Flukey Fates Of The K.C. Chiefs, NFL
By Laddie Morse
Call it whimsy. Or flukey. Lucky. Or even, chance. Any of those words could be used to epitomize the last fractured minute of Super Bowl XLIX. The long pass that Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson threw to WR Jermaine Kearse, homonym for curse, which bounced off a hand, a foot, a leg, the goal post, the jumbo tron… then nestled into his chest for a reception, was not likely a part of an arsenal of magical maneuvers he’d been developing and practicing since training camp.
You may not believe it happened that way but, Larry Bird and Michael Jordon will swear to it.
Then, the interception at the one yard line by unknown, undrafted, unencumbered and unaccounted for Pats rookie CB Malcolm Butler with but seconds left on the clock was not a play I’d bet on him repeating more than 1/10th of 1% of the time.
This is what we do each year following the Super Bowl isn’t it? We tear into the schemes, the players, the play calls, and the coaches looking for clues about how those teams made it to the big game. This year, the clues may be nothing more than a hodgepodge of scrambled intangibles.
In fact, the National Football League has become a league in which an increasing quota of games is being dictated by flukey fates and – – proceed at your own risk – – whimsical moments.
There were all too numerous plays during this post-season which defined the games they happened in. Perhaps none more publicly scrutinized than two plays involving the Dallas Cowboys. First, there was the flag that was picked up in their game with Detroit. Second was the no-catch call at the goal line late in the game on a Dez Bryant in the Green Bay fiasco.
Franchises in the National Football League have now become the grand parallelogram of professional team sports and parity has reached new and redefined heights, to the degree that contested games are, as Chiefs Coach Andy Reid puts it, “decided by a few plays,”
"“…we ended up missing the playoffs. So while it’s fresh on the players’ minds I think it’s important that they feel how important every game is in this league. There’s so much parity in the league.”"
What has emerged is evidence that the difference between almost any two teams in the league is frequently miniscule. Games are actually being determined by… seconds and inches, fingertips and flinches, or the sometimes flawed judgement system of officials and their replay angles… and in so many cases, what can only be described as, a flukey fate.
In other words, it could have gone one way or the other.
During the 2014 season, the eventual Super Bowl XLIX Champion, New England Patriots, lost to the 8-8 Miami Dolphins 33-20 and those same Dolphins lost to the 4-12 New York Jets 37-24.
During the 2013 season, the eventual Super Bowl XLVIII Champion, Seattle Seahawks, barely lost to the 6-10 St. Louis Rams 28-26 who in turn, barely beat the worst team in the league, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 19-17.
The Chiefs, of course, played out their own version of “Beating the Beasts and Cursed by the Worst” story lines involving the Patriots, Seahawks, Titans and Raiders.
Many times it’s not that there’s such a small margin of victory… but simply that there are mistakes made that amount to nothing more than… pardon my Bohemian gypsy… brain farts.
Some will say that Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll made a huge mistake. Carroll stands by his play call. Pete Carroll’s knee jerk ego-defense mechanism is the reason he still backs the play call and it’s this belief that “it was not a mistake“… which is “the mistake” and a big reason that the Patriots were able to take advantage of it.
Chiefs Coach Andy Reid had a similar moment of cranial flatulence when the he called for a running play at the Steelers 12 yard line on a 4th and 1 with 27 seconds to go in the second quarter of a game in Pittsburgh in late December. The Chiefs arrived with an 8-6 record and needing two wins in their last two games to control their own 2014 destiny to assure themselves of a playoff birth. The Score was 10-6 at the time and a field goal would have pulled them within one.
Just listen to Andy Reid’s predictable ego-defense of his own play calling,
"“There’s a certain mindset here that we’ve been working with here the whole season, training camp included. When you’re put in that situation, you strap it on and go get the thing.”"
I used to love “Marty-ball” as we’d called it throughout the 1990s. However, an incredibly frustrating facet of the Chiefs ex-coach Marty Schottenheimer’s version of smash mouth football was his predictable use of “up the middle running plays.” Marty would have his offense line up in a formation concisely proclaiming to the world… and a few other planets to boot… that “I’m going to run the ball up the gut so just try and stop me.” So, guess what? Teams did stop him. As far as play calling goes, if mystery becomes history you become a predictable contradiction.
That pretty much sums up Marty Schottenheimer: predictable contradiction. A winner who could never win it all.
“If life were predictable, it would cease to be life, and without flavor.”
~ Eleanor Roosevelt
Eleanor Roosevelt got it. Marty Schottenheimer did not.
Isn’t it during the games which you find yourself saying… Andy Reid’s play calling is excellent… aren’t those the most enjoyable games? What’s really happening there is that the element of surprise has taken over. Not that we’re surprised that Andy Reid is calling a good game… we’re surprised by each of his calls because they’re… unpredictable.
This is likely one of the reasons you’ll hear Coach Reid talking about “consistency” on a regular basis. Reid is calling for consistency of execution… not consistency in play calling. One is predictable and is easy for opponent to stop… the other helps win games.
Cliches Miss the Mark
While football cliches are rampant and repulsive in the NFL they can’t explain these incidental destinies that seem to be rising up from nowhere. “They wanted it more” is laughable here. “Whoever wins the turnover battle in this game will be the winner.” Well, it was 2 turnovers for the Pats and one for the Seahawks so that one didn’t quite work out either. Perhaps my least favorite cliche of all is… “Defense Wins Championships”… and apparently was not the real reason for this Super Bowls’ outcome. Although the Pats defense did come up big at the end… it was the best defense in the league that just couldn’t make it happen.
Many Super Bowl Champions don’t “feel” like true blue-ribbon stand-outs who have decidedly distinguished themselves above all other teams. When Seattle beat Denver 43-8, they came across as a legitimately superior team. When Tampa Bay beat the Raiders 49-21, not only did it make Chiefs fans happy, but it was one of the only times in the past 15 seasons that the Champion was clearly special.
Here are the margins of victory in the Super Bowl for the past 8 years: 3, 4, 14, 6, 4, 3, 35 and 4. In the past 20 years, excluding the three decisive wins by the Raven in 2001, the Bucs in 2003 and the Seahawks in 2013, the average margin of victory in the Super Bowl has been 6.6 points. So, in the past two decades less than one TD and an extra point separates most Super Bowl winners from the Super Bowl losers.
There are very few years when it feels like we have a true Super Bowl Champion.
Most years, we merely have a Super Bowl winner and a Super Bowl loser. Nothing more. Nothing less. Just a loser and a winner. In those years there’s just not enough difference between the teams to demarcate one as being noticeably superior.
When the difference between those winners and losers is a beserkley bobbled ball, or an INT by a UDFA rookie at the goal line in the last minute of the game, or a TD catch by UDFA who hasn’t caught a TD, or even a pass, all season long, or a faulty play call from the one yard line by a coach who out thinks himself… then it’s difficult to think of that kind of win as a hallmark victory that could be used to distinguish a QB, or a coach, as the best in the history of the game.
Then, it just seems like, the last game of the season. Nothing more. Nothing less.
What do you think Addict fans? Do you think the Chiefs could just as easily have played in the AFC Championship game? If you’re anything like me you’re waiting for the Chiefs to improve their intangibles.