As we anxiously await the start of the Kansas City Chiefs’ 2013 season (only 148 days to go,) there are a lot of mixed feelings in Chiefs’ Kingdom as to how well the team will do this year. In talking to other Chiefs fans on Twitter, Facebook and around my own circle of friends, I’ve heard every prediction from barely climbing out of last place in the AFC West to making a Superbowl run.
While I personally don’t think the team is quite ready for the “big show” yet, I do think they’ll be competitive this season. By competitive, I think the Chiefs could win 10 games, giving them a shot at a Wildcard berth in this year’s playoffs. I know it’s a little early for these predictions, and the term I continue to use is “cautiously optimistic.” The Chiefs could make this happen, but there are four “musts” I think have to happen.
#1: There must be solid quarterback play.
This point has been endlessly debated. The Chiefs traded for Alex Smith. Half of the fan base (myself included) thinks this was the right move for the team. The other half of the fan base think the team should draft Geno Smith and let the rookie have the keys to the franchise.
It’s been awhile since the Chiefs have had a good quarterback take the field. Some would say the last time the team had a good quarterback was in Matt Cassel in 2010. Still others would say Trent Green was the last great Chiefs signal caller. Even a small percentage of Chiefs fans would say there hasn’t been a decent passer in KC since #19, Joe Montana, retired. Despite your feelings on the history of Chiefs’ QB, remember, Cassel was the last signal caller to lead the team to a winning season. Prior to his arrival, Chiefs fan were victimized by horrible QB after horrible QB from Brodie Croyle to Tyler Thigpen, Damon Huard to Tyler Palko. In all, since the departure of Trent Green, universally accepted as the last great Chiefs QB, seven men have started for the Chiefs under center.
The quarterback position last season accounted for 24 turnovers between Cassel and Quinn’s fumbles and interceptions. If the team is going to be successful, Smith has to protect the ball. He has to lead the team to the red zone and then score touchdowns when he gets them there. It’s a tough position for Smith to be in, but the team’s (and the fan’s) hope rests squarely on his shoulders.
Without getting back into the Smith vs. Smith debate (I did that last week), the Chiefs play under center has to be spot on this season. The franchise spent a hefty price for Alex Smith to make the trip east from the San Francisco Bay. In order for the Chiefs to be successful, the Alex Smith who showed up during the 2011 and 2012 season with the 49ers has to be the Alex Smith that shows up with the Chiefs in 2013. He cannot regress to his 2007/2008 self or this team, the fanbase, and perhaps the city itself will implode in on itself.
#2: The play makers must remain healthy.
In 2010, the Chiefs had a promising season. It appeared unorthodox head coach, Todd Haley’s crazy plans were coming together. The Chiefs finished the best in the AFC West and landed themselves in the playoffs. However, when they played the Baltimore Ravens in the Wildcard Round, they were embarrassed and summarily trounced.
Coming into the 2011 season, fans had high hopes that despite the playoff loss, the team would build upon its momentum from the previous season. By the time the second game of the season was over, Eric Berry, Tony Moeaki and Jamaal Charles were all on injured reserve, all with identical injuries. The team was never able to recover. Later that season, quarterback Matt Cassel landed alongside them on the sidelines.
While the Chiefs’ 2012 season was likely over before it ever got started, they suffered the injury bug quite extensively once again with several key players suffering major injuries, including: left tackle Branden Albert, wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, Free Safety Kendrick Lewis and both quarterbacks.
While general manager John Dorsey and head coach Andy Reid have gone out of their way to add depth this season, one position continues to concern me. Jamaal Charles is the most talented man on the roster. I like his backups, Shaun Draughn and Cyrus Gray. However, I don’t like them enough to start, should Charles go down with an injury. Charles can be fragile at times and though he rushed for over 1,500 yards last season after returning from a blown ACL, there is always that risk. The team has yet to find a quality back to put behind Charles in the depth chart. Until they do, Charles can absolutely not get hurt.
Defensively, the Chiefs’ pass rushing linebackers, while they haven’t shown a history of injury, have no depth. While the draft still remains, these are positions the duo of Reid and Dorsey should really consider adding quality players to on the depth chart. Nothing will stop the momentum of a team like key players going down to injury.
The bottom line is, the team, especially the play makers, must remain healthy for there to be any success this season. Once the injury bug bites, it seems to gain momentum and take more and more players with it. This is one of the reasons I was so excited to see all the players (except Albert) at the voluntary workout sessions over the last couple of weeks. The sooner the Chiefs get in football shape, the better chance they’ll have to avoid injury.
#3: The defense must play lights out football.
Do you know what is significant about the number 16? It was the number of two of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game. Lenny Dawson and Joe Montana both wore that number, though both not in Kansas City. That is, however, not the correct answer I was looking for. The correct answer would be that 16 is the average number of points the Chiefs lost by last season. That’s more than two touchdowns.
Our defense has talent. Last season they seemed to wander around the field like 11 (sometimes 12) confused school children at recess. When the pro bowl results were released, the fact that four of the unbelievable six Chiefs’ all stars were from the defense was a little staggering.
In order for the Chiefs to succeed this season, the defense must play to win. I hate the cliché that “defense wins championships” but I’m going to use it anyways. I liked former defensive coordinator/head coach Romeo Crennel’s defensive scheme. However, after two seasons of blowouts, his philosophy of “bend but don’t break” wore a little thin on me. The Pittsburgh Steelers have “Blitzburgh.” I want the Chiefs’ defense to have a cool nickname like “Warpath.” When pass rushers, Tamba Hali and Justin Houston sandwich Peyton Manning for the fifth time in a game, I want the color commentary guy to talk about the Chiefs’ “Warpath” defense. I’m hoping this is what Bob Sutton will bring and I’m hoping it’s what this defense can deliver. They need to.
#4: Jamaal Charles must to step up.
Some may say that rushing for over 1,500 yards after coming back from a season ending knee injury would be the definition of stepping up. I would agree with you. Charles needs to bring everything he had last season and then some. If the Chiefs need five yards, he needs to make damn sure he gets the five yards. He is the heart and soul of this team and it’s magic when the ball touches his hand.
When Alex Smith has a successful running game, he seems to be successful through the air. This seems to be the case with most quarterbacks, but as we all know, Smith’s biggest weakness is his inability to consistently stretch the field. It thus stands to reason that the better Charles plays, the better Smith plays and thus, the better the Chiefs will do this season.
This is my take, Addicts! I really believe that if all four of these “musts” can be accomplished, the Chiefs can truly turn around this season and make a playoff run. I’d like to hear what you think. What are the Chiefs’ “musts” heading into the season? Let me know in the comments!
Until next time, Addicts!