The Origin of the Species: 2012 KC Chiefs

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How did we get here? No, not the human race, I’m referring to the Kansas City Chiefs.  It’s a question that keeps rattling around in my cranium and believe me, it’s being a Chiefs fan that’s propagated this critical mass brain shake. How in the name of Darwin did the Chiefs end up 1-7 while sitting at the 50 yard line of this season’s timeline and furthermore: why?

While pondering these and other caveman conundrums, I’ve come to realize that it hasn’t been adequate to ask, how did the Chiefs get to where they’re at, without also asking how other teams have moved up the evolutionary ladder and passed them by.

At the end of 2011, the 7-9 Chiefs were better, at least as far as their record goes, than the Colts, Redskins, Vikings, Browns, Bucs, Rams, Jags, Dolphins, Panthers and Bills. Now, at the midway point of the 2012 season, and near the end of the Mayan calendar I might add, only the Jacksonville Jaguars remain. Actually, the Jags have won as many games as the Chiefs have (1) so, the real answer to that question is — no team is “worse” than the Chiefs in the NFL. Not as far as records go.

On Tuesday, ProFootballTalk (PFT) released their most recent NFL Power Rankings and the Chiefs finished dead (you know, dead, as in extinct) last. Both CBS Sports and ESPN concur, the Chiefs are the 32nd best team in the league and if somehow you didn’t know, it’s only a 32 team league.

Darwinism and “The Origin of the Species” has supplied us with terms that have become a part of our everyday lexicon… terms like evolution and adaptation.

The 2012 KC Chiefs have supplied us with the distinction.

Like every team, the Chiefs have evolved, but, in the Chiefs case, they’ve done it in a negative way. That’s referred to as devolution: to gradually roll downward.  

What is more appropriate to point to is that the Chiefs  have not adapted.

The question then, is not: why are the Chiefs a bad team? The question is why have the Chiefs been devolving instead of adapting.

Adaptation vs. Change.

When Clark Hunt decided to change general managers four years ago, was he really thinking about a change or adapting? Apparently he just believed it was time for a change. Change, in and of itself, is not always for the better. In the wild, animals adapt to survive. They don’t just change. You can understand, on some level, why Hunt would choose Scott Pioli. He offered to stabilize the organization based upon the Patriots structure of success.

So, is there really a problem with that? Absolutely yes.

What Scott Pioli was offering was the “same-ole-same-ole” of the New England “system.” What’s wrong with that you may ask?

There has never been anything in the New England way of doing things, from year to year, that has stayed the same (except Belichick and Brady).

Examine some given notions about the Patriots Way and how those notions have been “modified”:

A. A successful organization requires the Right-53 → Corey Dillon, Randy Moss, Albert Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco all remodeled that definition.
B. Experienced players on defense wins Championships → that used to be the case but, last year’s mutation of the Pats produced a defense that was 31st in the league in total defense but, nearly still won the Super Bowl.
C. If everybody does their job, we’ll be successful → this may be the biggest Patriots Way myth of all, because unless Tom Brady is there to do his job it appears that New England won’t even be in the running (see 2008, when Matt Cassel took over for the injured Brady).
D. There’s no “I” in “Team” → see A. above. The Pats have been perfectly willing to morph with “I” players. It doesn’t always work but, they do it anyway. In the case of Corey Dillon, it helped bring another ring to bean-town.

Last year, in an article by Andy Benoit for the New York Times, he cited that the Patriot Way comes down to “out-scheming and out-executing the enemy” on the football field.

Benoit goes on to spell out how this is possible for New England,

“Because (Tom) Brady is Mensa quality when it comes to dissecting a defense at the line of scrimmage, and because he has arguably the best pocket mechanics in  football, the Patriots are able to first create a system and then find the players to run it… Most offenses build their passing attack on timing and stretching the field. The Patriots – especially in this post-Randy Moss era – are the opposite. The patterns their receivers run are often determined by what the defense shows. It’s up to the receiver to correctly assess the coverage – often on the fly – and execute accordingly. Because of this, the Patriots don’t look for size and speed at wide receiver; they look for intelligence and precise route running.”

It’s incongruous for Scott Pioli, or even his most ardent of fans, to believe that bringing Matt Cassel with him from New England could even come close to approximating the same outcomes on the field of play, much less achieve anything close to their record, as the B&B led Patriots. The Chiefs record of 22-34, covering the past three and a half years, would support that.

Scott Pioli tried to steal the blueprint, when it’s clear that blueprint couldn’t replicated.

It’s like taking a novice cook and asking them to duplicate Emeril Lagasse’s Red Wine and Port Braised Short Ribs. However, Brady and Belichick like to alter their recipes on an ongoing basis so there’s actually no such thing as copying them.

It takes a certain, je ne sais quoi… or you could say, pan ache! I would never in a million years use these words to describe Scott Pioli. If anything, he’s more like a Bill Parcels wannabe or closer yet, automaton… or more like a fry cook at Winstead’s (honest, the last thing I want to do is to give Winstead’s a bad name).

If you’re thinking that the Chiefs could use a little “Stepford Wives” colony of the Patriots success just remember, there is no cloning Belichick or Brady. That would be like trying to make an identical clone of a wave in the ocean.

What Scott Pioli lacks — are his own original ideas.

Thomas Edison once said, “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.” That’s the frustrating thing about Pioli, he lacks the one-percent solution. Copying your classmate’s homework won’t land you on the dean’s list, no matter how much work you put into the copying process.

Scott Pioli simply doesn’t have “it” in him.

So, what is “it?”

Answer: the ability to consistently adapt, innovate, diversify, restyle approaches, shift gears, fluctuate, transform or even incorporate novelty (Todd Haley liked to occasionally use the novel approach and it often inspired his troops). BTW… Todd Haley seems to be doing well these days.

Now, Scott Pioli is a great “organizer.” However, you may not want a celebrated “clutter consultant” running your multimillion dollar organization that bears the name of a major metropolitan area.

What has now become problematic for Pioli is that he’s chosen a head coach who brings an equal measure of the heart-numbing monotony to the table as Pioli himself.

While Head Coach Romeo Crennel has in the past been able to implement defensive schemes that bewitch and befuddle, either his methods have become over-exposed or his dual role as HC/DC hasn’t allowed him to be as effective at doing either one. Apologies to Gary Gibbs but, does anyone really believe that naming him DC in the middle of the season is going to change the Chiefs woeful defensive fortunes?

About his decision coach Crennel said he doesn’t want his players “perception” to be that he is a defensive coach only. However, why couldn’t he see that perceptive sooner?

The combination of Todd Haley and Scott Pioli, while quietly vitriolic, was productively dynamic and in a state of metamorphosis. The team was filled with players whose growth could be measured and termed: emergent, maturing, or revitalized.

The combination of Romeo Crennel and Mr. Pioli appears to have produced a log-jam of lethargy plus one rising star in Justin Houston but, little else. The Chiefs are not only losing but, losing big. No, make that losing gi-normously.

Chiefs opponents 231, the Chiefs 127.

You know what’s next, right?

Extinction.

You know what I’m talking about… when a species loses it’s ability to adapt and consequently, dies out.

One would hope that Clark Hunt will step in soon and really re-adapt, before Pioli and Crennel kill this thing. On Monday Romeo Crennel fired half of himself. Now, if we can get someone to finish the other half and add a pinch of Pioli… we’ll really be cooking.

Happy thoughts. Go Chiefs!

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