Through four games, the 2012 Kansas City Chiefs are a failure. They aren’t a slight failure. They aren’t a couple of plays away from being 3-1 instead of 1-3. They are a REALLY bad football team. When a football team struggles, the primary targets of the fans’ wrath are the starting QB, the head coach, and the GM. All three are currently taking justifiable criticism for their performance this season, but starting quarterback Matt Cassel is clearly public enemy number one in Kansas City. At this point, Cassel has very few supporters left. My stance so far this season has been that Cassel may not be a very good quarterback, but this team was supposed to be built to win in spite of that.
Here’s the problem with my previous stance. It relied on three things: The Chiefs being able to control games with their rushing attack; the defense keeping the other team out of the end zone; and Matt Cassel not making huge mistakes that hurt the team. Say what you will about the failures of Cassel’s supporting cast (I’ll get to them in a minute), but Cassel has been a complete failure at protecting the football. In 2010 when KC went to the playoffs, Cassel was responsible for eight total turnovers (seven INTs and one fumble lost) in 15 games played. Thus far in 2012, Cassel has already turned the ball over 10 times in only four games.
You can really trace the turnover problem all the way back to the end of that same 2010 playoff season. In his first 14 games played that season, Cassel only had six total turnovers. That’s only 0.43 turnovers per game. In those 14 games the Chiefs were 10-4. Starting with the final regular season game of 2010 (vs the Raiders) and including the playoff loss to the Ravens, Cassel has turned the ball over 26 times in 15 games. That’s 1.73 turnovers per game. In those 15 games, the Chiefs are 5-10. Is Matt Cassel solely responsible for all 10 of those loses? Of course not, there is plenty of blame to go around. However, since that Raiders game, Matt Cassel has simply turned the ball over too many times and has only been able to win one of every three starts that he has made in the last year and a half. That’s just not good enough.
If you are going to try and win with a quarterback with a limited upside like Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson, that QB simply CANNOT turn the ball over. When they do, the team has to play out of a hole, and that usually means passing the ball and putting more responsibility on the QB that the team wanted to just be a “game manager.” Matt Cassel is doing just that, and it is costing the Chiefs dearly. It’s like NFL quicksand and Matt Cassel keeps stepping in it.
So, as of today, I am no longer going to defend Matt Cassel to anyone. Yes, I still think the rest of the team is putting him in a horrible position, but Cassel deserves the heat he is getting. Do I think Brady Quinn is more talented than Matt Cassel? No, I don’t. I think he lacks the talent to win at the NFL level, too and could possibly be even worse than Cassel. Before you say “Nobody is worse than Cassel!” let’s take a moment to remember the Tyler Palko debacle. However, if Quinn could simply not turn the ball over he would be an upgrade over Cassel and put the Chiefs in a position to win games the way they originally set out to this season, with their run game and defense. That’s assuming that the run game and defense are able to handle their end of the bargain.
Which leads me to my next point.
The rest of the offense around Cassel and the defense deserve just as much criticism as Matt Cassel does. The offensive line was supposed to be a strength on this team. To their credit, they have opened an occasional crease and allowed Jamaal Charles to break a long run. However, I (like many others) expected the line to be good enough to run the ball between the tackles even when the other team is ready for it. That hasn’t been the case. The Chiefs offensive line has simply looked weak at the point of attack all season. Our young guards Asamoah and Allen have both been overpowered so severely at times that they almost tackled the running back themselves. The only time that KC seems to be able to run with much success is when KC is down big and the other team is keying in on harassing Matt Cassel.
The pass protection has been equally disappointing. Cassel has been sacked 13 times in 4 games. That’s 3.25 sacks per game. Last season with Barry Richardson at RT and Casey Wiegmann at C, the Chiefs allowed 2.44 sacks per game in Cassel’s nine starts. So statistically speaking, the offensive line is worse so far this year at protecting the QB. Eric Winston replacing Richardson was supposed to be the biggest upgrade of the offseason and thus far it has been a complete disappointment.
The running backs and wide receivers have had their share of the blame as well. The Chiefs’ playmakers have lost five fumbles (including three against the Chargers) and a couple of Cassel’s interceptions have been caused by WRs or TEs that deflected passes up into the air when they could have made the catch. Basically, the entire offense has been a total failure with the exception of a couple of big plays by Jamaal Charles.
