How low can they go?
That seems to be the only question left to answer at this point for the Chiefs. Let there be no mistake, the Kansas City Chiefs are the worst team in professional football right now, and will almost certainly remain so through the rest of the 2012 season.
What has led us to this point is also pretty clear. We are on pace to commit the most turnovers ever in an NFL season
with an average turnover ratio of -2.6 per game. Only the Jacksonville Jaguars have scored few points than us. We’re 28th in the league in points allowed and hold the dubious distinction of being the only team to never take a lead in a game through the first seven since 1940.
We’re not even close to being a competitive NFL team. The Chiefs are broken.
While no obvious solution to the Chiefs’ woes has yet arisen, we can be certain of what will not fix the team at this point:
1.) The current coaching staff. The team is playing undisciplined, uninspired football and everything this staff tries makes it worse. Opposing teams have scored on their first possession of the second half in every single game against the Chiefs this year. Whatever halftime speeches and adjustments are being made are having the opposite effect.
2.) Brady Quinn. After two weeks of taking the starter’s snaps in practice he did not look like an NFL quarterback before apparently being kidnapped by the medical staff in the first half. His throws were way off, and he looked very uncomfortable in the pocket. Cassel has made horrendous, critical errors in every game this season but, sadly, he is still the best quarterback on the roster.
3.) Firing Pioli (but it sure would feel good). I’m not suggesting Pioli should not be fired, I just don’t think it will help us in 2012. He purged and replaced practically the entire front office staff and anyone who takes over for him now will be one of his disciples. There’s not much any new GM can change on this team at this point. Last week, I would have advocated sending a fifth-round pick to Miami for QB Matt Moore, who at least knows OC Brian Daboll’s offense and might make the remainder of the season less painful to watch. But now that Miami QB Ryan Tannehill is hurt, chances are zilch that they’ll trade away their backup. So, firing him will not change anything (putting his head on a pike might though).
4.) The defense. With its short, mistake-ridden possessions, the Chiefs offense has consistently put the D in a bad spot, forcing them to defend short fields and stay out there for most of the game. But, the defense, for its part, gives up big plays at inopportune times, allows teams to gash them late and has generally failed to make opportunities of its own. They’re not going to be able to bail us out.
While waiting for the Chiefs’ kickoff (at midnight my time), I watched the Steelers-Redskins game, which ended with a similar score (the Steelers offense looks fantastic under OC Todd Haley by the way). Having lived several years in Washington, I am familiar with their pain as well, but this game was so much different from watching the Chiefs. The ‘Skins have a quarterback. A future. They’re 3-5 and their defense is atrocious. I counted 11 drops by their wideouts in the game. And yet, they kept pace and they had a chance to make something happen all throughout the game. I noticed I was watching their third and fourth downs with genuine anticipation. When watching the Chiefs, I just tense up and brace for the dumbfounding blunder that will inevitably follow.
That’s all I want at this point. A dignified loss. One in which the team fights hard to the end but is eventually overpowered by a better team. One in which the team leaves with battle scars, not self-inflicted wounds.
Watching the Redskins gave me another thought. The Chiefs are not as talented as we think they are, and the sooner we realize that, the better for the team. I lived in DC from 2005-2009. In 2005, the Redskins had a solid defense that it rode to a playoff win at the end of a 10-6 season. On top of that, they had just drafted a quarterback in the late first round and he had spent the year riding the pine and preparing to start.
Instead, Campbell struggled and the team aged. Continually convinced that they were one player away from greatness, the Redskins gave a $100-million contract to Albert Haynesworth and traded high picks for Jason Taylor and Donovan McNabb. Since their 2005 playoff run, they have been 37-59. The solid defense and offensive line they relied on retired and the roster had to be blown up to get young.
You know who else was 10-6 not too long ago? The Cleveland Browns. In 2007, they had a season much like the Chiefs 2010 run. They were effective both on the ground and in the air and looked like a squad full of young stars. All they needed was the right coaches to make them into a dynasty. Through four years and two head-coaching changes, the Brownies ended up 14-34.
What do these three teams have in common? In 2005, the Redskins faced the 5th easiest schedule in the NFL. The Chiefs in 2010 had the 10th easiest. The Browns had what appeared to be a tough schedule in 2007, but in the end they had just one win over a team with a winning record by the end of that year (the Seahawks). Likewise, the only winning team the Chiefs beat in 2010 was the Chargers in the home opener.
So, yes, Pioli and Crennel will be gone this year. Matt Cassel is not a good quarterback. But, we shouldn’t expect this team to suddenly dominate with the addition of a new QB or head coach. We were impressive in 2010, but we won against schmos and had a point differential at the end of the season of just +40. The Browns had +20 in 2007. That indicator plus the strength of schedule is a big red flag for teams that are not as good as their records indicate.
Moving forward, we need to forget 2010 and look at this team as what it is — a disaster with a few bright spots. Acknowledging a problem is the first step to fixing it. A lot needs to change on this team. If not, this awful hangover of bad football and self-medication will drag on for many more Mondays (and in this week’s case, Friday).