Four “Musts” For The Chiefs To Be Successful In 2013

Dec 23, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles (25) catches a pass against the Indianapolis Colts in the first half at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

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!

Topics: Kansas City Chiefs

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  • Dustin Joyce

    I think Charles needs to get out in space, and Reid needs to trust that he can be the feature back. He always seems to have to prove himself to new coaches and coordinators. That takes too much time, just trust he can be the guy, even on the goal line

  • krayfish

    Missoula Montana here brother…God’s country all the way. I can’t way to move back one day. Nice article and as a veteran thanks for your service!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100005102554690 Jason Taylor

    Are we overstating the obvious here?

    Good QB play…
    Good Defensive football
    Good RB play
    Stay healthy…

    That’s every teams generic motto for how not to suck!

  • David Fritch

    Here’s my 4:

    1 – Score more pts than the other team every week

    2 – Embarrass Poli and show him how it’s done

    3 – Destroy Denver

    4 – repeat step 1

    • Jason Seibel

      I like it! Especially 2 and 3!

      • steve james

        If you go with building your team to win the division then Denver is your target. I am actually thinking they might go pass rush with the first pick to help put Manning where he belongs. On his butt looking up at 70k+ screaming Chiefs fans!

        • David Fritch

          Absolutely, that’s the only way to deal with Manning. This is why I like Jordan

  • berttheclock

    The lack of offense really hurt the defense. They, either, had to stay on the field far too long or had to come back far too quickly to defend the short end of the field. The offense could not even get an early lead for many games, plus, the 20 INTs and 17 fumbles really hurt.
    However, one sobering note. The Chiefs were tied with two teams for the worst give/away, take/away differentials in the NFL, last season. Those two other teams were the Jets and the Eagles.

    • Jason Seibel

      Doesn’t that just make you sick to your stomach?

    • toperspective

      The defense had other problems besides the offense.

      • berttheclock

        So true. Major problems with such as it taking so long for Berry to return to his previous level of play and the lack of a quality DB across from Flowers. Lack of depth really hurt and the pass rush abilities of both Houston and Hali were often negated by some poor push up front. Much of being declared a pro bowler is by former reputation. However, Sutton is getting a second chance to improve his sytle of defense, R&D won’t sit on the so-called laurels of whomever made the Pro Bowl, last season. Look at what Schneider and PC have done with the Seahawks over the past couple of months. They have added to an already studded defensive unit. R&D will keep adding, as well. But, visions of Derrick Thomas sweeping past a LT with his Tomahawk chop ready remind me the days I kept yelling, “The D is going to have to win the damn ballgame”, and, suddenly, Elway was having his arm chopped off. Amazing how flattened QBs can make the defensive secondary look so much better. Especially, when the ball is rolling loose next to the QB.

        • toperspective

          Absolutely. QB pressure is the secondary’s best friend. The Giants won two SB’s by beating up the QB.

  • toperspective

    I have so happy that Sutton has made it a priority to try to force turnovers. In the past the Chiefs have never tried to rip the ball away from ball carriers which is something the good teams try to do.

    • dominicscarlatti

      Gunther Cunningham, Defensive Coordinator?

  • KCMikeG

    I hope we pick Dion Jordan #1 and Sutton brings the heat most every play. I am tired of watching us play on our heals. Bert is right about the position our offense put our defense in with short fields and lots of turnovers.

    I disagree on your RB analysis. Cyrus Gray has serious skills and was fighting off injury last year which is why we even saw Draughn. That combined with our coaching staff’s ignorance in how to use McCluster limited our offense. Reid will use Charles, McCluster & Gray in the run and pass attack and they will put some serious numbers. Check out Gray – might want to mute the music.

    • redchiefs

      The highlights are nice, but I regret even starting to watch that once the music started.

      • KCMikeG

        Sorry – I warned you to mute. Great highlights though.

        • redchiefs

          Yes you did, I’ll remember to take you at your word.

    • ArrowFan

      I’m warming up to Jordan if we pick him to play ILB.

  • jimfromkcj

    I think like most fans, you seem to look more at the flashy positions and forget the nasty business of dominance in the trenchs. #1 will always be to dominate the line of scrimmage. Teams that get pushed around up front generally don’t have a good day on game day. A good example is Jamal’s 300 yard rushing in a losing game.

