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Chiefs Fans Must Avoid Self-Deception This Offseason

The 2012 Kansas City Chiefs were undone by a number of factors but perhaps none so damning than their lack of focus and execution.

Their fans were undone before the season even started, thanks to a good old-fashioned case of self-deception.

Last year’s Chiefs came into the season with high expectations. The team had just won seven game in 2011. While seven wins is not all that impressive, the fact that the Chiefs managed the feat with Tyler Palko starting four games at QB and without RB Jamaal Charles and SS Eric Berry, most fans and experts figured KC had nowhere to go but up in 2012. Former head coach Todd Haley had been axed during the 2012 season and Romeo Crennel led the Chiefs to a surprising victory over the then undefeated Green Bay Packers. This was a team on the rise.

Or so we told ourselves.

The good vibes continued throughout the offseason. When the Chiefs selected NT Dontari Poe in the first round of the draft, though the pick was considered risky, many Chiefs fans I talked to insisted that if anyone was going to turn Poe into a star, it was Romeo Crennel. I agreed with them.

In training camp, WR Jonathan Baldwin began turning heads. KC media members were salivating over Baldwin’s circus catches in practice and the expectations for the second-year WR were ratcheted up even higher.

Finally, on defense, the Chiefs had allowed CB Brandon Carr to jet to the Cowboys while bringing in free agent Standford Routt as a replacement. At the time, there was a lot of talk about how Routt’s man-to-man style would be the perfect compliment to Flowers. KC fans raved about how terrifying the team’s defense would be with Routt and Flowers giving Tamba Hali and Justin Houston all the time they needed to get to the QB.

There was a lot of self-deception.

July is a time for optimism in the NFL. All the teams are 0-0 and fans are convinced that their team “definitely improved” over the offseason. There is rarely talk about what the other 31 NFL teams did during the offseason, unless it is apparent that a team got significantly worse. In general, however, NFL fans seem to prefer the narrative that everything else stayed the same over the offseason, save their own team getting better.

We saw this phenomenon in the Chiefs Kingdom in 2012. The signs of the doom to come were there but most fans chose to ignore them. Whenever realities were pointed out, there was often a canned excuse to explain them away.

Reality:Romeo Crennel had never had much success as a head coach.

Dec. 9, 2012; Cleveland, OH, USA; Kansas City Chiefs head coach Romeo Crennel on the sidelines in the second quarter against the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Excuse: He was coaching the Browns. The Browns are cursed. He led them to a 1-6 record with a roster full of scrubs. He just needs the right situation and he has it in KC.

Reality: New offensive coordinator, Brian Daboll, had been bouncing around the league and had never produced a top offense.

Excuse: But the second half of last season, the Dolphins offense was really good. Daboll has just been a victim of walking into bad situations where coaches are getting fired. Plus, his time in New England will help him improve Matt Cassel.

Reality: Matt Cassel wasn’t really getting the job done in 2011 and couldn’t beat the winless Dolphins when the Chiefs were trying to hold on to first place. He was clearly faltering before going down to injury.

Excuse: Cassel’s failures were because of no receivers and because Todd Haley ran Charlie Weiss out of town. Daboll’s system will usher in the return of 2010 Matt Cassel. Also, Cassel didn’t have Charles in 2011 and the defense didn’t have Berry.

Reality: Dontari Poe is physically talented but he was clearly a reach by the Chiefs where they selected him. He is likely to start as a rookie and will probably struggle considering he had been playing against lesser competition in college.

Excuse: Poe is a beast and Romeo will get the most out of him. With Dorsey and Jackson on either side, he just needs to hold his own early on and he will improve as the season goes on.

Reality: Baldwin didn’t play very well in any of the preseason games, despite all of the hype about his training camp.

Excuse: Preseason isn’t real, you can’t trust anything you see int he preseason. Offenses are vanilla.

Reality: Stanford Routt just got cut by the Raiders. Should we be concerned?

Excuse: Routt will be a great #2 CB. The Raiders were just dumping his salary because Al Davis overpaid him.

Despite the concerns above, I don’t think even the most devoted pessimist could have predicted the Chiefs would go down in flames as spectacularly as they did in 2012.

