K.C. Chiefs: The Bye And Bye

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Can you believe the Chiefs are 9-0? Me either. Not really. I can’t. But they are and with an extra week off to ruminate on all things Chiefs it’s clearer than ever that anything related to the subject of the Chiefs, is unclear.

Friends argue the Chiefs shouldn’t be 9-0 and I say, “But they are.” National columnists decry the schedule the Chiefs have faced but there are a lot of teams in the league who were supposed to beat other teams… but haven’t.

The Bye Week is also a time to reflect.

I still try to find meaning in the senselessness that took place in the Chiefs parking lot 12 months ago this coming December 1st. But I can’t… and yet the strangeness of a Chiefs record being 9-0 makes it feel as if there are some great football Gods out there saying, “You’ve had enough pain for awhile, as has your new coach — so here, enjoy these victories. Enjoy them together”

The football part of me wants the Chiefs to completely revamp their offensive line and replace both LG Jeff Allen and Center Rodney Hudson. But, I know it’s not practical in the short time that goes into preparing for a team like the Denver Broncos 11 days from now.

I find myself looking back ten years, the last time the Chiefs went 9-0. That was when Priest Holmes was working his magic and I keep wondering if I was happier seeing the Chiefs score points easier than playing Skee Ball at Chuck E Cheese or having a defense that is so stout that other teams can’t figure a way to get into the end zone more than once per game?

I don’t know the answer to that. It sure was fun to watch the Chiefs score ala 2003. But this offense is having big problems sustaining drives against defenses that aren’t even top ten defenses.

The Bye Week has me celebrating the fantastic place the Chiefs are at — but it’s a strange place, being filled with “wonder” and “worry” simultaneously.

The Bye week… hmm, that was a victory on Sunday against the Bills right? Just checking because celebrating the game that kicks off this Bye Week is a bit like celebrating at your daughter’s 1st semester graduation in Kindergarten when you just slammed the car door on your thumb.

The Bills beat the Chiefs in:

Time of possession,

First Downs- 25 to 15,

Total plays- 77 to 54,

Total yards- 470 to 210,

Yards per play- 6.1 to 3.9,

Sacks- 2 to 0,

and Rushing- 241 to 95,

They just didn’t beat the Chiefs.

The Bills even beat the Chiefs in penalties and penalty yards but… because the Bills turned the ball over 3 times and the Chiefs converted all 3 of those into points, the Chiefs learned to count to nine.

I understand that football is ultimately — entertainment. However, there is something bizarre about the feeling of this Bye Week.

It almost seems more appropriate to call this one: the Bye and Bye Week.

As in, I’ll see you in the great Bye and Bye, i.e. the great beyond. Or… yes you’ll get there Bye and Bye, i.e. sooner or later.

In any event it hardly feels like time for feasting.

Perhaps it feels like pure victory for the defense. They’ve got the power. On Sunday during the game I posted that CB Marcus Cooper should be considered for the Pro Bowl this year! While that is an exhilarating thought it all comes back to the offense… which obviously needs to be reworked.

Head coach Andy Reid is the one calling the shots here and any fan who isn’t thrilled beyond belief to be cheering their long-beloved Chiefs to a ninth straight victory should be taken for psych evaluation.

Screen Shot 2013-11-05 at 9.43.46 PMHowever, it’s a bit unnerving to critique the clubs weak link, which happens to be the offense, when it is Andy Reid’s baby. He hires the coaches. He helps shape the roster. He coaches em up. He designs the plays. He calls the plays. He helps to buy the groceries… as Bill Parcells used to put it. Reid owns this offense as much as any coach can own an offense.

Screen Shot 2013-11-05 at 9.49.10 PMA week ago following the Chiefs 8th straight victory Reid mentioned they would be looking at any changes that needed to be made… “during the Bye Week.” You can critique the life out of the offense but you get the idea Andy Reid is not going to make the needed changes mid-season to the interior of the OL until the season is over. Why, because there is a very personal way Reid nurtures the people he’s chosen to play those positions. Plus, if the replacement he chooses then becomes injured he’s in a tough position, asking that “demoted” player to return and perform to standards.

