Kansas City Chiefs: The Tipping Point
By Laddie Morse
A positive epidemic. It’s what Clark Hunt was hoping for. Chiefs ticket sales are up significantly. Why? Overall fan morale is climbing the charts.
In his book called, “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference,” Malcolm Gladwell says,
"“The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire… the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point.”"
Sounds… and feels… a lot like what is transpiring at your local Arrowhead homestead.
When does a team turn… good? When can a fan say, wow, we just got better and now… we are a good team. A winning team.
Fans must be thinking this already… or off season ticket sales wouldn’t be sailing as they are (up 112%).
For the 2013 Kansas City Chiefs it could be the signing of Alex Smith. Could it have been signing two corners in free agency? Bringing in TE Anthony Fasano to pair with Tony Moeaki? Was it when Clark Hunt ushered Romeo Crennel out and Andy Reid in?
Who knows for sure? However, it’s clear that fans have come to the point where they… believe.
The big question a lot a of Chiefs fans have right now is about the Chiefs draft and who they might pick. Is there anyone in this draft that could… put the Chiefs over the top… and make them a championship level competitive team?
It’s the time of year when all teams have their questions. No one is doubting that the Super Bowl Champion Ravens are having the same questions having lost hall of fame ILB Ray Lewis to retirement and future hall of fame safety Ed Reed to free agency all in one off season.
Every team is searching for the player who can get them over the tipping point.
I’m sure the Miami Dolphins believe they have gotten a lot better by adding speedy WR Mike Wallace to their receiving corp and Brent Grimes at corner. Ex-Atlanta Falcons CB Grimes says, “the Dolphins are building something great.”
The Cleveland Browns have acquired LB Paul Kruger and DT Desmond Bryant and you can bet that many fans there believe they have gotten over the hump.
Even recent Super Bowl runner-up San Francisco, has not only traded for sturdy WR Anquan Bolden but, added place kicker Phil Dawson. You can only imagine that 49er fans believe that these, not so little moves, will help them get back to the game’s biggest game.
In Seattle, the Seahawks are now considered early Super Bowl favorites by adding pass rushing talents of Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett to an already stellar defense. Anyone doubt that these players may have gotten them over the tipping point? At least that’s the perception.
The tipping point for the Chiefs? First, you have to understand, there are tipping points… and then there are tipping points.
Right now, the Chiefs are coming to the tipping point of, first, becoming a team with a winning record… then comes getting into the playoffs.
Once those goals are accomplished… they can begin to talk about competing for a Super Bowl tipping point… like the Seahawk fans, I’m sure, are discussing right now.
So, have the Chiefs had a tipping point this off season?
Yes, and… not yet.
The Tipping Point: The YESes
On the defensive side of the ball, the Chiefs have made enough improvements to say they’ve passed a tipping point. Now, they should be able to compete in any game and could end up with a top ten defense.
When CB Brandon Carr left in free agency last spring many believed Stanford Routt could be his perfect replacement. That didn’t work out so well.
Now, with both CB Dunta Robinson and CB Sean Smith coming in, the defensive backfield should be considered one of the strongest in the league.
Does the defense still need a better pass rush? Yes, but with better coverage, and more time to get to the QB because of that, Tamba Hali and Justin Houston may both end up with hallmark seasons. Especially in terms of sacks.
The run defense will be as stout, if not better because they’ve essentially swapped underachieving DE Glenn Dorsey for overachieving DE Mike DeVito, who is excellent against the run.
Having a better defensive backfield and another year of experience should help the Chiefs number one draft pick in 2012, DT Dontari Poe, who came on strong at the end of last season. The 6-5, 350 physical freak should come into his own this year and if he can give the Chiefs a little push in the pass rush… opposing QBs will be in real trouble on passing downs.
The Tipping Point: The NOT YETs
The ILB position will need to be addressed for the defense to take the last tipping point step. Many expect Reid and Dorsey to take an ILB in the draft.
On the offensive side of the ball coach Andy Reid and GM John Dorsey made an early move, before free agency started, and made a deal for San Francisco QB Alex Smith. Then, once free agency began, they signed back up QB Chase Daniels from New Orleans who once starred at Missouri. While this may not represent a tipping point… these moves have certainly brought the QB position to the brink of the tipping point as far as creating a winning team is concerned.
