants started a guy named Andre Brown. Brown is a former fourth round pick and has been waived four times in his career. Stepping in for an injured starter, Brown delivered and played like a hidden star. In fact, the New York Giants have made a habit of having backups step up and play well. That is what good teams do. Their team motto is “next man up.”
Perhaps the worst offense, however, came a few days ago when Crennel was asked if Sunday’s game against the Saints was a “must win.”
“I would like to win, definitely,” said Crennel. “I don’t know if it’s a must-win. I know we will try to look at it as a must-win because we want to win it, but we’re not going to fall off the earth if we lose it. But I really don’t want to tell those guys that. I want them to feel the urgency that we need to get better and we need to start quickly getting better.”
Not a must win?
The correct answer to that question is that they are ALL must wins.
You have to wonder if the Chiefs’ lack of toughness and focus comes from what they are hearing from their head coach. Players tend to repeat what their coaches tell them. When Todd Haley was the head coach we often heard the players breaking their season into quarters like their head coach. Under Crennel, that talk is gone.
Crennel may be trying to keep his team from panicking by saying that Sunday’s game is not a must win. He may be afraid that if he lays into them or tries to light a fire under their collective asses that they will continue to “press” and make mistakes.
If you ask me, this team could do with a little motivation, even if that motivation is a little harsh.
Think about it. Who are the leaders of this Chiefs team? After a failed series, have you seen Matt Cassel pacing up and down the sideline, firing up his offensive teammates?
Have you seen Derrick Johnson or Eric Berry grab a defensive mate by the face mask, trying to pump him up?
The Chiefs need a spark. They need leadership. They need to play with fire and passion.
Because right now, all of those things are missing. There are no apparent leaders. There is no apparent passion. Offenses are hard, after all.
Something has to change and change fast because right now the Chiefs look like losers.
They sound like them, too.