Aug 9, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid talks to Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) after a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Why The Chiefs Will Be Much Improved In 2013


The Kansas City Chiefs were 2-14 last season. You don’t go 2-14 because of a few bad breaks. You go 2-14 because you have massive holes and flaws in your team. Now, a case can be made that the Kansas City Chiefs had more talented players than a typical 2-14 roster (the 6 Pro Bowl players being exhibit A), but that only highlights just how big of other flaws that team had. You don’t fix 2-14 overnight. You don’t go from 2-14 to Super Bowl champions in one offseason. It just doesn’t happen.

That having been said, the Chiefs have made major strides in turning around their struggling organization. They have a new GM, head coach, quarterback, and once the 53 man roster is set a week from now it will include several new faces that weren’t a part of the 2-14 debacle that was the 2012 Kansas City Chiefs.

Obviously, no one really knows how this team will perform until the regular season starts. However, with three preseason games in the books (including the third game where the starters play the most) we at least have a feel for what this new team looks like.

It hasn’t been perfect.

It hasn’t always been pretty.

If you are wanting an article that reassures you that every single problem has been fixed, you’re going to be disappointed.

This team still has flaws.

The offensive line has looked suspect. The starters have been pushed around at times and the depth is a real concern, especially on the interior.

The Chiefs have a shortage of defensive backs that have adequate coverage skills. Brandon Flowers, Sean Smith, Dunta Robinson, Eric Berry, and Kendrick Lewis will be fine if they are healthy, but after that there are serious concerns about the coverage skills of the reserves.

And then there’s the conservative nature of the KC passing game. Some fans are feeling good after finally seeing Alex Smith get the WRs involved on Saturday night, and the TD drive to end the first half was definitely a thing of beauty. However, many fans still have legit concerns about the offense’s ability to consistently move the ball and put up enough points.

If you feel like this has started off a little on the “gloomy” side for an article titled “Why The Chiefs Will Be Much Improved In 2013″, don’t fear we’re about to get to the goods.

The Kansas City Chiefs WILL be much improved this season, and that’s not just some “rah rah” homer rambling. The Chiefs have showed some things in the first three preseason games that back this up.

Here are a few:

1. Andy Reid is a huge upgrade over Romeo Crennel and Brain Daboll

Look, I could spend a WHILE breaking down why this is true and linking to other articles I’ve done on Andy Reid and how his coaching style is getting through to players, but does anyone even need convincing of this? I think this is pretty obvious to anyone that has been following the Chiefs. This is probably the biggest upgrade for the Chiefs. If not Reid, than the biggest upgrade has to be………

2. Alex Smith is a huge upgrade over Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn

Some will call this a no brainer. However, some are still of the mind that Smith IS the same basic QB as Cassel/Quinn. Let me address that as quickly as possible. If anyone is of the mind that Smith will become Joe Flacco and launch 50 yard bombs down the field or take up Brett Favre’s “gunslinger” mentality, they are delusional. That isn’t who Smith is. So if NOT being that type of QB makes him “like” Cassel and Quinn in that their game is more based in shorter and safer throws, then I guess you could say they are similar in that regard.

However, that doesn’t mean that fans should expect Smith to put up similar results. If you go back to last season I don’t think you’d find that most KC fans were complaining about Cassel/Quinn not being Joe Flacco or Brett Favre. What you would find is people complaining about their poor accuracy and constant turnovers.

That was justified.

Despite throwing shorter and safer passes, Cassel/Quinn only completed 57.6% of their passes.

They also committed a combined 27 turnovers. If you factor in pass attempts, sacks, and rushes Cassel and Quinn were responsible for 560 plays last season. That means they committed a turnover once every 20.74 plays that they were responsible for.

Alex Smith on the other hand, doesn’t have those problems. Over the course of the past two seasons Smith completed 64.3% of his passes. So far in the preseason he has completed 64.6% of his passes. That’s pretty consistent. That track record should give KC fans faith that Smith will complete a much higher percentage of passes than the KC QBs did last season.

The turnover difference is even more staggering. Over the past two seasons in San Francisco, Smith had a combined 814 plays (pass attempts, sacks, rushing attempts) where he was responsible for the ball. In those 814 plays he only had 13 turnovers.

So in 254 more plays than Cassel/Quinn had last season, he had 14 fewer turnovers.

While Cassel/Quinn averaged a turnover every 20.74 plays, Smith has only averaged a turnover once every 62.6 plays the past two seasons.

