There is parity in the NFL, and we all know this. It’s the only way to explain how five teams who picked in the top 15 of the 2013 NFL Draft made the playoffs the following season. But it happened. The Chiefs (1), the Philadelphia Eagles (4), the San Diego Chargers (11), the Carolina Panthers (14) and the New Orleans Saints (15) all finished at the bottom of the league in 2012, but came back with a vengence this past NFL season.
However, while as much as things change in this league, sometimes its good to stay the same. There is something to be said about conducting an Extreme Makeover: NFL Edition, but having consistency not only in players but in coaching staff goes a long way.
The New England Patriots are consistently atop the AFC East and in the playoffs. The Green Bay Packers have made consistent playoff runs over the last decade as well. Much of this can be attributed to the fact that there is never a great “shake up” within the organization by either the players or the coaching staff.
For the first time, in a long time, the Chiefs will have that consistency and continuity going into the 2014 season.
The last time the Chiefs made the playoffs was in 2010. Despite being mediocre, they managed to win the AFC West with a 10-6 record before being crushed by the Baltimore Ravens
in the Wild Card round. Quarterback Matt Cassel made the Pro Bowl as an alternate, as did receiver Dwayne Bowe, who led the league that year in touchdown receptions with 15. Many attributed Cassel’s most successful year as the Chiefs signal caller to the offensive coordinator, Charlie Weis. However, just before the playoffs, rumors started to swirl that Weis was leaving the team for a similar position at the University of Florida. Weis ultimately took the position for family matters and the Chiefs offense was never the same.
As the 2011 season got underway, there were high hopes for the Chiefs and what they could do to follow up their division winning season. But with an incompetent offensive coordinator in Bill Muir and a convoluted system to get plays into Cassel as the quarterback — from Muir in the booth to Haley on the sideline to Cassel on the field — the Chiefs offense was a shell of itself from the previous year. Mix that with the fact that the Chiefs lost their starting tight end, Tony Moeaki, and running back, Jamaal Charles, for the season after just two games, the season was doomed before it started.
With the firing of head coach Todd Haley after Week 14, and the naming of defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel as the interim head coach, continuity was shaken up once again. As the 2012 season got underway, Crennel — who had now been officially hired as the head coach — brought in former Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Brian Daboll to run the offense. As the debacle that was the 2012 season continued to build steam, everyone – from the guy picking up Snickers wrappers in stairwell to the players on the field — could see the writing on the wall. The team was about to have another shakeup at continuity.
And that’s what happened. However for the first time since before the Scott Pioli reign of terror began, the Chiefs will return to the field with the same head coach, general manager, offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator and starting quarterback from the previous year.
Many have said that the Chiefs season was a fluke based on an easy schedule. That very well could have had a lot to do with it. I won’t argue that point. Part of the reason for the Chiefs success in 2010 and then their decline in 2011 was the fact that they played a last place schedule in ’10 and then a first place one in ’11. Plus, as I said, there’s parity in the NFL and teams get better from year to year.
But, part of that was also due to the fact that from ’10 to ’11 there was a different offensive system to learn switching from the Weis offense to the Muir offense. That won’t be an issue this year.
Yes, the Chiefs are playing a very difficult schedule. Of the 11 other teams that made the playoffs this season, the Chiefs will face five of them — the Seattle Seahawks, the San Francisco 49ers, the New England Patriots and of course the Denver Broncos and the San Diego Chargers twice — in 2014. It’s not going to get any easier than it did this year.
However, instead of spending the entire offseason with their nose stuck in their play books, the returning players will already be familiar with the system — both offense and defense — and will be able to concentrate instead on hitting the ground running, getting free agents and rookies spun up and start game planning for opponents.
If you think this season will be a repeat of the 2011 season following the Chiefs run in ’10, you need to take a look at history. While it may repeat itself on occasion, this is not the year.