Drafting Geno Smith would put the Chiefs over the tipping point at the QB position. If not immediately, in the near future. In fact, Geno Smith’s upside could lead the Chiefs to a whole other tipping point: championship level competition as a signal caller. We’ve only ever had that in Kansas City… in the form of Montana and Dawson.
If the Chiefs choose not to draft Geno Smith, another backup QB will need to be addressed.
Running back Jamaal Charles has already taken the RB position over the tipping point — a few years ago — but the position is just an injury away from disintegrating in a flaming heap (see 2011). So, at some point this off season, Reid and Dorsey may want to address the backup RB issue. Running backs already on the roster… Shaun Draughn or Cyrus Gray… could be the answer but, neither has asserted themselves yet.
The addition of WR speedster Donnie Avery should help to open up lanes for Jamaal Charles to run because of Avery’s ability to stretch the field vertically. Reid’s shorts-quick-passing system with more routes for slot receivers, like Dexter McCluster or Devon Wylie, and RB’s out of the backfield, should help to stretch the field horizontally. No matter how the field gets stretched, there’s going to also be more room for WR Dwayne Bowe to do his after-the-catch-magic. The addition of Donnie Avery can be a tipping point for the whole offense… if he’s effective.
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In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, he outlines The Law of a Few, a few critical components for this tipping point to take place. These include: the connectors, the mavens, and the salespeople. They all appear to be fully functioning for the Chiefs right now.
Malcolm says the connectors are people who have the, “…ability to span many different worlds is a function of something intrinsic to their personality, some combination of curiosity, self-confidence, sociability, and energy.” John Dorsey? Could be. His ability to relate directly to potential players has had them wanting to come to play for the Chiefs like in no other off season in memory. Dunta Robinson says, “Well, first things first, Dorsey and coach Reid, those guys, when I came in, they were a wonderful group of guys and they made me feel right at home.”
Malcolm says the mavens are, “…information specialists… people we rely upon to connect us with new information. They accumulate knowledge, especially about the marketplace, and know how to share it with others.” While the coaches the Chiefs have hired could already be a called a special group, hiring Brad Childress as the “Spread Game Analyst/Special Projects” coach should make it clear who the group of “mavens” are for the Chiefs. It’s clear that the Chiefs are leaving no stone unturned now that Dorsey and Reid are programming the Chiefs motherboard.
Malcolm says the salespeople are, “…are persuaders… charismatic people with powerful negotiation skills.” Both Andy Reid and Johns Dorsey may in fact possess these sales powers and the same can be said about the connectors.
Andy Reid may have sold the fan base on the Chiefs turning the corner more than anyone since Marty Schottenheimer. Like Schott, Reid comes to town with solid credentials lacking only that one big pelt on the wall. Many are believing he can get the job done.
I’m sold… or I should say… I’m in the process of being sold.
Yet, the job is clearly undone.
The tipping point… for what may happen with the whole team in 2013… can come down to what happens next for the offensive line.
Trading Branden Albert to gain more cap space appears to be a given. However, many have pointed out the futility in dumping one LT (Albert) and replacing him with another (Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher, or a free agent).
Dealing with the LT position must be a priority, yes, yet, if you evaluated all of the positions along the offensive line, LT would be the position which needs addressing least of all. Once that position is settled, the interior must take precedence more than any other position group on the field for the Chiefs. Especially if the Chiefs hope to cross the tipping point — from playoff competitor — to championship contender.
If the Chiefs decide to draft a QB like Geno Smith first in the draft, while it may affect what can be done to fix the offensive line, it may provide a lift that can only measured by, or appreciated by, considering his impact on the tipping point scale. Malcolm says that rapid growth results because of “The Law of a Few” who exhibit some kind of exceptional behavior.
That kind of contribution doesn’t usually come from a LT but, when “the” high profile position such as QB excels, he offers that… exceptional behavior. Then, as Malcolm has stated, rapid growth is possible.
Drafting QB Geno Smith looks like it could offer that inspirational, rapid growth, movement… moment. Whatever Andy Reid and John Dorsey decide there, it’s clear they are covering all their bases.
With the draft yet to come, the opportunity for a significant “tipping point” is on the horizon. The Chiefs have been making a lot of moves this off season. The right ones? It appears so. Why? Because according to Malcolm’s tipping point theory, “… the paradox of the epidemic: that in order to create one contagious movement, you often have to create many small movements first.”
The small steps are being taken.
And I’m getting tipsy.
How about it Addicts, do you have any favorite “tipping point” moments this off season?