His play this preseason backs that up. He has gone 56 plays thus far without turning the ball over.

Alex Smith has his flaws. He may not be an “elite” QB, but that doesn’t mean that he won’t be a massive upgrade over the QB play the Chiefs had in 2012.

3. Special Teams Play

Do I even need to go into detail about how much better the KC special teams are under Dave Toub? If you aren’t aware of this you clearly haven’t been watching. You want to see a jaw dropping stat? Check out this tweet I ran across after the game Saturday night.

I think that about sums it up, doesn’t it? Even if KC isn’t getting return TDs every single game, the field advantage that can be won by winning the special teams battle can often be a difference in a close game.

4. Dontari Poe Is Becoming A Monster

This one is hard to justify in numbers or even words if you haven’t watched Poe play this preseason. Simply put, he looks like the dominant physical force that you want a defensive lineman taken in the first round to be. Imagine everything you hoped Ryan Sims and Glenn Dorsey would be. Well that is what Poe has shown flashes of throughout the entire preseason. He’s getting a push up the middle on passing plays. He’s not only demanding double teams, but beating them to make stops in the run game. He’s shedding blockers and moving laterally across the field to make stops in the run game that most 335 pound men couldn’t get to. I’ve also noticed that the attention that teams have had to give Poe has left Tyson Jackson almost exclusively in one on one situations. This has allowed him to make plays as well.

Dontari Poe had a solid rookie season, but if he becomes a physically dominant player in the middle of KC’s defense that will be a definite advantage that last year’s team didn’t have.

5. Bob Sutton’s Attacking Defense Will Lead To More QB Sacks

Last season KC ranked 29th in the NFL in QB sacks. Romeo Crennel’s version of the 3-4 was a “bend but don’t break” scheme that rarely sent extra defenders after the QB. That is going to change under Bob Sutton. We’ve already seen some of this in the preseason and it’s safe to assume that they are saving most of their blitz packages for the regular season.

Getting pressure on the QB helps a defense in a number of areas. Obviously, when you sack the QB you put them in a 2nd/3rd and long situation which increases the odds of getting a stop on that drive. Putting pressure on a QB also increases the likelihood of creating turnovers as some QBs will make a bad throw to avoid the rush. Finally, if teams know they have a strong rush coming at them they are more likely to keep multiple players in to pass protect which makes a defense’s job in coverage easier.

If Bob Sutton’s defense does do a better job of getting to the QB, as we’ve seen signs of in the preseason, it will be an improvement over the 2012 team.

So there you go Addicts, that’s why you should feel confident that the Chiefs will be much improved in 2013. I don’t feel like any of those reasons are far fetched or unrealistic. Will it be enough to get the Chiefs in the playoffs? I don’t know. Like I said at the start of this piece, this team does still have flaws and you don’t go from 2-14 to Super Bowl champs in one offseason. However, if there are any “doom and gloomers” out there that are thinking that we’re in for another season of despair this year, I think you are ignoring some clear (and vital) upgrades. Baring injuries, I feel safe predicting at least 7 wins this season, with the possibility of more.

I’ve been wrong before, but I do feel like the upgrades listed above will make a big difference. I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below.

As always, thanks for reading and GO CHIEFS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Tags: Alex Smith Andy Reid Dontari Poe Kansas City Chiefs

  • berttheclock

    Two points – First, Alex Smith is NOT what many thought he would be and that is a Bridge QB for the Chiefs. He is a solid veteran with several years ahead of him. Funny thing is several posters, last year, wanted to see the Chiefs sign the backup QB from Green Bay. He signed with Seattle, then, was traded to the Raiders. Now, he has been called their Bridge QB as Pryor is surpassing him.
    Secondly, I admit I really wanted DeCastro and was not pleased about Poe. But, as you have written, Lyle, he really is becoming a force. However, I credit Romeo Crennell for that decision rather than Pioli. I remember RC raving about what he had seen at the combine and really thought he could develop him. It was the work of RC which changed the direction of Poe and turned his work ethic. Kudos to RC. He was right. I was wrong, although, DeCastro really would have improved the O-line.

    • tm1946

      Isn’t every QB a bridge QB unless he is a HOFer. For all the bad mouthing of Smith, he is going to get 2 or more years to prove himself…..might as well get behind him.

      • berttheclock

        Yeah, except far too many of them end up being another version of “The Bridge to Nowhere” Alex Smith is a solid QB.

