I have a slightly different and probably wildly unpopular take on the excessive celebration penalty against the Chiefs’ defense in Monday night’s loss to the Steelers.
First, it was a strategy, not a one-off event. But more on that later.
Let me start by saying, sure, it was stupid. It hurt the team, gave the ball back to the Steelers and was entirely preventable. And I know it seems grossly inappropriate when we were 1-7 at the time. But, I LOVED seeing our Chiefs have some swagger and attitude again, and it was entirely fitting that this effort was started by the defense. Because the defense was playing LIGHTS OUT (and yes, I’m looking at you, Derrick Johnson!) and we seemed to have finally woken up from our 2012 slumber. Of course, we still lost on – surprise! – a turnover, but seeing the defense dominate a very good Steelers team was refreshing (it’s amazing what a full-time Defensive Coordinator can do! I wonder if other teams know about this neat trick!).
Swagger and attitude are exactly what’s been missing from our team, especially in the once-imposing confines of Arrowhead Stadium (well, in addition to a good quarterback, having a lead, a stout passing defense, coaching and other minor details).
In honor of the merciful conclusion of one hell of an endless political season, this Chiefs’ season is best summarized by the memorable words of Admiral James Stockdale, Ross Perot’s running mate in the 1992 Presidential election. Asked for his opening statement in the Vice Presidential debate, Stockdale uttered the line that would make him famous: “Who am I? Why am I here?”
Despite being one of the most highly decorated, experienced and respected officers in U.S. Naval history, Stockdale was hopelessly out of sorts for that debate, and really, for the entire campaign, because he was a military man (read: normal) and not a candidate. This Chiefs team is no different. We came in with high hopes, but now are defined primarily by what we are not. We are not disciplined. We are not competitive. We are not angry, nor proud. And we are not well-coached (“Um, I don’t know why Jamaal only had five carries”). Without good coaching, we are as ill-equipped to compete as Stockdale was.
But I digress. What makes the defense’s celebration even more interesting is that it may have been a message from the players that Romeo has officially lost this team. We’ve already heard that Flowers wants out. We had the mysterious tweet from De’Quan Menzie after Romeo fired himself as Defensive Coordinator and Routt was released, saying, “change is good.” Crennel clearly had no idea of the defensive unit’s plan to celebrate – and this was his unit. Conversely, the defense had to know that this celebratory behavior would rub Romeo the wrong way. Was this a case of the defense expressing some quite strong opinions and independence from this coaching staff?
The celebration strategy – which may have even extended to the offense with Bowe’s taunting at the goal line – was clearly premeditated. Chiefs’ players may be coming closer together, in defiance of their own coaches. While some may think we are on the way towards a Lord of the Flies situation or an inmates-controlling-the-asylum situation, I disagree. In our unique case, the coaches are the problem here, not the players. I think this whole celebration development is a good thing, and perhaps the best thing we’ve seen all season. The players are coming together and re-learning the swagger and attitude you need to win in the NFL.
But will swagger overcome our coaching deficiencies? Of course not. However, the Steelers game showed that attitude can get us a bit closer to where we want to be. Up next: the Cincinnati Bengals, at Arrowhead. These are not your father’s Bengals. They just dominated the Super Bowl champions last Sunday, beating the Giants 31-13. Andy Dalton and wide receiving A.J. Green are the real deal.
I hope the Chiefs come out with even more attitude against Cincinnati. We may lose because of poor coaching, but we sure as hell shouldn’t lose because of being too laid back and controlled. Talking trash, rubbing people’s faces in it a bit – these tactics force you to back it up. And if that’s the motivation we need (because God knows the coaches aren’t providing that motivation to the players), then I’d say let’s do it. Addicts, we’ve got nothing to lose. But what do you think?!