This year, let’s make sure we are on our guard. Yes, this is the time of the year when we like to throw out the term “cautiously optimistic” and feel like we are being incredibly realistic and reasonable when we predict a 9-7 or 10-6 Wildcard berth.

In reality, however, going from two wins to 10 is going to be a tall order for the Chiefs. I’m not saying it can’t be done but there are a lot of realities it is important Chiefs fans begin to face now. Throw out the excuses and let us look at the potential problems the 2013 Chiefs face.

1. Andy Reid

December 9, 2012; Tampa, FL, USA; Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid reacts on the sideline during the second half against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. The Eagles won 23-21. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Andy Reid has an excellent track record as a head coach. His final few years in Philly were not so good. Reid made some poor decisions that forced the team to switch gears and higher a new head coach. Has Reid learned from his mistakes in Philly? Did he just need a change of scenery? Can he reinvent himself in KC?

These are all fair questions that Reid will have to answer when his team gets on the field.

2. Can Bob Sutton be a successful defensive coordinator?

Sutton is an experienced and respected coach that managed to hang on through a couple of coaching changes in NY. Still, everyone has their limit. Just as Romeo Crennel should probably never rise higher than a defensive coordinator, perhaps Sutton is at his best as a defensive assistant. In his three years as the Jets’ defensive coordinator, Sutton had a very mediocre defense. The team ranked 6th in points allowed in 2006 but in 2007 and 2008, the defense was 19th and 18th in oints allowed and 18th and 16th in yards.

3. The Receivers

If you aren’t concerned about the Chiefs’ receivers, you’re engaging in some serious self-deception. Aside from Dwayne Bowe, there isn’t a single proven receiver on the roster. Bowe, for all his talents, is inconsistent. Maybe Alex Smith and Andy Reid will help guys like Jon Baldwin and Dexter McCluster be effective but the Chiefs shouldn’t rely on that. As for Donnie Avery, his 2012 season was impressive. Can he do it again?

4. ILB

Nico Johnson is a rookie and Akeem Jordan is a backup at best. The Chiefs have three of the best linebackers in the league but they need Johnson or Jordan to step up to complete the unit. This position could be a huge weakness in 2013.

5. Backup RB

Nile Davis is intriguing but if something happens to Jamaal Charles, the Chiefs lack a veteran backup to carry the load.

6. Alex Smith Sans Harbaugh 

Sep 25, 2011; Cincinnati, OH, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith (11) and San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh during a time out in the second half against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. The 49ers won 13-8. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Nobody really knows how Alex Smith will perform under Andy Reid and without Jim Harbaugh and anyone who says they do is talking out of their rear-ends. And lets stop with the “Smith will at least be better than Cassel” talk. Before Harbaugh, Smith WAS Matt Cassel and under Harbaugh, Smith was a slightly more accurate 2010 Matt Cassel.

Can Smith be better than he was in San Francisco? Can he continue to improve? That is what the Chiefs need if they want to beat out Peyton Manning in the AFC West.

7. The Offensive Line

Stocked full of young talent, the offensive line is still a huge question mark. Albert is good and Asamoah is solid but beyond that, we have no idea how these chaps will perform. Jeff Allen left a lot to be desired last season. Hudson missed most of the year with an injury. Eric Fisher, despite being picked No. 1 overall, has never played a down in the NFL and is switching from the left to the right side. Geoff Schwartz has played well but he hasn’t played a lot. This unit could be good but it could also be young and mistake prone. Be careful here.

8. Doug Pederson and Andy Reid and the Offensive Coordinator

Pederson is the OC but Andy is calling the plays. Nobody seems to be concerned with Andy calling the plays, despite loud complaints from Chiefs fans in 2009 when Todd Haley did the same thing on the KC sidelines. Does Reid get a pass because of his experience and pedigree? Maybe. Is it going to work? No idea.

9. Defensive Line Questions

Do you feel confident that Tyson “Tim Man” Jackson, Mike DeVito and Dontari Poe can get the job done in 2013? If you do, you’re fooling yourself.