Screen Shot 2013-11-05 at 9.39.49 PMWouldn’t you rather see Donald Stephenson or Geoff Schwartz play LG next to Brandon Albert the remainder of the season? Either would be excellent choices to replace Allen or Hudson except Stephenson is not built or schooled at Center.

Both Center Rodney Hudson and Left Guard Jeff Allen are completely whiffing on blocking assignments. Let’s not get into a debate about Alex Smith’s effectiveness here but let’s focus on what I believe is the offensive line’s shortcoming… and that is the one and only reason for the Chiefs offense woes this season.

The only reason. Now why would that be?

I know there’s a whole voting district worth of naysayers out there ready to impeach Alex Smith but 99% of Smith’s challenges can be traced to “poor offensive line protection.”

On Sunday, Alex Smith appeared to be hurrying his throws. Some were ending up in the dirt in front of his receivers. Other throws appeared to be short-armed and come out low if not completely off target.

In the past, Alex Smith’s throws on the run have been notably accurate. He’s been known for it. Now, not so much. The touch that once was there, isn’t anymore.

So, has Alex Smith turned rancid like a holiday pie left one week too long in the frig?

No. Smith is still the same solid QB he’s ever been but the one element that can throw a QB’s timing off is: consistent pressure in your face. Both the Cleveland Browns and the Buffalo Bills have been able to get through and get a hand on Smith. So much so that it’s as much about Smith being knocked so his throws are off line as it is about feeling comfortable in the pocket, which he does not.

When a QB begins a play and is already thinking about being hit: the play is over before it’s started because that QB has already begun to think about his options. There is “option” football and then there is “option football.” One good… the other, not so good.

It was great to see Smith targeting Dwayne Bowe (12 times) and a variety of receivers against the Bills. But, were the Chiefs able to sustain a drive? They did once when they went from their own 46 to the Bills 25 and kicked a field goal. Wow! That’s “wow” as in, that’s pathetic.

Hopefully the Bye Week takes some of that mental state (the results of living in a  H O T – P O C K E T- special thanks to Jim Gaffigan) away from Alex Smith. What would help more than anything else would be better protection. Both Donald Stephenson and/or Geoff Schwartz are capable of providing that.

As I wrote on Saturday in a piece called, “The Chiefs And The Knockout Punch” I believe the Chiefs have more players capable of delivering a knockout punch than any other team in the league. However, the confidence gained from this game should provide more confidence for the defense alone. Not the offense. The offense is probably in a greater state of self doubt than at any other time of the season.

Is there a way to say, “de-confidencing?”

As much as you’d like for Andy Reid to step up, he doesn’t have to make a change. However, the Baltimore Raven made mid-season changes to their offensive line and it paid big returns. Even if it’s only one change, it can be symbolic and help the whole team know their leader is doing all he can to guide them towards a championship. For some reason, perhaps past negative operant conditioning, I think there’s about as much chance of Reid changing offensive linemen at this stage of the season as there ever was for Scott Pioli allowing Matt Cassel to be yanked. Although, I hope I’m wrong.

While Reid seems less likely to move Center Rodney Hudson than LG Jeff Allen, if there is going to be a change, look for it to happen there at LG.

My speculation would be that Geoff Schwartz takes over at LG… if any change is going to occur at all. However, there are other choices.

Sitting on the Chiefs bench is unproven G Rokevious Watkins. Watkins is 6-3 & ¾ and 338 lbs and was drafted out of South Carolina in the 5th round by the Rams in the 2012 draft. The Rams released him on July 24th this summer and the Chiefs signed him on August 3rd. If Reid is serious about trying something new, Watkins is already on the active roster and won’t cost a penny to audition. We’ve seen it time and time again, a new player comes in and plays lights out. Never know until he’s given game time minutes and is allowed to perform against the leagues best.

Like many Chiefs fans, I’m spending a lot of time right now sticking up for the Chiefs. I’d do that even if they were 2-14. However, since the Chiefs have such a great opportunity to go a long ways in the playoffs this year, wouldn’t you like to see them make the decisions best for the team now, and not wait until the off season or some other year.

