Jeff Herr, a finalist in the 2011 Big Gig Contest on 610 Sports Radio, was born and raised in Kansas City. Following the Chiefs, Royals, and Jayhawks all his life has led him to blog about all three extensively at the-jeff-report.blogspot.com. He has also spent time covering the Royals for the blog site kingsofkauffman.com as well as serving for a period as the lead editor of throughthephog.com a blog covering the Kansas Jayhawks. When not writing about the local sports scene, he pays the bills by serving as an accountant.
Jeff Herr: Don't Get Too Excited...
by Jeff Herr,posted Dec 20 2011 7:13PM
Winning 19-14 over the Green Bay Packers—and dominating the game, really—the Chiefs looked impressive on Sunday. Under interim head coach Romeo Crennel they looked more prepared than they have all year. They played with more passion, and quite frankly looked the best they have all season. This often happens to a team after an in-season coaching switch. The players are so emotionally charged with the change they come out and play with renewed energy.
With the win, the Chiefs are still in contention for a playoff spot. This division is still within reach. The Chiefs need to win out and get a little bit of luck and it’s playoffs for the second year in a row. A tumultuous season would have been saved and the hope for 2012 would be renewed.
This feels all too familiar. Going in to the 1993 season the Chiefs were coming off 3 straight years with 10+ wins and only a 1-3 playoff record to show for it. The Chiefs were just a QB away, so they decided to make a trade for Joe Montana. That year they went to the AFC championship game. Montana remains the last Chiefs QB to win a playoff game.
After Montana left in 1994, they saw no need for any sweeping changes since they were so close previously. This gave way to the Steve Bono era. Bono took the team to 13-3 and the #1 overall seed in the playoffs. They lost in their first playoff game, went 9-7 the next year to miss the playoffs, and Bono was gone.
To fix the QB situation the Chiefs looked to Elvis Grbac. Sure enough, in 1997 they went 13-3 and were the #1 overall seed again. After not winning a playoff game the Chiefs went 7-9 the next year and Marty Schottenheimer left the organization. Feeling the Chiefs were still on the cusp, Gunther Cunningham was installed as head coach, Grabac remained starting QB, and the status quo was maintained. After two years and a 16-16 record Cunningham was dispatched as Chiefs head coach in favor of Dick Vermeil.
The last three years of the Vermeil era ended with the Chiefs at 30-18. They had one of the best offenses in the NFL and only needed a mid-level defense to compete for the Super Bowl. Enter Herm Edwards. As a “defensive guru” Edwards was going to come in, keep the offense intact, shore up the defense and make the Chiefs a Super Bowl team.
With very few changes made, the Edwards led Chiefs made the playoffs in 2006. As a playoff team they tried to keep the magic going for the 2007 season and ended up 4-12. That’s when the Chiefs actually decided to start building from the draft. It was two years too late.
Finally, this brings us to what we’re going through right now. Todd Haley and Chiefs went 10-6 and made the playoffs in 2010, we all know this. They didn’t make many changes this coming year and were looking to compete for the division title yet again. After starting 5-8 the Chiefs parted ways with Haley last week.
This sums up almost the last 20 years of Chiefs football. Each one of the above scenarios showed the Chiefs too timid to make the necessary changes to put the Chiefs over the hump. As an organization, the Chiefs have all too often dragged their feet in their decision making process.
Currently, the Chiefs have a better chance of making the playoffs than it would seem at first glance. If the Chiefs win out that puts them at 8-8. A win over the Raiders next week all but takes Oakland out of the playoffs. If the Chargers lose one game they are eliminated. Then, if the Buffalo Bills beat the Broncos next week, the last game of the season in Denver is for the division title and a trip to the playoffs.
Any of this sound familiar? With a trip to the playoffs it will seem like the Chiefs problems are minimal. If they can win with this injury riddled team, then surely they will be able to compete for the Super Bowl next year, right? The Chiefs don’t need to make any major changes, just get healthy and fill a couple small holes.
Getting in to the playoffs this year all but assures Romeo Crennel being named the full-time head coach. If the offense operates as well as it did yesterday against the Packers then 2012 will surely start with Kyle Orton or Matt Cassel taking snaps under center.
This will all be part of a mask hiding the fans from the realization that Crennel was 24-40 as a head coach in Cleveland and is now 64 years old. Fans will gloss over Orton’s 34-33 record as a starter and career completion percentage lower than Matt Cassel’s.
There is a certain amount of buzz kill to this argument, but it’s important for Chiefs fans to keep things in perspective. This is a very pivotal point in the Chiefs history. Inaction here and the Chiefs window could be closed sooner than expected.
In today’s NFL things can completely change course in as little as one year. As the previous examples have shown, the Chiefs made mistakes before by holding on too long. This level of inaction can cause a team more than just one year. If the Chiefs keep the status quo at QB and don’t draft one this year they are committing to Orton or Cassel. With a commitment to Crennel, the Chiefs would be saddling themselves with a coach who most likely would only be here for five years max.
Over the years the Chiefs have taken a very even keeled, measured approach to their decision making. Generally, this is a good thing. However, this also opens up many decisions to possible second guessing. More often than not this leads to inaction over action. The Chiefs need to take this season as the opportunity to make the decisions that will set them up long-term, not just get them to 8-8, winning one of the weakest divisions in football.