Kansas City’s biggest addition this offseason won’t be finding a replacement for Kendrick Lewis, but doing nothing. Absolutely nothing.
The Chiefs are on pace to enter 2014 with the same general manager, head coach, defensive coordinator, offensive coordinator, and quarterback for the first time since 2004-2005. 2014, baring a late move like we saw in 2009 when Todd Haley fired Chan Gailey in the preseason, will be the first time the Chiefs have had the same offensive coordinator as the previous season since Mike Solari in 2006-2007.
Another way to think about this: Jamaal Charles has been a Kansas City Chief since 2008. In that time he has seen three general managers and four head coaches, listened to six different offensive coordinators call plays, and taken handoffs from six different starting quarterbacks.
Instability is what eventually brought Alex Smith to Kansas City. Smith, who has been in the NFL for eight years, played for his fourth head coach and eighth offensive coordinator last season. One can say that the reason Smith is a “game manager” is because he’s never played in a scheme long enough to be considered a system quarterback.
Stability was something Clark Hunt discussed the Kansas City Star’s Sam Mellinger over Super Bowl weekend.
From Mellinger’s column:
“We have a very stable and outstanding leader in Andy Reid, who has shown he can be successful over a period of time,” Hunt says. “As hard as it is to be successful in any given year, I think being successful consistently is much more difficult. With Andy, we have somebody who has demonstrated that and somebody I would expect to be able to do that with the Chiefs.”
When Hunt said this, he emphasized the word “stable.” This has always been an important word for Hunt. He often references the Steelers as a model, which is ironic, since the first time he hired a new front office, it led to mass instability. So the emphasis on this word is personally important to Hunt, now more than ever.
Sam interprets stability from the perspective of “no more candy wrapper controversies” and working environment. Equally important is the ability to construct a better football team.
Constantly changing philosophies and schemes causes problems deeper than players having to learn new concepts, it hinders the ability to build a roster. Kansas City has a strange mix and mash of players on their roster because the direction the of team has always been changing. Asking square pegs to fit into round holes doesn’t work, and this is what the Chiefs have been doing for the last several years.
When the Chiefs drafted Brandon Flowers, who was selected in 2008 when Herm Edwards was coaching, they evaluated him based on his ability to play Cover-2 and not his ability to run downfield with wide receivers who have the size and speed of Dez Bryant. Dexter McCluster was drafted as a wide receiver after being a running back in college, was switched back to a running back, and then was sent back to receiver in three consecutive years. It is highly unlikely Scott Pioli draft Jon Asamoah with the idea of zone blocking schemes in mind.
The other aspect of constant change to the roster is the difficulty in creates for certain units to be on the same page. Take the offensive line, for instance, a unit that relies heavily on communication and being able to function simultaneously as a group. Kansas City’s offensive line has been been a carousel of players since 2009, featuring four different starting right tackles, four different right guards, three different centers, and three different left guards. This doesn’t include all the starts made by substitutes because of injuries to players like Rodney Hudson and Branden Albert.
Changing at least 60-percent of the starting offensive line annually is not a recipe for great offensive line play. And it certainly isn’t good for picking up complex blitz schemes and dealing with elite pass rushers. If Kansas City brings back one of Geoff Schwartz or Asamoah, they will have five starters on the 2014 offensive line who started at least seven games for the Chiefs last year. This would be the first time the Chiefs returned five offensive linemen who had seven or more starts since 2005.
Constant change doesn’t always equal progress. Whether it is flipping the offensive line, firing coaches, or changing general managers, it doesn’t necessarily equal an advancement towards the goal of winning the Super Bowl. It is better for them to make precise and calculated moves than it is to blow up the secondary.
By doing nothing January for what seem like the first time in a decade, the Chiefs are going to have what is a unique experience for them of building off of a foundation as opposed to re-laying one. There is now a system in place which is conducive for developing young talent, which is key if the Chiefs are ever going to win a Super Bowl. Marcus Cooper is going to have the chance to focus on the details of becoming a better cornerback rather than having to learn a new playbook. Same goes for guys like Eric Fisher, Sanders Commings, and Nico Johnson.
Creating stability isn’t easy, but when you’re able to achieve it the rewards are very high. Hopefully those rewards come sooner than later.