There are two tricks to building a Super Bowl champion:
1. Acquire the best possible talent.
2. Develop the talent you already have to the best of its ability.
It’s that simple. How have I not landed a seminar tour yet?
The Kansas City Chiefs are coming out of rebuilding mode. Loaded with young, promising talent, green to the world and wet behind the ears — though much of that talent is fulfilling its great potential right now (Bowe, Charles, Hali, etc.). But this team has so much higher to go, largely because of the second part of the equation above.
Diligently, GM Scott Pioli continues to work on acquiring new talent, and he’s better than you at it. But that’s only half the battle.
The team has to continue making sure they massage the talent already on its roster, guiding it to heights and “Rocky” montages that justify their draft statuses and signing bonuses, and hopefully beyond. As each puzzle piece on this team continues to improve, they all start to coalesce until the Whole, always greater than the Sum Of Its Parts, begins to take this franchise to the next level.
Many of our young players have developed incredibly well, and could potentially be on our future Super Bowl squad. Many more have some important steps to take in the coming year.
After the jump, I discuss some of the less obvious players on this team that have some serious development to do, and why. I’m trying to focus on some of the less obvious talent on the team, because we’ve had countless discussions about Branden Albert, Barry Richardson, Tyson Jackson, and Jovan Belcher. To say nothing of Matt Freaking Cassel, amiright?
So I’m unearthing some of the talent among our second- and third-stringers, because the back end of your roster is often times just as important as the front end in any Super Bowl run.
OG Darryl Harris — Egads. This will be the third straight year I will have been on the Darryl Harris bandwagon. And he may be the biggest mystery on this Chiefs team. Every year, all he does is dominates in the preseason. To be rewarded for his efforts, he has taken up space on the practice squad for TWO YEARS behind Wade Smith, Jon Asamoah, and some guy named Ikechuku Ndukwe. Now Chiefs fans (including our own Adam Toren and Merlin) want us to draft another guard. Good lord, people! D’y’all have fatty fetishes? If you watch preseason games, watch #66 in the second half. Then call me.
WR Jeremy Horne — Horne is one of a few players on this team that were brought on for their sheer vertical speed (along with most people’s preference, Verron Tucker). But unlike Tucker, Horne has actually has upside. Tucker hails from a great program in California, and is pretty much as good as he’s going to get. But Horne comes from a tiny Massachusetts program, so his game could conceivably grow like a weed if we groomed it properly. In limited time, he has not shown Tucker’s elusiveness, despite his great speed and superior size. Maybe that changes.
ILB Micah Johnson — Many Chiefs fans were pumped about Micah Johnson before the 2010 draft. (I believe I mocked him to us a few times…) When he went undrafted and the Giants scooped him up, we were justifiably outraged with Pioli. When he was released and the Chiefs pounced on him towards the end of the 2010 season, we were elated with Pioli. We are some fickle jerks. If Johnson lives up to expectations, he is a hard, hard hitter with enough athleticism to gun for Belcher’s job. (Scott Sarley of BleedChiefs had a quick interview with Johnson recently.)
TE Jake O’Connell — O’Connell is still a work in progress. One of the few picks from the Chiefs’ horrendous 2009 draft class that remain on the team, O’Connell is in a make-or-break year. His blocking looked superb in 2010 when the Chiefs brought him out in those gorgeous jumbo packages. What he continues to lack are great hands and good route-running. If O’Connell fleshes this part of his game out in 2011, he could join Moeaki and Pope in a long-term rotation at TE.
CB/S Donald Washington — Washington was one of my favorite surprises from the dismal 2009 draft class. I was personally enthused about the selection (he is the best pure athlete on the team, IMO), but he was incredibly raw coming out of Ohio State. His experience at both CB and S are best forgotten (they’re replacing his jersey number with tire tracks…), but he’s always been a work in progress. If he can deliver on that amazing ability, and transform from an athlete into an actual football player, he could fill the much needed depth in the secondary.
OLB Cameron Sheffield — Not entirely fair to put him here, because he spent his rookie season last year recovering from a devastating injury. Sheffield was one of the few picks from the 2010 class that I actually liked at the time. I feel he had top notch character (like everybody we drafted in ‘010), and a great motor to play that Vrabel role on the strong side. This season, he’s going to have to learn twice as fast as he normally would. Plus, and perhaps I’m being sentimental here, but recovering from a horrific injury to play well for us would just be another great chapter in Chiefs lore.
So… imagine if we can get these players to play up to their potential. We’d be set at guard depth, have a few more quality hands receiving the ball for Cassel, and provide great depth in our linebacking corps and secondary.
Chances are, the Chiefs will only successfully suss out the potential out of a few of these players. But that is the challenge in being a Super Bowl team: you’ve got to find more “diamonds” than all other teams, in what is becoming a smaller, more competitive “rough.”