  • NathanaelL

    $ things to become successful. 1. Win football games. 2. Win football games on Sunday 3. Win football games on Monday. 4. “continue to get better each and every day” and “give 110%.” ;)

    • dominicscarlatti

      Coming off a 2-14 season, I’m not sure that number 3 will be relevant…

  • Jim Harper

    Nice post Jason. I am coming around to the idea of taking Jordan #1. The one thing that nullifies Manning’s effectiveness is a pass rush. Even if you don’t sack him you hit him. The older one gets, the more brittle ones bones become. I do hope for one thing though. Running back help. I am high on Marcus Lattimore from South Carolina. When healthy the consensus is he is 1st round talent. Should be available in the 3rd or 4th round, and the doctors are giving him a clean bill of health. Worth taking a chance on. He can do everything Jamaal can only he is about 20 lbs heavier.

  • Erik Hild

    #1 priority is to have less turnovers

    • Bosco Cletus

      Stole my post, agree 100%.

    • RepOurChiefs

      ditto

  • redchiefs

    I disagree with you about our RBs. I think they’ve been giving it their all, and I think our RBs are pretty darn good. They don’t call the plays, I blame the OC for any misperception you have about either their ability or their production.

  • Jamie Denton

    Glad to see some optimism in the Chiefs doing better than 500 this year! With all of our cylinders we have in place now without the draft there is no reason why we can’t compete against the Donkeys for the West (YES I SAID IT) or at least play for a wild card spot. But I do agree health is a major issue we have to be concerned about! The past couple of years have not been good to the Chiefs where health is concerned! And although I would have loved to seen a 2 back scheme of Jamal Charles and Steven Jackson develop this year, that didn’t happen, but I would like to say with the depth we have at RB and the system of coach Reid’s where he does a lot of swing passes and things out to the RB into the open field I think we will do much better with the backs we have since we are not depending on traditional runs all of the time! Somewhere I do have some concern though if we are to be a blitzing defense and bring the house is our OLB depth. I noticed last year and before I say this I must add that our defense was on the field way more than they should have been last year, but with that said our OLB’s seem to lose their motors as the game got to the later stages! This is where I could see adding someone via the draft that could fill in on certain sub packages and special blitz packages where we could even bring 3 LB’s. But as always just my opinion!

    • KCMikeG

      Agreed on the optimism. Our two back system is going to be a 3-4 back system. Reid will pass to them all out of the back field. Charles will be the lead but McCluster will get some carries too. Then I see Gray and/or a rookie draft pick also getting some time. I really like Dion Jordan with our #1 pick. All four of our LB’s would be great at blitzing and Jordan could very possibly be our best pass coverage LB solving one of the worst deficiencies in our defense by being able to stop TE’s from killing us between the hash marks. IMO our depth will improve with the signing of Edgar Jones, who will continue to develop as we saw signs of him stepping up on ST’s last year.

  • Calchiefsfan

    You left out good coaching, the missing ingredient for being competitive last year. We had the talent, even with mediocre qb play, to be at least a 500 club. Look what Weiss did when he was the OC compared to Daboll.

    I think Reid will get the offense rolling, it’s Sutton and the D I’m concerned about. Sutton does not have a great track record just like Daboll didn’t when he came in last year. I’m pulling for him but I’m very concerned.

  • Stacy D. Smith

    I actually hope we draft a young RB who can share the load. A guy like Miguel Maysonet would really take some pressure off of Charles. A fresher Charles is even more dangerous.

    • Kyle ferguson

      What about grey? He reminds me of priest a little. Patient and lets his blocks develop. He was a seventh round pick Holmes was undrafted both from Texas schools….

      • Stacy D. Smith

        I said the same thing about him last season when he was drafted. I think the kid has a lot of upside. He hasn’t shown enough for me not to add someone through either free agency or the draft though.

  • Ribs61

    Number one should be better play calling/better scheme design. Coaching failed us last year more than player performance. The players have to be put in a position to win.

  • ArrowFan

    We “Must Not” turn the ball over.

  • tgaletti

    For the defense to be able to play ” lights out”, the offense has to sustain some drives,i.e. no turnovers and als
    o score some points.

  • Jim Harper

    I like the idea of a nickname and Warpath is good but how about this. When the Indians were attacking they were said to be on the warpath. However, when they did this they sent out Warparties

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