Chiefs Bum Rap: Deserved Till Proven Otherwise

The Kansas City Chiefs are one of the few “feel good” stories of the 2013 NFL off season. No doubt. Then again, with nearly 50 arrests of NFL players since the close of the 2012 campaign, that may not be saying much. Well, as good an off season as the Chiefs organization appears to have had, is there any way to truly quantify that they’re really any better… until they prove it?

Nay, I say. Nay. And that’s not the Bronco coming out in me (because there is no Bronco in this long time Chiefs’ loyalist).

The Chiefs appear to have the nearly ideal QB who can lead them out of the doldrums of non-playoff winning campaigns, lasting 20 lengthy seasons now (wow, time drags when you’re having a drag). However, u-n-t-i-l-  -t-h-a-t-  -h-a-p-p-e-n-s, we might all want to cool our jets a bit. I like getting as excited as the next Chiefs fan (well maybe not as excited as Lyle) about this coming season, but, the reality is that the Chiefs won a couple of playoff games back in the early to mid 1990s and that is “it” for playoff satisfaction in Kansas City football history since the esteemed Hank Stram stormed these hallowed halls. To be empirically esoteric: it was January, 16, 1994, Chiefs 28 at Oilers 20 since I personally felt THAT feeling.

Now that’s a long legacy of playoff losing football and I’m convinced that the Chiefs are just one injury to… a Bowe, a JC, a QB or an OL… away from 2013 looking more like 2012 than 1994. It’s pretty bad when your Chiefs mantra for the past 20 years has been… we’ve gotta party like it’s nineteen nighty-four!

No wonder no national press is jumping on the Chiefs bandwagon. The Chiefs have such a lengthy record of falling off their own wagon in the past 40 years, we KC faithful need to temper our expectations too… until the Chiefs… show us the money. Or in this case, the playoff victories.

New Chiefs coach Andy Reid seems to have a lot of those playoff victories under his belt (10-9 in the playoffs). We can only hope he loosens his belt here in KC as well.

But, when your team had 3 times as many Pro Bowlers (in 2012) as they did victories, then the hole in your bucket dear Liza… is mostly “hole” and far less “bucket.” The big question is… has the Chiefs team filled the holes enough to make it to the playoffs and then punish some other team once it gets there?

Actually, we’ll all find out later today just what percentage of the 2012 Chiefs roster make up the 2013 Chiefs roster when they reveal who has been cut and who has been kept. At this point, I still don’t see that Free Safety has changed significantly. Same with the Mike ILB. Same with WR #2. Same with overall team depth. These have been sizable holes in the bucket and the holes appear to not have changed much.

I’m mostly an optimist when it comes to pondering our men in red and gold. In fact, Thursday evening’s preseason game had me grinnin’ big most of the second half watching Tyler Bray zip the ball all over the field for three glorious TDs. However, as time and decades fly by, I am far less “expectant” about what the Chiefs organization can accomplish in a given season… and I spend way more time as what you might call  “a hopelessly hopeful KC zealot.” Still I haven’t seemed to learn that, “…wishing alone, doesn’t make it so.”

A couple of months ago I wrote  piece called, “Why I’m So Excited.” I guess I could have called this piece, “Why I’m Also So Realistic.”

Here’s a few reasons for this “Thomas Eakins moment.”

Yes, I believe that QB Alex Smith is a huge upgrade over Matt Cassel but, one of the claims by the Smith camp is that he has struggled in the past because he’s had 6 different offensive coordinators in 6 years. Well, you can now make that 7. I predict he’ll be much better next season… but, that doesn’t do us much good this year. Yes, he’ll be good this year, just probably not THAT good.

Yes, I believe that NT Dontari Poe is going to be that inside force that will stuff the run in the middle of KC’s defensive line. As I have watched and re-watched the Chiefs preseason tape Poe does a very good job on one play but teams are realizing he can’t be blocked one-on-one so they’re sending a second man on him and that seems to be the answer. Each team has started the game attempting to run up the middle but Poe has initially thwarted those attempts well and you can see as the game goes on that running plays by the opposition are being re-routed to the outside.

The problem is that playing right behind Mr. Poe is either Mike linebacker Akeem Jordan or Nico Johnson. Now, Johnson has played better than I expected so far this preseason (my apologies to Reach and Lyle) but I think both are still… “not ready for prime-time players.” This means the Chiefs will still be vulnerable to the run and playing Jacksonville and Maurice Jones-Drew out of the gate should tell you everything you need to know about the middle of the Chiefs defense and it’s possible inability to stop the run going forward. Yes, I think the Chiefs will be exposed in the run game. I don’t think Jones-Drew will gash the Chiefs badly but, will certainly hurt them.

The Chiefs will do better against teams with running games that pound the ball straight ahead, than RBs who can shift and dance in the hole. Lateral agility will be a challenge for the Chiefs Mike LBs. So, while the Chiefs may do well against a RB like the Packer’s rookie Eddie Lacey, defending against Jones-Drew will be a completely different provocation for Jordan and Johnson.

Yes, I think Jamaal Charles is “all that” and more. However, it was pointed out recently that each pro football franchise averages “4 injuries to a starting player” per year. We all recall what 2011 was like without JC in the house. What I’m really saying here is that although I believe rookie Knile Davis has come along nicely this preseason I am concerned about the RB depth. Debating Cyrus Gray or Shaun Draughn in the last preseason game doesn’t have me glowing with confidence. A past bugaboo of the Pioli-schlemoli-haffenfeffer-incorporated era was “depth” but, not since the first half of 2009 when the Chiefs could field RBs Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles have they had enough of it to deal with all the strange defensive alignments and quality personnel they might face… and I’m only referring to the AFC West.

Yes, I like the overall depth of the Chiefs Free Safety position but sometimes depth can refer to the starters. For now, everyone the Chiefs have to line up at the starting FS position is a second tier player. Kendrick Lewis? Good and flashes every now and then but gets beat too often. Husain Abdullah? He was pretty good for the Vikes two years ago before his pilgrimage to Mecca with his brother. He was originally an undrafted free agent signed by Minnesota in 2008 but, I don’t see his upside as so high that anyone will accuse the Chiefs of having two Pro Bowl Safeties on the back end… until they sign or draft another one.

Yes, I think Dwayne Bowe is the man. Yes, I do believe he could lead the league in receptions this year or next. However, if the Chiefs were to line up this week for a playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens they will face the same problems they did at the end of 2010 when the Ravens doubled Bowe and essentially took him out of the game. Who do the Chiefs turn to then? They just don’t know the answer to that question yet. I like Dexter McCluster but his contribution to the memory of that 2010 playoff game was one of the worst hits I’ve ever seen and Dex was on the receiving end. I was sure wrong about WR Jon Baldwin (at least so far) and our new lucky number 13, A.J. Jenkins, seems to be as big a “maybe” as JB ever was. Is Donnie Avery going to be “The Man- II?” I have no idea yet. I suspect he will make some wonderful catches — and drops — in 2013. Am I willing to bet Alex Smith makes Donnie Avery a better pass catcher than Andrew Luck could? I’m laying even odds on that one. So, until Avery, or some other KC receiver, breaks out “big” I will be ready at any moment to break into another chorus of the Talking Head’s 1981 cult-hit “Once in a Lifetime” which begins with, “Same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it ever was.”

So, Addict fans, are you in “wait and see” mode like me, or do you “feel” like you “know” the men in red and gold will be taking us on a playoff victory joy ride this year?

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