I’m not saying they will fail. But the reality of the situation is that both DeVito and Tin Man are historically bad at getting to the QB and Poe didn’t show much ability to collapse the pocket as a rookie.

Might Sutton’s system be better for Tin and Poe? Maybe. But let’s not pretend we have any clue how this is going to work out.

10. Peyton Manning, Wes Welker and Von Miller

Yeah, so the Broncos are good. The Chiefs got their backsides handed to them by the Cleveland Browns last season. KC has a lot of work to do to even be mediocre. They can certainly accomplish that feat in one offseason but having to play two games against a Hall of Fame QB isn’t exactly the best way to get your franchise back on track.

The good news is that the Chiefs don’t have to play the Broncos until the second half of the season, so they have some time to work out their problems.

I’m not trying tobe a Donnie Downer here. What I am trying to do is start an honest dialogue about some of the problems the Chiefs could face this season in an excuse-free, self-deceptionless (Note to my Editors: Natasha, Franklin, can I say “deceptionless?”) arena.

If 2012 taught us anything it is that we don’t know jack squat about how the Chiefs are going to play from one season to another. It also taught us that we need to think more critically about our beloved team so that we can offer up a more thorough evaluation of their prospects.

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Tags: Kansas City Chiefs

  • Patrick Allen

    I think my biggest concern is the defense. The line and Sutton concern me. I know there is talent but there are also a lot of new faces.

    • Calchiefsfan

      I’m hoping Reid gets this offense rolling. Fewer turnovers and more points will certainly improve our won loss record even if the D struggles.

      • Patrick Allen

        Focus has to improve. The turnovers last year were so ridiculous it was laughable.

    • NicholasAlanClayton

      I’ve generally been a fan of what the Jets have done defensively and I want to see more attack out of our D. Crennel’s bend-but-don’t-break schemes were totally exposed last year. You can’t just sit back and protect meager leads, trying not to lose. Both sides of the ball need to create opportunities and plays.

  • Jarad

    I got nauseous reliving all those thoughts. Im very optimistic this year too though. My main concern is sutton and this D. I really hope he can get all these talented individuals to work together as 1 well oiled machine of a D!

    • Patrick Allen

      I did too. A lot of the “escuses” I listed above were my own justifications for how the Chiefs were going to make up for some of those concerns. I was convinced that Crennel just had a crummy roster in Cleveland. He did, but he proved he couldn’t consistently get a team to win. That 10-6 record with the Browns was fluke.

      • Jim Harper

        Yeah, that was 2007 and the year that Derek Anderson had a career year. Just another example of what a good QB can accomplish. Unfortunately he proved to be a one year wonder. I’ve always tended to be more of a skeptic on our Chiefs earlier in the season. They have broken my heart so many times I try not to get too excited too early on, but I feel a much different vibe about this team, but at 64 it could just be gas.

  • Hacksaw 46

    Well you have certainly lowered expectations, now any thing more than 3 wins are a positive!
    Reality is the Chiefs are starting anew and there will be days of elation and days dispair. But it is also true that this team is much improved over last years team and as they say all arrows are pointing up wards!
    GO Chiefs!

    • Patrick Allen

      Hard to be worse than last year so the arrow is certainly pointing up.

  • Calchiefsfan

    I agree with both Jared and Paddy, it’s the D that has me worried. This is a similar situation to the Daboll debacle last year. Sutton just hasn’t shown he can be a good DC. I hope that changes in KC but the truth is we won’t know until the season starts. This is a big question mark. If you go by past accomplishments Chiefs fans should be worried about this.

    I do think Andy Reid will be fine. He has less responsibility now and does seem to be rejuvenated. And yes I think he can handle both the HC and play calling responsibilities.

    The o line will take time to work itself out but there is a lot of talent there.

    Baldwin I have no expectations for. I think McCluster will finally be used properly and be a breakout player but that is a hope not a sure thing.

    Watching the tape, Smith’s skill set is way better than Matt Cassel’s. Now that we have all witnessed the difference between good coaching and bad coaching a la Weiss and Cassel’s play and Daboll and Cassel’s play I think Reid will get the most out of Smith. Reid has shown that he has a knack for that.