One example of waiting until it’s too late is the curious case of Tony Gonzales. I knew it was not going to happen when Thomas Dimitroff came out at the beginning of last week and made a statement, “We have not gotten the results we want… but, I believe in our coaches and players.”

Sounds like some Scott Pioli-isms to me. Brilliant!

In the business world, there is no deal that should be considered impossible. Don’t you wonder what Gonzo is thinking now? He asked the team for a trade and then they went out and lost to Carolina on Sunday. Now they stand 2-6 and are getting ready to play, Seattle, New Orleans, Green Bay, Washington, San Francisco and Carolina, again, in the second half of this season?

I wonder just how strong Dimitroff’s beliefs are and if those beliefs will carry him all the way to a chair sitting next to Mr. Pioli in an announcers booth?

It may sound like crying over spilt milk or water under the bridge… but great teams get made not only by the deal they don’t make, but by the deals they do make. And sometimes, some deals, are worth making, no matter what. Especially when the fit could have put the Chiefs over the top as they move forward… this year… on their way to the White House and Disneyland.

Now, Atlanta sits on their hands, having tucked G-Dawg away in a holding cell, having completely defaulted on their promise to “contend” as well as wasting their ability to make something from nothing — which is not what they’re paying him — but certainly what they will benefit by having him on their roster the remainder of the year. So now, Dimitroff’s words are hollow and who will believe him in the future? While Gonzo has been reduced to a dead-man-walking, what else is Tony going to say except, “I will go out and give my best for the team every week?”

Meh. Double-meh!

Perhaps a more experienced John Dorsey could have pointed all of this out to Mr. “Dim”itroff but then again… woulda-coulda-shoulda.

If things remain the way they are right now, it looks like the Chiefs will need help from someone else in the AFC West, to stay competitive in the division. The Chiefs offense scored two TDs against the Browns and that was barely enough to beat them. The defense had to score two TDs in Buffalo for the team to eek out a victory.

Two offensive TDs in two game is what the Chiefs defense is limiting other teams too. If the offense can’t outscore their own defense, well, there’s gonna be trouble, right here in river city, with a capital “T” and that rhymes with “P” and that stands for POO (Pathetic Offensive Output). My apologies to Meredith Wilson who wrote “Ya Got Trouble” for the 50s and 60s hit musical called, “The Music Man.”

It’s never a good situation when you must depend on other teams to win or lose or to knock off a foe for you. However, it looks like the Chiefs will need the Chargers to beat the Broncos in San Diego this coming weekend in order for the Chiefs to keep pace with the Broncos in the division.

That’s because if the Chiefs offense performs the way they have the past two weekends, they won’t have nearly enough firepower to keep pace with Denver, no matter how well the defense plays. And since they play twice in a three week period the Chiefs will need the two game cushion the Chargers would give the Chiefs by beating Denver this weekend.

That’s the downside.

The upside is, if the Chiefs play like they did in the first 7 games they will be competitive with the Broncos. Why? It’s not so much that the Chiefs first 7 games were all offensively stellar but, the Denver Broncos defense really kinda — there’s just no other way to say it — stinks this year.

The Broncos have allowed 27.2 points per game and have the 24th ranked defense overall. Their pass defense is ranked 30th in the league while the Chiefs defense is ranked 1st in the league in points per game. Denver is 25th.

In other words, if the Chiefs offense can shake the doldrums they have fallen into the past two weeks they could easily score the amount of points the Denver D allows per game. They’ll need to because the lowest number of points the Broncos have scored this year so far is 33 against Indy.

You have to be thrilled with 9-0 but, let’s not joke ourselves, somethings rotten in Denmark, and it’s obviously the offensive line. Now, if it doesn’t get fixed in the next ten days, you probably shouldn’t expect anything more than the downside scenario that I’ve laid out above

On the other hand, Andy Reid and company have met or exceeded every expectation so far this season… so… who am I to question.

Well, Addicts, do you have any questions you’d like answered in the bye and bye?

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