Simply drafting a first round quarterback will not fix all of these issues. Do I want to see a new QB in KC? You bet I do. Would Geno Smith and his 600+ yards passing and eight TDs in one game get me excited if he was wearing red and gold next season? Without question it would. However, if you think simply swapping Cassel for Geno Smith fixes everything, you’re dead wrong. Geno Smith playing with an offense that performs the exact same way that the Chiefs have thus far in 2012 would be equally bad. Yes, Smith might create more plays, but a rookie starting his first NFL season is also likely to make a lot of mistakes, especially if the rest of the team is putting the whole game on his arm as the Chiefs have often done with Cassel this season.
Finally, I can’t leave the defense out of this either. Yes, they have shown flashes in stretches these last two games. Yes, the offense has hung them out to dry on multiple occasions. That having been said, they are allowing 34 points per game and have only created two turnovers. They’ve been flat out bad and are every bit the failure that the offense is. The pass coverage in particular has been embarrassing. Wide receivers and tight ends can simply run across the middle and catch balls all day long. Eric Berry has been exposed as still having major coverage issues and the Chiefs linebackers have been equally horrific in coverage. The defensive line has done a horrible job of creating pressure. Although, Ropati Pitoitua did come through with two sacks on Sunday. For the record, that’s two sacks in one start for KC (2.00 sacks per start) while Dorsey and Jackson have combined for six sacks in 99 starts (0.06 sacks per start). Maybe KC should consider starting Pitoitua in the base defense and use Dorsey as a pass rushing DT in the nickel and dime packages (not that he’s shown much of an ability to excel in that role).
KC simply must find a way to get more out of all of their players or heads should roll. If Crennel can’t fix the defense (his specialty), then he should be fired. If players can’t do a better job, then they should be cut, regardless of their draft slot or contract. The Chiefs need accountability. Say what you will about Todd Haley (he was crazy, messed up the play calling, messed up spring training, he was REALLY crazy, etc.) but at least he held people accountable. At least I didn’t feel like I was more angry about the team’s failures than the head coach was. At least he held every single player accountable, no exceptions. If the players really like Crennel as much as they’ve said, they better start playing for him because so far the “wise old Grandpa Romeo” act isn’t cutting it.
Finally, Clark Hunt should hold Scott Pioli accountable for this mess. If this keeps up much longer Arrowhead will quickly empty and Hunt will start losing money. It’s time for Pioli to stop trying to out-think everyone else in the room and just follow good, old-fashioned, proven-to-work, NFL strategies. If you don’t have a good QB, find one; no matter what the cost. If a player (or coach) isn’t producing, replace him even if it means admitting that you made a mistake in drafting/signing him. Finally, stop trying to draft guys that you think you have figured out are secretly good and pick more guys that are proven playmakers. Look at Justin Houston, he’s not a guy that Pioli would have ever drafted in the first round, but he fell into his lap and now his TALENT is winning out. It seems to me that we could use some more of that kind of talent at QB, ILB, and safety right about now. If Clark Hunt doesn’t think Pioli is capable of making those changes then Clark needs to fire him.
This collection of players, coaches, and management are turning our beloved team into a joke. The Chiefs are dead last in turnover differential. The Chiefs have been outscored by 174 points dating back to the start of the 2011 season. They’ve been outscored 78-29 in the first half this season. They’re the only team that hasn’t drafted a first-round QB in the last 25 years. There are younger fans that literally haven’t seen this team win a playoff game since they started following the team. I’m considered a “homer” by most, but at some point there is only so much that you can take.
KC fans have a right to be upset about how this team is producing. There is plenty of blame to go around. But if it makes you feel better to blame it all on Matt Cassel, fine, I won’t argue with you anymore. He has been bad and I hope the Chiefs are finally willing to admit it and move on. However, making Matt Cassel the lone scapegoat for this team would be a mistake and would take the heat off of the players, coaches, and GM that are also very much to blame.
Here’s to hoping that this team gets held accountable this week and can drastically improve their performance against the Ravens next week. I’m one of those fans that the Chiefs love because no matter how bad they play I’ll still be back next week cheering them on 100 percent. That doesn’t mean my eyes can’t see the problems that are there in front of me. If KC doesn’t get them fixed quick, the Ravens are capable of making things look even worse than the Chargers did. For all of our sakes, let’s hope that I don’t have to write a 2013 draft prospect post next week after only five games.
As always, thanks for reading and GO CHIEFS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!