    I think the Chiefs go as the defense goes. Let’s hope Sutton is up to the task. Let’s face it though the Chiefs were a heck of a lot more fun to watch when Vermeil was coaching and we had the best offense and the worst D. I want to see this offense roll this year.

    • Patrick Allen

      Great stuff.

      I am mostly in agreement. I too, have no expectations for Baldwin. Talent and physical tools aside, I am prepared to see the same Baldwin we’ve seen the last two years until he shows me something on the field.

      Sutton just worries me. I like what I am hearing about how aggressive the defense is going to be. One thing Sutton’s defense seemed to do pretty well in NY was take the football away and cause turnovers.

      • Calchiefsfan

        I think the other CB, Smith or Robinson, is a big question mark too. I’ve heard a lot of negative stuff about Smith with the same argument that we heard last year with Routt, now that he is a #2, better system blah, blah, blah. I hope Smith can play well consistently.

        I think ILB will continue to be a weakness too. I’m hoping that Nico steps up but there is a lot of hoping for this team this year just like last year. Let’s “hope” we don’t have a repeat of last year. I mean c’mon, we have to do better than last year. 2 wins? Sheesh.

        Maybe I’m just a homer but with a much better HC and QB I still believe we’ll get 8+ wins and be competitive this year.

        • ladner morse

          That’s where I’m at… and with any luck they’ll end up 10-6.

        • Danny W

          I like your comment, I couldn’t agree more that ILB is still a glaring weakness.

    • berttheclock

      However, Vermeil wanted to draft on the defensive side, but, King Carl over ruled him and took Larry Johnson.

  • Stacy D. Smith

    Our ’12 expectations were clearly higher than they should’ve been, but I’m not sure the most conservative fan saw 2-14 coming.

    My biggest concern with this team will be our offensive line. There are quite a few young guys along that line. If Allen wins the job, 60% of that line will account for about 16 NFL starts.

    I wholly disagree with the notion that Donnie Avery isn’t proven. If he’s healthy, he’ll produce in this offense. The concern with him is whether or not he can avoid injury again (like he did for the most part in 2012).

    The biggest problem with the last year’s team was coaching and quarterback play. BOTH of those things have been shored up in a real way. That’s why I believe this team will see a big turnaround. Question is, will it be 8-8 big or AFC wildcard big?

    • stephan costa

      Totally agree Stacey. Q.B play was as inept as I’ve ever seen. Play calling was bad but what choice did they have? If you didn’t stack the line against Charles and dare those rag arms to throw you would have been run out of league on a rail. Barring injury I see a much improved team. And hey if I’m dellusional, then let me be. I’ve been a loyal Chief fan for 30+ years. I’ve earned that right. Besides its July-hope springs eternal. We see the ???, we are just choosing to be optimistic about our chances for now. Its what die hard fans do in july

    • Danny W

      I don’t know that Bob Sutton has sured up anything just yet. Let’s hope he can call plays that will scheme us up hitting quarterbacks or at least pressures. With out a really solid defensive scheme a great offense will only get you half way there.

      • Stacy D. Smith

        People tend to overstate how important the defensive coordinator, himself, is to defensive success. I’m more concerned about the scheme. Romeo Crennel is the perfect case study. He’s HIGHLY decorated as a DC, but his schemes weren’t exactly ideal for the talent he had in Kansas City.

        I love the scheme Sutton’s bringing to town. His playcalling will be important, to be sure, but I think we’re halfway there just playing a more aggressive style of defense.

  • sdansmith

    You bring up good points all around. After reading this post, I am suddenly feeling better about a 8-8 record vice my previous expectations of 10-6! Ugh…maybe another off season before we’re any good.

    • NicholasAlanClayton

      One downside to 8-8 is it means we owe San Fran a 2nd next year, but still won’t be going to the playoffs (unless Denver is swallowed into the Earth by a giant sinkhole and 8-8 will win the division).

      • sdansmith

        Unfortunately, 8-8 isn’t going to cut it now. Raiders and Chargers aren’t good enough to keep the Broncos down to 8-8 or less. Maybe I’m just being pessimistic now, but I don’t think it will cut it. Better to be overly cautious now and happy in January!

