The Kansas City Chiefs have a new general manager, a new head coach, and a new quarterback. When a team turns over arguably the three most important positions in an organization it is almost always seen as a new start, or the dreaded “R Word”, rebuilding. That may very well be what the Chiefs are doing, but there is optimism in the fan base that John Dorsey, Andy Reid, and Alex Smith may be the missing pieces of a winning team as opposed to the building blocks to build one upon. So is that optimism warranted? Are the Chiefs a talent depleted 2-14 team that will take years to rebuild or a talented roster that has just lacked the leadership and quarterback play to win? As a professed “homer” it’s probably not a surprise to anyone that I think it’s the later.
Yesterday, Patrick posted a piece on Jamaal Charles being rated as Pro Football Focus’s #2 rated running back over the past five seasons. It’s not the first list of this kind that PFF has done in recent months. In addition to the running backs list, they’ve also done ones on wide receivers, edge rushers, linebackers, interior defensive lineman, and cornerbacks. Charles is not the only Chief to make one of these lists. Tamba Hali checked in as the #6 edge rusher, Derrick Johnson was the #3 linebacker, and Brandon Flowers was the #3 cornerback. So of the six lists of best players over the past five years that they have done, KC has placed a player on four of them, and three of them finished in the top three.
That seemed pretty good to me. So I thought I’d see how that compared to other teams. I went through and charted how many players all the NFL teams had on these six lists. Only one team, the Baltimore Ravens, had more players with five. There were four other teams that also had four players make the lists. Those teams were the Packers, 49ers, Vikings, and Eagles. So thus far, KC has had more players make these lists than 26 other NFL teams. Keep in mind, there are still several other positions that will likely have lists to come, like quarterback, tight end, offensive line, safety, and possibly kickers/punters. My guess is that after all the positions are released KC’s totals will be a little short of the “big boys” of the NFL, but currently they are holding their own.
So how do KC’s results on the field stack up with the other teams that have as many players on these lists?
Not very well.
The Ravens, Packers, 49ers, Vikings, and Eagles are a combined 235-163-2 over the past five years. That’s about a 59% winning percentage. During those same five years the Chiefs are 25-55 for about a 31% winning percentage.
It gets worse.
The other five teams have a combined 20-15 record in the playoffs. That’s right, they have 20 playoff wins and have a playoff winning percentage that is 26% higher than KC’s regular season winning percentage. They also have 8 conference championship game appearances, 3 Super Bowl appearances, and 2 Super Bowl wins.
KC is not only the only one of these teams to not win a playoff game in the past 5 seasons, they are the only one to not reach the conference championship game.
KC has had just as many good players (just not at QB), they just haven’t turned these talented performances into wins, especially in the playoffs.
In some ways, seeing that was validating. It seems that over the past five years I’ve always gone into each season hopeful that KC would be good. I always felt that KC had good talent on their roster. According to the guys at PFF that watch and grade every single snap of every single game, I was right. They’ve just wasted that talent.
That’s where Andy Reid and Alex Smith come in.
When selecting a coach this offseason, KC didn’t go with a hot coordinator that had never been a head coach before or the hot college coach that hasn’t proven he can do it at the NFL level. KC opted to go with the guy with a proven NFL track record. Andy Reid doesn’t need time to adjust to being a NFL head coach. He’s already there.
The same can be said for Alex Smith. I was among the thousands of KC fans clamoring for the Chiefs to draft their next starting QB. Instead, KC went for one of the only QBs available with proven starting experience. A guy that quarterbacked his team in one of those 8 conference championship game appearances referenced earlier. They went with the guy that doesn’t need time to adjust to life as a starting NFL QB, a guy that doesn’t have to get used to the speed of the NFL game. He’s already there.
Chip Kelly may be the next great NFL coach. Geno Smith may develop into a Super Bowl winning quarterback. They may be great, they may flop. They both may need a couple of years to find success. That’s not a big deal if you feel your team is starting completely over and building a roster from scratch. However, if you feel that you have a roster that has enough talent to win right now, those years would be wasted. The Chiefs have wasted enough years of talented play already.
That’s why my expectations for this team are higher than most 2-14 teams with a new GM, head coach, and quarterback. In the NFL, a 4 game improvement over the previous season is seen as good progress. If a team goes from 5-11 to 9-7 or from 8-8 to 12-4 that’s seen as a success. If the Cheifs go 6-10 this season I won’t see that as a success. The Chiefs aren’t devoid of talent. They aren’t breaking in a first time head coach or a first time quarterback. According to PFF they have just as many talented players as some of the best teams in the NFL. They now also have a proven head coach and a QB that has big time playoff experience. I feel that this team should be, at worst, .500. If Andy Reid and Alex Smith can repeat the success that they had at their previous stops there is no reason this team can’t compete for a playoff spot. In addition to Charles, Hali, DJ, and Flowers, talented players like Dwayne Bowe, Eric Berry, and Justin Houston give this team a nucleolus of talent that is good enough to win now.
It’s time for KC to stop wasting that talent. This isn’t a season to start building a talented team. This is a season to finally unleash the talent that was already here on the rest of the NFL. It’s a season where KC should finally turn that talent into wins on the field, hopefully into a playoff appearance. Let’s just hope Reid and Smith are up for the job.
As always, thanks for reading and GO CHIEFS!!!!!!!!!!!!!