    • Clint Moran

      I’m with you. I was so angry about the Poe selection that I turned off the draft that evening. A selection that seemed based on combine numbers and little else, a player that had trouble penetrating o-lines in the conference USA. He really has seemed to turn a corner, what do ya know….. Romeo crennel knows more about dt player evaluation than I do…. big surprise! Lol. I was all for decastro as I watched some of that nasty Stanford blocking closely. Looking back, I’d say we did just fine with the selection.

      • Michael Shaw

        Clint, I was raging after the Poe pick because I also wanted DeCastro. DeCastro was hurt during the preseason of his rookie year and took a while to come along. By year’s end I was thinking that Poe might turn out to be OK. If this preseason is any indication, Poe might make our D-line unstoppable!!!

    • Lyle Graversen

      I think you’re right about Crennel deserving some credit for Poe. I would describe my reaction to the Poe selection as shock. I was actually hoping for Fletcher Cox because I thought he would be the best defensive lineman. So I was bummed, but I may end up getting what I was hoping for, the best defensive lineman in the draft.

  • micah stephenson

    Man cut it out. Alex Smith is only a slight upgrade over Cassel.

    • berttheclock

      Geno would have been merely a speed bump over Cassell. Alex Smith is akin to a very steep pass through the Alps over MC.

      • RepOurChiefs

        Hahaha! Now thats funny!

    • tm1946

      Hope you are wrong. But, so far, he tends to hit receivers in the numbers something Cassel never showed he was capable of doing. If Smith get the same amount of time to prove himself in KC as Cassel got, I would suggest we will not have to suffer thru any 2-14 seasons, partly because of better coaching but QB play will be huge.

    • KcNdaRock

      Man i told u to shut up last year when u were riding cassel. ( how that work out?) I’m telling u it again over smith!! Look I don’t ever disagree with chief fans normally. Me and you would butt heads from what I can tell. I wanna be a contender for the next 10 plus years!! A.smith makes us a contender from jump street. Hands down!! You were also on the geno wagon. Mite turn out to be a stud for all I know but those 3 picks didn’t look like the jets would be a contender this year with there qb play!! The fact is in the numbers above Smith is a gamer and is very efficient. I say in 3 years kc will have a young buck ready to take over at qb till then I will support smith like all the players in the locker room. If I was you I’d save the criticism for the o-line cause Danm. T-bray will be the starter by week 16 if they can’t protect the qb. I’m riding the smith wagon cause the man is a winner and a gamer and I’ve liked him since his years in San Fran when they sucked. San Fran will regret giving up on him in the end and hell retire a chief.. After a successful career!! Prove me wrong and ill give u a standing ovation.. Then ill ? If u even bleed red and gold like other addicts..lol all I’m saying is the locker room is impressed and so should we they see him at work everyday we don’t!

      • Brandon Mecham

        I disagree. I see smith taking us to mediocrity. All that accomplishes is keeping us out of the top draft picks for a chance at a great qb. After the 3 preseason games I’m sticking with my prediction of 5-11 this year.

        • superman_25_58

          Ha Ha Ha this ^^^ guy! Worst case 8-8 best case 11-5

    • Priest4Prez

      I’m quite cautious myself. I see all the intangibles of a veteran QB; he’s able to lead an offense down the field (may not always get 7), take a hit and get back up, go through his progressions. I’m behind him because he has an Arrowhead on his helmet but this offense has got to be more efficient. That’s why he was brought on board. Andy Reid alone has to make him better; he’s done it for everyone else but….cautious.

    • Gene Yuknis

      there’s my man geno!!! how ya been?

    • Gene Yuknis

      how’s about, you and rick stanzi join geno and the jets

    • Lyle Graversen

      Micah, I know you get a lot of grief for voicing your opinion. A contradictory view is good for the sight. It’s always better when people can read varying takes. That having been said, if Smith completes 7% more of his passes and has 17 less turnovers than Cassel/Quinn had last year do you really think that will only be a slight upgrade?

  • berttheclock

    Lyle, the double teaming of Poe is really going to be great for getting to the QB. I was in Seattle when teams had to double team Cortez Kennedy. This allowed Sam Adams to explode and have his best pass rushing seasons. SA went on to the Ravens and played well, but, he was really at his best when pressure was taken away from him. Sims never saw any double teams as defensive linemen could simply stand him up and do their version of “Waltzing Matilda” with him.

    • Michael Shaw

      HA! HA! Dancing a waltz!!!