      • [email protected]

        Don’t forget Peyton Manning could always go down with an injury hopefully not though I wanna beat Denver with him…no asterisks for our season

  • jimfromkcj

    Patrick, the biggest self deception that I see is that we have such good talent on this team. Going back to 2008. We have exactly 4 players drafted who have made the all rookie team and one of them is the kicker, Mr irrellevent. The really sad thing is that we had a 3rd, two 5th’s, a 11th and a 21st overall picks during that time. If that isn’t sad, I don’t know what is. I know for sure that I could have picked better because I have the mocks I made over the years to show it, And I am pretty sure that most of the guys who frequent this blog could say the same thing.

    • NicholasAlanClayton

      Most draft picks wash out after a few years. The average NFL career is 3.5 seasons. That’s not only a fact but a mathematical certainty with nearly 1,000 drafted and undrafted players entering the league every year. I’m not saying I’m a fan of Pioli’s drafting, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have talent. We’re one of the youngest teams in the league and had 6 pro bowlers and 5 players in the NFL Top 100, both of which are voted on primarily by league coaches and players. That’s not to say also that holes don’t exist. Going on last year’s performance, this is a very talented bad team.

      • jimfromkcj

        Nick, an all rookie team is usually picked the first year after the draft. For me, this is just another tool in evaluating how my team is doing. Of course it is only one of several, but an important one none the less. As you say, NFL careers are pretty short, so the sooner a player is playing at their best level, the more valuable they are. And for another thing, I have been harping for quite a while about the window of opportunity and I think the skill players on the chiefs have lost theirs They are no longer the youngsters that you and others seem to think. DJ is the best player on the team and he is no longer young. Hali, Flowers, Albert, Charles are no longer what I would call young in NFL age. So I doubt very much if this group ever gets to a super bowl and highly unlikely to a division crown.

  • Jim Butler

    Good article and I think pretty much on point across the board, I’m very, very optimistic about this years Chiefs, but if you step back and look at things realistically and without emotion what you said is true. That said my main concern depends on the phase of the moon or so it seems or maybe which side of the bed I fall out of, based on past years experience I see ghosts jumping at me from all directions. Never the less I have a very good feeling about the 2013 Chiefs. GEAU CHIEFS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Danny W

    Good read here Paddy. The Eagles were the best when they had Jim Johnson running the defense. Reid is a good offensive coach but with out Jim Johnson around he really didn’t do all that well. Bob Sutton will have to deal a top grade defensive strategy to get to opposing quarterbacks or this team will probably fail.

  • BurtGummer44

    An article on this site that isn’t: we’re going to the playoffs, or Alex Smith is the greatest recycled QB ever, or we have the most talent on paper! Holy Cow, did I some how stumble into a parallel universe?

    • NicholasAlanClayton

      Well, fan sites are fan sites. I’ve been expressing my doubts too (in Smoke Signals). I really don’t know what to expect out of this team, could be great, could be mediocre or worse, but I’ve liked what they’ve done so far.

  • [email protected]

    Great story, now remember chiefs fans although we might just be playoff bound let’s not forget how bad we were …a 500 record is an improvement I hope for more bit let’s not grab our pitchforks till atleast the end of next season

  • Chris Tarrants

    If you have editors then you should consider the idea of firing them? Above and beyond that I agree that last year we were all taken a bit by surprise after all the hype. We had the hype why I ask you? Because we have that much talent! I honestly think that last year was a bust mostly because people were allowed to walk over Romeo, nobody was held accountable and everybody just showed up for a check and nothing more

  • ArrowFan

    I think our scheduel allows us some wigle room. It is lightly loaded on the front end giving our team a chance to gell in the first half. New HC new QB new OC new DC new DB’s new ILB new WR well you get the point, it will take time.

  • Patriot42

    Until the Chiefs win some games they still are a 2-14 team. Until they can stop the opposing team from marching down the field and score on nearly every possession the Chiefs will still be the 2-14 team. I will not drink the koolaid until I see a different team take the field. The fans are so easily convinced they are a playoff team and some see them winning 10 games. I will wait until they win a few games.