  • tm1946

    For all the improvement in the Chiefs, I still do not have great expectations for this year. OL is young and we have yet to see what we have at G and C.
    Reid will be the wild card with this roster. If he can get more from the bodies left by our old buds, Pioli and Crennel. Good coaching makes a difference, as if you did not know already.

    • Lyle Graversen

      Like I said, there are going to be flaws with a team that was 2-14 last year. Still, the improvements are evident. They may have flaws, but I feel safe saying we’ll see a much better product on the field this year.

  • Stacy D. Smith

    All excellent points. Good work, Graversen!

    • Lyle Graversen

      Thanks Reach!

  • Jason Seibel

    Lyle, great article and excellent break down as usual. I think the biggest key here (other than Smith and Reid, of course) is the special teams. While kickoffs and punts were the part of the game I usually reserved for refilling my tasty, adult beverage or getting rid of said beverage after it had passed through my system, this year will be quite different. Not since the 2003 season and the days of the X-Factor, Dante Hall, have I been this excited about watching Chiefs return kicks. Toub has been able to really turn them into something special. I can’t wait!

    • Lyle Graversen

      I’ve been amazed at what a difference he’s made in such a short time. All this time everyone thought Devin Hester was so amazing in Chicago, maybe he wasn’t the amazing one.

  • JordanPollock

    Best article I have read in a few weeks. Great job clearing up comparisons in different QB’s.

    • Lyle Graversen

      Thanks Jordan!

  • Altarium

    Lyle, thank you for clearly explaining the difference between Smith and Cassel! If anyone needs visual proof, they should just re-watch the preseason game from this weekend, then watch how Cassel played with the Vikings last night. In about 5 minutes, Cassel threw a pass that sailed over a receivers head, another that was in the dirt a couple feet in front the receiver, then he didn’t have the vision to see a defender coming straight at his face and was sacked. If anyone says that Smith and Cassel are essentially the same after watching those two games, I’d have to ask them to share whatever they’re smoking.

    • Michael Shaw

      That’s funny right there, I don’t care who you are!!!!!!

    • RepOurChiefs

      Ha! I giiive! I giiiive

    • Lyle Graversen

      Well said.

  • CuetheChief

    I start with agreement on all points you made. My only “red” flag is that Smith is a HUGE improvement on Cassel. While I do believe that Smith is an improvement over Cassel I am not sure how huge of an improvement he is. But I am excited to see him play in in K.C. RED.

  • Michael Shaw

    Lyle,

    Before I read anyone’s responses I will say this. I agree that this team will be better. In fact, I am looking at our schedule I think we could be anywhere from 5-4 to 7-2 at our bye week. I think we beat the Jags, have a shot at beating the Cowboys and Eagles, lose to the Giants, beat the titans and Raiders and lose to Houston and then we can round that off with wins against the Browns and Bills. That puts us at 7-2. I don’t see us losing to the Jags, Titans or Raiders and I am pretty sure Andy beats his old team in Philly, so the only question is if we can beat the Cowboys, Browns and Bills……which I am pretty sure we can. As most of the NFL know, get Tony Homo flustered and the picks will start coming to our DB’s. As for the rest of the schedule………it is mostly divisional games and the only thing I know for sure is that Denver doesn’t go 6-0 this year!! I could see us “easily” going 10-6 this year, barring any injuries that is, of course.

    • Lyle Graversen

      I don’t disagree with anything you said, but I just know that recent history says KC will lose a few games that, on paper, we think we should win. Maybe that will change, but the last few years have made even me a tad skeptical.

  • KCNJ

    did anyone watch the Giants-Jets game? Besides the Jets’ typical circus, it confirmed for EVERYONE that Geno Smith is not CLOSE to ready to be a starting NFL QB. Just watch him stepping on the endline of the endzone, and the 3 INTs. Give me Alex Smith, a certified professional NFL QB who has game and pocket awareness, smarts, and accuracy. His team needs to step up and play to HIS level, not the other way around.

    My biggest Chiefs concern is not QB, it is DEPTH EVERYWHERE, but mostly in 2 places that really count: On the line, both sides of the ball, and in the D backfield. We’re a couple of injuries away from trouble.

    • Lyle Graversen

      Yeah, the fact that I have a youtube video out there with over 70,000 views claiming that Geno was worthy of the #1 overall pick is starting to seriously damage my credibility. If I had any to begin with!

      • Don417

        Nah, the FACT 32 teams passed on that scrub is what damages your cred.

  • Don417

    One more reason: They were smart enough not to draft Geno “Bust” Smith.